Former Norwich resident awarded additional $44 million in tobacco lawsuit

Get the weekly rundown
Sign up to receive our weekly Legal Insider newsletter

U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill has added $44 million in damages and interest to the nearly $8 million a jury awarded to former Norwich resident Barbara Izzarelli in her lawsuit against the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco company.

The Bridgeport judge awarded $8 million in punitive damages, citing the tobacco company's actions as "reprehensible," and awarded $36.4 million in interest. With the jury's original compensatory damages award of $7.98 million, the total judgment is $52.4 million. The tobacco company appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to take the case.

Izzarelli, who is now 58 and living in Holly Hill, Fla., developed larynx cancer after smoking Salem cigarettes for more than 20 years, beginning around age 12 or 13. She was forced to undergo surgery at age 36 that resulted in the removal of her larynx and requires her to breathe through a hole in her throat. She cannot breathe through her nose or mouth, has no sense of smell and can only eat soft foods. 

Evidence at the 2010 trial in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport established that Reynolds had undertaken a campaign in the 1970s to market Salem cigarettes to minors in order to establish a long-term customer base.  Evidence also established that Reynolds had designed Salem cigarettes with a set level of nicotine that would provide a daily dose of nicotine above the threshold for nicotine addiction.

A jury determined that the tobacco company was 58 percent responsible for her injuries and that Izzarelli was 42 percent responsible for her injuries.

According to her attorney, the case was the first smoker's case to come to trial in Connecticut and was the first jury verdict ever returned against a tobacco company in New England history. Since the verdict in Ms. Izzarelli's case, two juries in Massachusetts have also returned multi-million dollar verdicts against cigarette companies.

"Barbara Izzarelli has fought long and hard against R.J. Reynolds, which targeted her with a product that was specifically designed to addict her," said David S. Golub of Silver Golub & Teitell LLP, who represented Izzarelli. "This ruling will not bring back her health, but it is an important step in holding R.J. Reynolds accountable for the harm it intentionally causes smokers like Ms. Izzarelli."

Golub was assisted on the case by Silver Golub & Teitell partners Jonathan M. Levine and Marilyn J. Ramos.


Loading comments...
Hide Comments

Stories that may interest you

Two arrested following stabbing in Stonington

Two men were involved in a verbal altercation that later became physical.

Norwich police search for missing teen

Dezmond Spaulding, 16, is described as a Hispanic male with red hair and brown eyes. He is 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs about 125 pounds. He was last seen wearing a black hat with red trim, a red tank top, gray sweatpants and maroon sneakers.

Silver Alert issued for missing Norwich man

Police are seeking the public's help in locating Craig Cross, described as a black male with black hair and brown eyes, 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighing 210 pounds. Police did not provide a description of his clothing.

Police: Stabbing leaves person with minor injuries in Stonington domestic disturbance

One person was transported to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital with minor injuries due to a stabbing during a domestic disturbance at a residence on School Street and Route 27, police said.