Law 360 predicts that a $148 million punitive damages award, given to the widow of a smoker, won’t survive appellate review.  That’s a solid prediction, in light of the Florida Supreme Court’s November 2021 decision in Sheffield v. R.J. Reynolds.  

Sheffield interpreted a 1999 Florida law that prohibits courts from imposing punitive damages on a defendant who has already been punished for the same conduct.  The Supreme Court held that the law barred punitive damages in a case brought by the wife of a smoker who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1994 and died in 2007.  The court held that the plaintiff’s wrongful death claim did not accrue until the smoker’s death, and therefore the 1999 statute applied, prohibiting punitive damages.

The $148 million award at issue in the Law360 story seems destined for reversal on the same grounds.