A Broward County, Florida jury awarded $157.4 million to the gay spouse of a deceased smoker in a wrongful death lawsuit against tobacco giants Phillip Morris and RJ Reynolds. Bryan Rintoul’s husband Edward Caprio died of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in 2018. $9.2 million in compensatory damages and $148.2 million in punitive damages were awarded.
The case differed from other cases against big tobacco, in that it was the first time a gay couple had won, and same-sex marriage was a factor in the case.
Local10 reports: “Florida law allows spouses to sue for wrongful death only if they were married before the person got sick. However, Jonathan Gdanski of Schlesinger Law Offices claimed the couple would have been married before Edward developed COPD in 1996 if same-sex marriages had been legal at the time. Although the couple married in 2015, Rintoul and Caprio had been together since the 1970s. The jury agreed…”
The Sun Sentinel adds: “The five-week trial that ended Friday combined the Schlesinger firm’s persistence in tobacco cases with a newer legal frontier — ensuring that same-sex couples are not penalized for being unable to marry legally until relatively recently. Broward Circuit Judge David Haimes allowed the case to proceed with Rintoul as the plaintiff after Caprio died early last year at 74. ‘There hasn’t been another case like this in Florida,’ Schlesinger said. ‘I’m not sure there’s been another case nationwide.'”
Phillip Morris and RJ Reynolds are expected to appeal.