Man wins $157 million from tobacco companies after husband dies from smoking-related illness

Nick Duffy November 22, 2019
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A couple smoke cigarettes. File photo.

A couple smoke cigarettes. File photo. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

A grieving husband who took on tobacco companies after his spouse died from smoking-related illness has been awarded $157 million.

Bryan Rintoul prevailed in a wrongful death lawsuit against tobacco giants Phillip Morris and RJ Reynolds after his husband Edward Caprio’s 2018 death from smoking-related Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

On Thursday, a court in Broward County, Florida, awarded Rintoul $157.4 million, including $9.2 million in compensatory damages and $148.2 million in punitive damages.

Tobacco case is also a victory for LGBT+ rights

LGBT+ rights played a major factor in the case, as under Florida law a spouse can only pursue a wrongful death action if they were married before the illness that caused the death.

The couple had been together since the 1970s, but were only able to legally marry in 2015 – a decade after Caprio developed first COPD.

However, the jury agreed that Rintoul should be afforded the same standing as a heterosexual spouse would would have been able to marry Caprio earlier.

Landmark case for same-sex couples

Rintoul’s attorney Jonathan Gdanski, of Schlesinger Law Offices, told NBC: “This is the largest award in a tobacco case in the last five or so years, and it is the only time that a same-sex couple has pursued a wrongful death case against this industry in Florida or anywhere in this country.”

The tobacco case is a landmark legal victory for LGBT+ people in Florida
The tobacco case is a landmark legal victory for LGBT+ people in Florida (Getty)

He added: “For that matter, I am not familiar with any other same-sex wrongful death verdict of any type.”

Tara Borelli of LGBT+ law firm Lambda Legal told the Sun-Sentinel: “The jury got it right.

“Florida’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples has always been unconstitutional, so it can never be used as an excuse to deny important benefits to survivors.”

Rintoul said: “We were very much a married couple… we did everything married couples do.”

More: smoking, tobacco

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