Sending a message. A Pensacola, Fla., jury awarded $23.6 billion late Friday to the widow of a longtime smoker who died of lung cancer. The verdict against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., the nation’s second-biggest cigarette maker, is massive for an individual tobacco suit and includes punitive damages. R.J. Reynolds executive J. Jeffery Raborn called it a “runaway verdict” and vowed to appeal. An attorney for the plaintiff, Cynthia Robinson, said the verdict sends a message to Big Tobacco. “The jury wanted to send a statement that tobacco cannot continue to lie to the American people and the American government about the addictiveness of and the deadly chemicals in their cigarettes,” attorney Christopher Chestnut said. The case is one of thousands filed in Florida after the state Supreme Court in 2006 threw out a $145 billion class-action verdict. That ruling also said smokers and their families need only prove addiction and that smoking caused their illnesses or deaths.
Cease and desist. Colorado’s Supreme Court on Friday told a Denver County clerk to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Earlier this month, a state judge ruled Colorado’s official definition of marriage—between one man and one woman—was unconstitutional, but he stayed his ruling pending appeals. That didn’t stop Debra Johnson, the rogue Denver clerk, from issuing the marriage licenses—until Friday. After the court’s decision, she tweeted, “Disappointed, but respect ruling.” The ruling does not apply to clerks in Pueblo County and Boulder County, who say they will continue issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Florida is grappling with a similar issue, where a county judge ruled last week that same-sex couples in the Florida Keys could wed. Florida’s attorney general immediately filed notice she would appeal the decision, putting an automatic stay on gay marriages there.
Marriage interpretation. Utah got some guidance from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor about how to handle its own same-sex marriage cases. On Friday, Sotomayor issued an emergency stay on recognizing same-sex marriages in Utah for the purpose of giving benefits. Utah residents also voted to define marriage as between one-man and one woman, but two judges on a three-judge panel threw the law out as unconstitutional in December.In the 17 days between the time of that decision and when the Supreme Court put a hold on the ruling, many same-sex couples applied for marriage licenses and got them. A few months later, another judge said Utah had to grant benefits to those couples, but that’s on hold now, too.
Deceased. James Garner, the disarming and charming actor who got his start in the 1950s TV Western Maverick, was found dead of natural causes at his home on Saturday. He was 86. Garner stared as private investigator Jim Rockford in NBC’s The Rockford Files between 1975 and 1980. More recently, he played an elderly husband devoted to his Alzheimer’s-stricken wife in the 2004 movie The Notebook. Garner displayed real-life bravery, serving in the Korean War and receiving two Purple Hearts for combat wounds. In 2005, he won the Screen Actor’s Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award.