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Jury awards $17.5 million to smoker's widow

GAINESVILLE

Jury awards $17.5M to smoker's widow

The widow of a Florida smoker has been awarded $17.5 million in damages by a Gainesville jury in a lawsuit against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

The jury on Friday awarded Amanda Hall $12.5 million in punitive damages, adding to $5 million in compensatory damages awarded Thursday. Hall's husband Arthur died in 1995.

The case is among about 8,000 filed in Florida by smokers or their families against tobacco companies. The individual cases were brought after the state Supreme Court in 2006 threw out a $145 billion class-action award for all Florida smokers.

Reynolds says it will appeal.

Hall's attorney is Rod Smith, a former state senator who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2006.

NAPLES

Two loose dogs attack horse, maul it to death

Two dogs reportedly attacked a horse in southwest Florida and mauled it to death.

A Golden Gate Estates woman and a 15-year-old girl were riding horses Tuesday evening when a pit bull and a boxer started chasing them. The teen's horse threw her and ran off with the dogs following. Authorities and the horse owners later found the runaway horse mauled to death.

Animal services tracked the dogs back to their home. The agency will conduct a dangerous dog investigation of both dogs.

If a dog is determined to be dangerous, the owner must pay a $300 fee every year and keep the animal muzzled and caged or allow the dog to be euthanized.

MIAMI

Hospital system won't get rescue from state

An effort to secure up to $100 million in emergency funding for Miami's struggling major hospital system has failed.

Jackson Health System's chief executive spent Thursday in Tallahassee lobbying for rescue cash. The system, which provides the only round-the-clock trauma care in Miami-Dade, says it is nearly insolvent.

Legislators told Eneida Roldan they were sympathetic, but couldn't help financially with the state's own budget deficit of up to $3.2 billion.

In fact, possible cuts would put the hospital system in even more trouble unless the federal government makes proposed Medicaid changes.

Miami legislators did say they'd try to help Jackson receive the average $77 million it gets in state money every 30 days in 15-day increments instead of monthly.

TALLAHASSEE

Bus driver ineligible for job, paper finds

A newspaper has obtained a memo showing the driver of a full school bus that crashed and killed a student once admitted having a medical condition that barred him from the job.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported Friday that Timothy Kelly told school administrators in June he was an insulin-dependent diabetic. State law prevents drivers from having that condition because it can cause unconsciousness or disorientation.

After being told he couldn't work, Kelly gave the Gadsden County School District a doctor's note saying he was taking other medication.

An investigation found Kelly was slumped over the wheel and may not have braked at all before slamming into a tree Monday. A 17-year-old student died a day later, and several others were seriously injured.

WEST PALM BEACH

Doctor indicted in three overdose deaths

A West Palm Beach doctor has been indicted on three counts of first-degree murder in the overdose deaths of three patients.

Dr. Sergio Rodriguez was accused of illegally distributing prescription drugs and arrested in 2008.

Palm Beach County sheriff's officials said it was the culmination of an eight-month undercover investigation.

Authorities say Rodriguez had a West Palm Beach pediatric office but also saw adult patients and prescribed the drugs without examining them.

VERO BEACH

In prison since 1981, death row inmate dies

A Florida death row inmate who murdered a Treasure Coast couple nearly 30 years ago has died in state prison.

Jim Chandler, 55, died March 5 at Union Correctional Institute in Raiford, the Corrections Department said.

An autopsy is pending, but the death appears to be from natural causes.

Chandler was convicted in 1981 of first-degree murder in the deaths of Harold and Rachel Steinberger at their Sebastian home in 1980.

Associated Press

Jury awards $17.5 million to smoker's widow 03/12/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 12, 2010 10:17pm]
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