In an historic product liability class action case, the Quebec Court of Appeal recently upheld a 2015 decision ordering three tobacco companies to pay more than $15 billion in damages to over 100,000 people who were negatively affected by smoking.
The two class actions were originally filed against the three defendant companies, Imperial Tobacco, JTI-MacDonald and Rothmans Benson and Hedges, in 1998. The first class action was started by people who were addicted to cigarettes and couldn’t quit, and the second was brought by those who had suffered from cancer or emphysema. The two cases were joined and heard together.
However, it took until 2012 before the case went to trial in Montreal’s Superior Court. The trial lasted 251 days. The court heard 76 witnesses and more than 43,000 documents were submitted into evidence.
The class actions alleged that the companies had failed to properly warn their customers about the dangers of smoking, had underestimated evidence relating to the harmful effects of tobacco, had engaged in unscrupulous marketing and had destroyed documents.The three cigarette companies had argued that customers knew the risks of smoking and that their products were sold legally under strict regulation by the federal government.
In the ground-breaking 2015 judgment, the Superior Court ordered the cigarette companies to pay more than $15 billion in moral and punitive damages to the plaintiff smokers and ex-smokers who had developed emphysema, lung cancer or throat cancer as a result of smoking. The judgment concluded that the tobacco industry had known that cigarettes caused lung cancer since the 1950s and that the companies had failed to inform consumers about the dangers of smoking, causing more of them to become addicted to tobacco and damage their health. The judge ruled that the tobacco companies had chosen profits over the health of their customers.
The cigarette companies have since announced their intention to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. However, as interest accrues during these appeals, it is expected that the amount owed by the cigarette companies will total over $17 billion. Individuals who are part of the class action can receive between $24,000 to $100,000 each, depending on when they started smoking and the type of disease they developed.
In the three weeks that followed the appeal case, all three companies applied for, and were granted, creditor protection.
In addition to the Quebec appeal judgment, it should be noted that Imperial Tobacco (and related companies) face more than 20 large proceedings across Canada. In Ontario alone there are four actions claiming damages in excess of $330 billion. The actions across the country include government actions to recover healthcare costs incurred in connection with smoking related diseases; smoking and health class actions seeking damages on behalf of individuals; and a class action brought by Ontario tobacco growers in relation to certain pricing practices. Most of these cases are in the preliminary stages.
The manufacturers, designers and retailers of consumer goods are obligated to ensure that their products meet safety standards and will not cause harm to consumers when put to their intended use. If you have suffered an injury as a result of a faulty or defective product, it is important to seek legal guidance as soon as possible, in order to preserve evidence for a possible lawsuit.
At Campbell Litigation, our lawyers are experienced and effective litigators who will work to represent your interests against the providers, creators and retailers of defective or faulty products. Call us today at 519-886-1204 or contact us online to arrange a no-obligation consultation with our knowledgeable and experienced personal injury lawyers.