In Canada, three tobacco companies— Imperial Tobacco, Rothmans Benson & Hedges and JTI-MacDonald—have been ordered to pay $15 billion in damages after losing a historic court case, according to CBC News Montreal. All three tobacco companies issued statements saying they plan to appeal the ruling.
Judge Brian Riordan on Monday ruled in favor of two groups representing Quebec smokers. The court case began in March 2012, some 13 years after two class-action lawsuits were first sought by groups made up of about 1 million people.
- One of the lawsuits, “the Blais File,” was put forth by people who said they became seriously ill from smoking.
- The second lawsuit, “the Létourneau File,” was filed by a group of people who claim they are unable to quit smoking.
As reported by CBC Montreal, both groups alleged the three tobacco companies in the lawsuit:
- Failed to properly warn their customers about the dangers of smoking.
- Underestimated evidence relating to the harmful effects of tobacco.
- Engaged in unscrupulous marketing.
- Destroyed documents.
The plaintiffs with cancer are set to receive various amounts of money based on their illness and time spent smoking. For example, those with cancer who began smoking before January 1976 will receive $100,000 each, while those started smoking after January 1976 will receive $90,000.
The plaintiffs battling emphysema will receive $30,000 in moral damages if they began smoking before Jan. 1, 1976, and $24,000 if they started smoking after that date.
The almost one million Quebec smokers who were unable to quit will each receive about $130 per person.
Tobacco Companies to Appeal
JTI-Macdonald Corp. issued a statement minutes after the ruling, saying it plans to appeal the judgment. “The company strongly believes that the evidence presented at trial does not justify the court’s conclusions,” the statement said. “Since the 1950s, Canadians have had a very high awareness of the health risks of smoking. That awareness has been reinforced by the health warnings printed on every legal cigarette package for more than 40 years.”
Imperial Tobacco Canada and Rothmans Benson & Hedges also announced they plan to appeal the ruling.
Despite plans to appeal, the ruling says that at least $1 billion in damages must be paid: “The Court orders the provisional execution of the judgment notwithstanding appeal with respect to the initial deposit of one billion dollars of moral damages, plus all punitive damages awarded.”