Tag Archives: Quebec

Canadian court orders tobacco companies to immediately set aside $1 billion for class-action suit

Canadian cigarette brands

This story comes out of Quebec. The Quebec Court of Appeal has ordered two tobacco companies — Imperial Tobacco and Rothmans Benson & Hedges — to basically not pussyfoot around and immediately set aside $1 billion Canadian for plaintiffs in a massive class-action lawsuit.

I wrote about this several months ago. These two tobacco companies, plus a third company — JTI Macdonald — lost a $15 billion class-action lawsuit in June for misleading marketing, and for lying about  and covering up the health effects of their cigarettes. The case could benefit up to 1 million Quebec smokers who could cash in on the class-action litigation.  It is by far the biggest court victory against tobacco companies in Canada.

That decision is being appealed as expected. However, in the meantime, the Quebec court ordered two of the three companies to set up a $1 billion fund to immediately start paying out installments to some of the plaintiffs. This prevents the companies from putting off — possibly for several years —  making these class-action payments.

From a CBC News article:

“It is not acceptable that appellants merely say that they have no funds to satisfy the judgment or an order to furnish security and continue to distribute earnings because that is ‘business as usual,'” Court of Appeal Justice Mark Schrager said in his ruling.

“I do not question appellants’ right to appeal but neither can I stand idly by while appellants pursue an appeal which will benefit them if they win but which will not operate to their detriment if they lose.”

From the same article. The tobacco companies are not happy about the ruling. Boo hoo. In a released statement about the court decision:

“Imperial Tobacco Canada … does not believe it should have to secure a payment before all appeals are exhausted and a final judgment is rendered. Imperial Tobacco Canada continues to disagree with the overall judgment rendered by the Superior Court of Quebec. It is unjustified to hold legal manufacturers responsible for the personal choices of adult consumers and it will continue to defend that position as its appeals proceed before the courts.”

Just out of curiosity, I looked into who really owns Imperial Tobacco of Canada, Rothmans Benson & Hedges and JTI Macdonald, because I know there’s really only a handful of major tobacco companies in the whole world.

Sure enough, I was right. Imperial Tobacco is a subsidiary of British America Tobacco, the No. 2 tobacco company in the world. Rothmans Benson & Hedges is a subsidiary of Philip Morris, the No. 1 tobacco company in the world, and JTI Macdonald is part of Japan Tobacco, which bought out many of the RJ Reynolds brands such as Camel outside of the U.S. and is the No. 3 tobacco company in the world. I swear, it comes down to a handful of worldwide companies, it really does.


Quebec court: Tobacco companies must pay $15 billion in damages to as many as 1 million people


Big story out of Canada! Thanks very much to my friend Classical Gas for the tip.

A court in Quebec today ordered three Canadian tobacco companies — Imperial Tobacco, Rothmans Benson & Hedges and JTI-MacDonald — to pay $15 billion Canadian for “moral” and “punitive” damages.

This lawsuit began way back in 2012, but the roots of it go back much further.

From a CBC.com story:

“It’s a big day for victims of tobacco, who have been waiting for about 17 years for this decision. It was a long process — but arrived at the destination and it’s a big victory,” said Mario Bujold, executive director of the Quebec Council on Tobacco and Health.

The plaintiffs are a number of people who were sickened by smoking and/or their families. The groups alleged that Canadian tobacco companies:

  • 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.

    Lise Blais holds up a photograph of her husband, Jean-Yves Blais, who died from lung cancer after launching one of the two lawsuits, during a news conference on Monday in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

I’m not clear just how many plaintiffs there are (this sounds something like the Engle class action lawsuit in Florida), but according to the CBC, possibly as many as 1 million smokers and former smokers in Quebec will receive varying settlements. Here is the breakdown:

The plaintiffs with cancer who began smoking before January 1976 will get $100,000 each. Those who first lit up after that date are entitled to $90,000.

Those with 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.

For the almost one million Quebec smokers who were unable to quit, the breakdown comes out to about $130 per person.

From a wife of a smoker who died:

“I am so relieved with what has happened,” Lise Blais, whose husband Jean-Yves Blais initiated one of the lawsuits, told a crowd at a news conference.

“Did you stop to think what a cigarette is? It destroys you — your health is totally destroyed,” she said, holding up two photos of her late husband, who died in the summer of 2012 from lung cancer at the age of 68.

The companies plan to appeal. A lawyer for one of the companies made the weaseling comment that since the 1950s, Canadians have known the health danger from cigarettes. Hey, Pro-tip to weasel tobacco lawyer … tobacco lawyers have been trying to use that excuse since the beginning of Time, and for the past 20 years, it hasn’t saved their asses in court. You guys went to considerable time and expense to create doubt in smokers’ minds about the dangers of smoking, and the bill is coming due for your decades of lies and cover-ups.