A Quebec Superior Court has ordered three tobacco companies to pay $15 billion in damages in what is being considered the biggest class-action lawsuit in Canadian history.
Imperial Tobacco, Benson & Hedges and JTI-MacDonald were ordered to pay for punitive and moral damages in two class-action lawsuits that involved approximately one million plaintiffs. The Quebecers argued the companies were liable because they knew the products were harmful and purposely hid the health effects of tobacco.
“The Quebec court has spoken very clearly and concludes that the tobacco industry has shamelessly lied to the public for decades. Finally these companies are being called to account for their behaviour. Hopefully this court decision will lead to less consumption of a product that kills,” said Brad Robitaille, managing partner at Greg Monforton & Partners.
Brad is also a founding partner of Tobacco Recover Lawyers LLP and fights on behalf of provinces and territories to recover health-care costs related to smoking-related illness.
The court judgement requires companies to issue initial compensation of more than $1 billion within the next 60 days, no matter if the companies decide to appeal. The judge will decide at a later date how to distribute the funds.
Imperial tobacco will pay approximately 67 percent of the damages, Benson & Hedges must pay 20 percent and JTI-MacDonald will pay the remaining 13 percent of damages.
The trial, which stemmed from two cases originally filed in 1998, was consolidated in 2005. Legal proceedings began in March 2012.
Plaintiff payouts will be based on when the claimant began smoking, before or after January 1976, as well as how their addiction to cigarettes impacted them.
Shortly after the ruling came down, JTI-Macdonald Corp. announced their plans to appeal the judgement. Imperial Tobacco Canada and Benson & Hedges also intend to challenge the ruling.
The team at Greg Monforton & Partners has previously discussed the dangers of smoking and how Big Tobacco is still big business in Canada. Although this is a victory for those in the proceedings, many smokers and former smokers are still seeking justice for the harm these companies have caused.