Canadian Court Hands Smokers £8.2 billion in Landmark Case
In what is being seen as a landmark case, a Canadian judge has awarded smokers £8.2 billion in damages against three major tobacco companies on the grounds they put profits before the health of their customers. In his 276 page judgement, Quebec superior court justice Brian Riordan said, “The companies earned billions of dollars at the expense of the lungs, the throats and the general well-being of their customers. If the companies are allowed to walk away unscathed now, what would be the message to other industries that today or tomorrow find themselves in a similar moral conflict?”
Over a million smokers in Quebec were involved in the action, claiming that the companies knew they were selling a harmful product but concealed the risks from customers. Two groups of consumers were covered by the claim – those who developed serious illness related to smoking and those who said they were unable to give up the habit. The action was originally launched in 1998, but the trial did not start until March 2012. The court heard from 76 witnesses and reviewed over 43,000 documents before concluding the case in December 2012.
The three firms involved, who have been ordered to split the damages in line with responsibility determined by the court, are Imperial Tobacco Canada, a subsidiary of British American Tobacco; Rothmans; Benson & Hedges, a subsidiary of Philip Morris; and JTI Macdonald Ltd, part of Japan Tobacco. The companies have already stated that they will lodge an appeal against the decision.