Canadian Court Orders Tobacco Firms to ‘Cough Up’ Billions in Damages

Well, to not know the ‘health risk’s of smoking tobacco is pretty stupid – even 20 years ago.

But we don’t really care, because any time that big tobacco has to pay, it’s a good day.

A Canadian court has ordered three major tobacco companies to cough up $15bn. The plaintiffs are Quebec smokers who claim that the companies – Imperial Tobacco Canada, Rothmans Benson & Hedges, and JTI-MacDonald – failed to warn them of the health risks associated with smoking.

How the plaintiffs were apparently uneducated about the health risks associated with smoking is beyond our comprehension. Either way, of the plaintiffs, some became seriously ill as the result of their cigarette addiction, while others were unable to stop.

The class-action lawsuits were filed in 1998, but only went to trial in the courts recently. And it’s a pretty big deal – the case is believed to be the biggest class-action lawsuit the country’s ever seen.

As for the firms, they have promised to appeal against the decision, arguing that Canadians have had “high awareness” of smoking health risks since the 1950s. “That awareness has been reinforced by the health warnings printed on every legal cigarette package for more than 40 years,” JTI-Macdonald said in a statement.

Even so, the plaintiffs argued that the companies didn’t properly warn their customers of the risks, therefore failing in their general duty “not to cause injury to another person,” according to the Quebec Superior Court decision. In doing so, Superior Court Justice Brian Riordan said that the companies “chose profits over the health of their customers.”

Regardless of whether the companies choose to appeal, the judgment calls for them to issue initial compensation of more than $800m in the next 60 days. It will be decided at a later date how to distribute the rest of the funds.

The case marked the first time tobacco companies have gone to trial in a civil lawsuit in Canada.