February 21, 2005 by Canadian Underwriter
Two class actions against three tobacco manufacturers for “smoking addiction” have been certified in Quebec Superior Court.
The suits involved tobacco companies Imperial Tobacco Canada, Rothmans Benson & Hedges, and JTI MacDonald, with plaintiffs alleging the companies did not disclose the risks involved in smoking. Montreal law firm Trudel & Johnston, which represents Rimouski resident Cecilia Letourneau who instituted one of the two class actions, also charges the companies “conspired together” to prevent the public from learning of the dangers of smoking, and “intentionally infringed the right of the members of the class to the security and integrity of their persons”.
Both plaintiff and defense teams say the suits could involve more than two million members, with plaintiffs seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
Imperial Tobacco says the cases will involve years of litigation, including individual trials to determine plaintiffs’ individual health status and smoking history. “The real winners in this class action will be the legions of lawyers who will be employed for years to come trying to deal with the individual issues that are inevitable in this type of class action,” says Imperial spokesperson Yves-Thomas Dorval.
The tobacco companies had argued against class certification, noting that the dangers of smoking have been publicized for decades. They also cite an Ontario Superior Court decision not to certify four similar class action filings early last year, with the judge in that case ruling the class did not raise “common issues”.