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Tobacco lawsuit gains followers

Tobacco lawsuit gains followers

About 8,000 potential benefactors sign on in $27B class-action case

By MICHELLE LALONDE, The GazetteNovember 19, 2012 6:30 AM

Every time there is a significant development in the $27-billion
class-action case against Canada’s three major tobacco companies, more
Quebec smokers and relatives of deceased smokers sign up to cash in.

Last week, the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled that the federal government
is released from liability if the tobacco companies lose the two
combined class-action suits filed against them, which means the tobacco
companies would be on the hook to pay all damages if the plaintiffs win.

“We always get a wave of registrations after stories (about the class
action suits) are published in the media,” said Marie-Soleil Boivin, a
spokeswoman for the Quebec Council on Tobacco and Health, which launched
one of the two suits.

At last count, about 8,000 of an estimated 1.9 million potential
benefactors in the case had registered. But Boivin noted that eligible
claimants are not obliged to register before the court procedure is
concluded, and the process is expected to last at least two more years.

“If there is a judgment favourable to the plaintiffs, we would do a big
media blitz to publicize it so that people would know to come forward,”
Boivin said.

By registering early, claimants will be kept abreast of developments in
the case, and lawyers can also garner helpful information from those who

The two Quebec class-action suits, which are being tried together, are
the most advanced of any class-action suit against tobacco companies
anywhere in the world.

Back in September 1998, Cecilia LeTourneau filed a motion to exercise a
class action on behalf of all Quebecers dependent on the nicotine
contained in the cigarettes manufactured by Imperial Tobacco,
JTI-Macdonald, and Rothmans, Benson & Hedges.

Lawyers are claiming $10,000 for each member of this group, potentially
1.8 million people. This includes $5,000 for non-pecuniary damages
related to their dependence, and another $5,000 for each member for
breach of their rights under the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and
Freedoms, and for ignoring certain provisions of the Consumer Protection

Two months later, the Quebec Council on Tobacco and Health and Jean-Yves
Blais (who has since died) filed a similar motion, this one on behalf of
the estimated 90,000 Quebecers who suffer or have suffered from lung,
larynx or throat cancer or emphysema.

That group is asking for $100,000 each for their “loss of enjoyment,
suffering and physical and moral pain, shortened life expectancy,” etc.
plus $5,000 each in exemplary damages for “unlawful and intentional
interference of a right guaranteed under the Quebec Charter of Human
Rights and Freedoms and for false advertising contrary to the Consumer
Protection Act”.

To be eligible for the nicotine-dependant group, a person would have had
to have been dependent on nicotine in the cigarettes manufactured by one
of the three companies named on Sept. 10, 1998 or be the legal heir of
someone who was dependent at that time but who died since without having
stopped smoking.

To be eligible for the cancer group, known as the CQTS group, a person
must have resided in Quebec and been a victim of lung, larynx or throat
cancer of have suffered emphysema on or since Nov. 19, 1998, after
having directly inhaled cigarette smoke.

The person must have smoked at least 15 cigarettes per day, for at least
five years. The heirs of deceased persons who meet the criteria are also

“We are very confident we will get a positive judgment,” said Philippe
Trudel, a partner in the law firm Trudel & Johnston Trudel.

But smokers shouldn’t count on pocketing the amounts claimed in these
suits, he warned. The judge will decide how much in damages claimants
will be awarded, and legal fees will be deducted from that award.

Quebec was the first Canadian province to introduce class actions (in
1979). These actions allow an individual plaintiff to file a lawsuit on
behalf of a class of persons who are in a similar situation.

To find out if you are eligible to join this class action, go to


C Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

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