The Court of appeal confirmed the conviction of the cigarette industry

La Cour d'appel confirme la condamnation des cigarettiers

MONTREAL — Three manufacturers of cigarettes canadians will have to compensate some 100,000 smokers and ex-smokers in quebec, ruled the Quebec Court of appeal, for their crimes of “extreme gravity”. According to the lawyers of the quebec Council on tobacco and health, which has driven these two collective actions in the name of those that smoking made them sick, the tobacco companies will have to pay about $17 billion.
But by the time that Imperial Tobacco, Rothmans, Benson & Hedges and JTI-MacDonald corp. had paid their due, the representative of the class action against these manufacturers, Lise Blais, continues to feel invested with a mission.

“A great day for victims, a great day for public health,” said Mario Bujold of the quebec Council on tobacco and health.

This major decision of 422 pages was made Friday afternoon and was signed by five judges of the Court of appeal.

They thus confirmed the historical judgement’s 2015 justice Brian Riordan of the superior Court – not making some “adjustments”, they say. The judge Riordan had also ruled in favor of the smokers or ex-smokers patients, ordering the tobacco companies to pay $ 15 billion in damages. And this, because they had ‘passed on their profits before the health of their clients”, condemned then the judge.

The amount now amounted to approximately $ 17 billion with the accumulated interest and the amendments made by the judgment of the Court of appeal, according to the quebec Council on tobacco and health.

The Court of appeal speaks of omissions, misinformation and advertising strategies misleading on the part of manufacturers.

The two class actions had been filed on behalf of smokers or ex-smokers with emphysema, cancer of the lung, larynx or throat cancer, and in the name of those who are addicted to the nicotine contained in cigarettes.

They were both a period from 1950 to 1998, the date that applications for authorization of collective actions have been filed by smokers.

Therefore, they expect the end of court proceedings for more than 20 years.

The manufacturers of cigarettes canadian Imperial Tobacco, JTI-Macdonald and Rothmans-Benson & Hedges had appealed the decision of the judge Riordan. They come to be unsuccessful.

Because the Court of appeal concluded that they had acted in concert and have indeed failed in their duty of information towards the population, “duty, which, having regard to the danger presented by cigarette smoking, produces toxic and addictive, was of a high intensity”, it is written in the judgment.

“Their failure is twofold: on the one hand, they have not provided information to the public or to users, or have provided inappropriate information; on the other hand, they actively misinformed the public and the users by addressing various ways to the credibility of the warnings, advice and explanations given and distributed by others (governments, medical corps, tobacco groups, etc) about the harms of smoking and using schemes or misleading advertising.”

Even worse: we can talk about a behavior of bad faith, said the Court.

Because there has been “deliberate concealment of the effects of cigarette smoking on the health of users,” she said, as well as a denial and minimisation of these effects, “all wrapped in an advertising strategy misleading”.

The Court also answered the argument from JTI-Macdonald, according to which “the manufacturer does not have to notify those who are (already) notified”.

If certain information circulating about the dangers of smoking, they were not enough, slice it. “The appellants (cigarette companies) have not succeeded to prove, as they had the burden, the members of the groups, the relevant dates, knew about the safety defect of the cigarettes, or were in a position to know”.

The award of punitive damages is also confirmed, based on the Law on the protection of the consumer, as well as the Charter of rights: the manufacturers of tobacco products had infringed the rights to life, security and integrity of Quebec in a faulty way and illegal, writes the Court.

“In truth, if the fact of pass over in silence, in a concerted manner, the information concerning the harmful nature of smoking for nearly two decades to delay the knowledge of the public in relation to a public health issue vital is not, according to the objectives of the legislation specific to the Act on the protection of the consumer, a behavior that we should discourage and denounce in the strongest terms, it is difficult to conceive what conduct would justify the award of punitive damages.”

For the quebec Council on tobacco and health, it is a great victory.

Me André Lespérance, one of his lawyers, said, “five judges of the highest court of Québec come to mean to the world as the severity of the judgment of first instance was fully justified because of the seriousness of the misconduct of the tobacco companies, including the fact that they have been lied to continuously since the 1950s on the dangerousness of their products.”

But smokers and ex-smokers may not be able to not put the money in their pockets immediately.

JTI-Macdonald is said to be “fundamentally disagree” with the judgment rendered by the Quebec Court of appeal, and considers the option of requesting permission to appeal the decision to the supreme Court of Canada”, a-t-know by press release.

For its part, Rothmans, Benson & Hedges has already made its decision: it will seek the intervention of the highest court of the country.

Imperial Tobacco is considering it also. “It is believed that it is unjust to hold manufacturers of legal responsible personal choices made by adult consumers. The risks associated with smoking have been known for decades”, explained in the telephone interview with Eric Gagnon, senior director of corporate affairs at Imperial Tobacco.

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THE CQTS CLAIMS VICTORY, DESPITE A POSSIBLE APPEAL

“Victory!”, he yelled to the quebec Council on tobacco and health, Friday, after more than twenty years of court battles against three tobacco companies canadian.

But by the time that Imperial Tobacco, Rothmans, Benson & Hedges and JTI-MacDonald corp. had paid their due, the representative of the class action against these manufacturers, Lise Blais, continues to feel invested with a mission.

“For all the victims of tobacco companies and their families, they will eventually get justice finally. I swear to you”, she started on a solemn tone.

The Quebec Court of appeal has upheld the judgment made in 2015 by the superior Court, which had ordered these companies to compensate some 100,000 smokers and ex-smokers in quebec.

At a press conference in Montreal, barely an hour after the unveiling of the decision, the lawyers of the lawsuit have reported a world first, because only action carried out by governments had previously won the case in the face of the tobacco industry.

But the case is not closed. Imperial Tobacco and Rothmans-Benson & Hedges have already expressed their intention to turn to the supreme Court of Canada.

JTI-Macdonald does not have this opportunity, pledging to take “all steps necessary and desirable to defend its legitimate activities”.

“It is believed that it is unjust to hold manufacturers responsible for the personal choices made by adult consumers,” argues the senior director of corporate affairs at Imperial Tobacco, Éric Gagnon, in an interview with The canadian Press.

The quebec Council on tobacco and health (CQTS) has, however, hopeful that the courts fall again to his side.

“It is now six judges who come to the same conclusions about the mistakes made by the tobacco companies. These are judgments very strong, very extended,” pointed Me Philippe Trudel.

Lise Blais has the knife between the teeth. Her husband, Jean-Yves Blais, who died in 2012, before the completion of the procedures that he himself had initiated. She has since taken up the torch as the standard-bearer of the members of the class action.

“I’m going to hold out until at the end. If one goes to the supreme Court, I will”, she launched with aplomb on Friday.

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