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Quebec Class Action Appeal [Canada] [March 01, 2019]

Quebec residents filed two separate class action lawsuits against the Canadian tobacco companies of British American Tobacco ("BAT"), Philip Morris International ("PMI"), and Japan Tobacco International ("JTI") ("tobacco companies"). The first class involved Quebec residents who had lung cancer, throat cancer, or emphysema. The second class involved Quebec residents addicted to nicotine. The court found that the tobacco companies caused injury, failed to inform customers of the risks and dangers of its products, and violated Quebec law.

On March 1, 2019, the Quebec Court of Appeals ("the Court") unanimously upheld the lower Quebec Superior Court decision and found that the tobacco companies intentionally misled consumers about the dangers associated with their products for more than 50 years. The Court upheld the lower court's decision, but made technical corrections, that the appellants pay moral damages to members of the Blais action, as well as punitive damages to both classes, with interest and the additional indemnity provided by law. The appellants’ liability was based on private law of general application (Civil Code of Lower Canada and Civil Code of Quebec ), the Tobacco-related Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and the Consumer Protection Act.

All three tobacco companies have indicated that they will likely appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.

For the earlier decision, see: JTI, et al. v. Letourneau, et al., No 500-06-000076-980 and No 500-06-000070-983, (Quebec 2015).

2326169 Ontario Inc. v. City of Toronto [Canada] [June 13, 2017]

Hookah lounge owners appealed a lower court decision upholding a city by-law that banned hookah use in licensed establishments.  The Court of Appeal held that the lower court's ruling was correct and dismissed the appeal.  

2326169 Ontario Inc. v. City of Toronto [Canada] [October 07, 2016]

Hookah lounge owners in the City of Toronto challenged a city by-law that banned hookah use in licensed establishments.  When the city adopted the by-law, tobacco smoking was already banned in enclosed public places and workplaces.  Therefore, the by-law applied to other products smoked by hookah, excluding tobacco.  The hookah lounge owners argued that the by-law was invalid because it would shut down their businesses and result in workers losing their jobs.  The Court held that the by-law did not prohibit the plaintiffs from operating the businesses they were licensed to operate (eating establishments offering food and non-alcoholic drinks).  Furthermore, the Court found that the by-law protects workers rather than harm them.  Thus, the Court dismissed the plaintiffs' application and held that the by-law was valid.      

Imperial Tobacco Canada v. Attorney General of Quebec [Canada] [September 28, 2015]

Tobacco companies challenged the constitutionality of the Tobacco-Related Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, which allows the government to sue tobacco manufacturers to recover the health care costs for individuals with tobacco-related illnesses. The Appeals Court of Quebec upheld the constitutionality of the law and dismissed the tobacco company’s appeal. The court relied, in part, on a decision from British Columbia upholding a similar law. The court found that the Quebec law did not violate the independence of the judiciary nor did it violate the tobacco companies' right to a fair trial.

City of Vancouver v. Abdolabbas Abdiannia [Canada] [June 19, 2015]

Two hookah bars challenged a law that prohibits smoking or burning substances in commercial establishments. The court found that the law applied to the hookah bars because warming of herbal shisha was considered “burning”. The court rejected arguments that the smoking law was overly broad and that it violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, finding no connection between smoking hookahs and religion. 

Bonavista Management Inc. v. Absolute Star Design Ltd. [Canada] [June 11, 2015]

A business was sued by its neighbors and the property management company because of cigar smoke and fumes drifting into adjoining businesses. The court granted a permanent injunction prohibiting anyone in the offending business from smoking cigars or any other tobacco or marijuana products on the business premises. The court found that the cigar smoking violated a local smoking law, constituted a nuisance, and interfered with the use and enjoyment of other rental units.

Quebec Class Action [Canada] [May 27, 2015]

Two class action lawsuits were filed in Canada in 1998 against major tobacco companies; the cases were later combined. One class (Blais) involved Quebec residents with lung cancer, throat cancer, or emphysema. The other class (Letourneau) involved Quebec residents addicted to nicotine. After a lengthy trial, the court found that the tobacco companies caused injury, failed to inform customers of the risks and dangers of its products, and violated Quebec law.

In the Blais case, the court awarded moral damages (e.g., for pain and suffering) of $15.5 billion, to be paid jointly by the three tobacco companies. In the Letourneau case, although the court found that the tobacco companies were at fault, it did not award moral damages because there was not enough evidence to determine the total amount of the class members’ claims. In both cases the court awarded punitive damages, which it calculated based on one year of before-tax profits for each tobacco company. In Blais, the court reduced this award to the symbolic amount of $30,000 for each defendant, representing one dollar for each death the tobacco industry causes in Canada each year. In Letourneau, the court awarded punitive damages of $131 million. The tobacco companies must make an initial deposit on the judgment of $1 billion while the appeal is pending.

Note: this decision was upheld on appeal, see JTI, et al. v. Letourneau, et al., No 500-09-025385-154, 500-09-025386-152 et 500-09-025387-150, (Quebec Court of Appeals 2019).

Rothmans Benson & Hedges Inc. v. Imperial Tobacco Products Limited [Canada] [May 01, 2015]

Imperial Tobacco applied for a trademark on the use of the color orange on cigarette packaging. This decision by the Court of Appeal upheld an earlier ruling finding that, in principle, a color can be registered as a trademark. Despite objections by another tobacco company, the court found that the color had in fact been used in product packaging by Imperial and that the trademark application accurately depicted the trademarks despite health warnings that also appear on the package. 

Vancouver v. Abdiannia [Canada] [August 11, 2014]

City officials sanctioned two hookah bars for violating provisions of an ordinance that prohibit the smoking of hookah in indoor public places.   The defendants claimed that the tobacco-free herbal shisha should not be prohibited under the ordinance. Furthermore, they claimed that the herbal shisha was heated, not ignited, so does not fit under the definition of smoking.  The court ruled that the city had reasonable grounds to prohibit smoking of any substance, that the definition of smoking was neither too broad nor too vague, and that herbal shisha does get "burned" within the ordinary meaning of the word. The court also ruled that the hookah owners and their patrons were unable to show that hookah smoking was religious or that operating a hookah cafe for profit was a function of spiritual faith. Even if they had, the ordinance does not prevent them from smoking hookah in their homes. The court found that no fundamental rights were violated, and upheld the sanctions against the hookah cafes.

Boruski v. Crescent Housing Authority [Canada] [May 30, 2014]

Residents of subsidized housing for seniors and people with disabilities sued the nonprofit Housing Society that managed the housing for discrimination based on their physical disabilities. The residents claimed that the Housing Society failed to reasonably accommodate their disabilities by exposing them to secondhand smoke, which exacerbated their disabilities. The court dismissed the complaint, finding that that the Housing Society took reasonable steps to accommodate the residents and limit their exposure to secondhand smoke, including offering different units for relocation, adopting a smoking policy, changing the lease agreement for new tenants to prohibit smoking, maintaining and inspecting the ventilation system, and moving a “smoking pit” farther away from the building. The court said that the steps taking by the Housing Society were reasonable and that residents sought a “perfect and preferred” accommodation rather than a reasonable accommodation.