Country: Costa Rica

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Legislative Consultation with Constitutional Division of the Supreme Court [Costa Rica] [March 20, 2012]

This decision is an official consultation by ten legislators to the Constitutional Court regarding the constitutionality of Costa Rican tobacco control legislation.  After the legislature approved the legislation but before the President signed the law, legislators officially consulted the Constitutional Court asking them to assess if the procedure followed by the leadership of the Legislative Assembly was appropriate and whether the legislation met constitutional standards.  The petitioners claim that the Legislative Assembly members used a nonexistent regulatory and Constitutional procedure.  Additionally, the petitioners argue that the restrictions regarding advertising, promotion and sponsorship; price and tax measures; smoke free measures; contents and disclosure measures; illicit trade; and other such measures are disproportionate and unreasonable.  The Court declared the law constitutional and explained that the country has the power to place effective restrictions on tobacco, all with the goal of protecting public health.

Salazar Jiménez v. Costa Rica [Costa Rica] [May 14, 2010]

Following the death of her husband, the plaintiff sought compensation from the State of Costa Rica for damages caused by her husband's tobacco addiction. The plaintiff claimed that the State was liable for her husband's death for improperly regulating the tobacco industry, the omission of information, negligence, and breaking its duties to protect its citizens from the harms of tobacco. The plaintiff also claimed that the State failed to meet its obligations under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) by failing to adequately regulate warnings, packaging, and advertising of tobacco, as well as conducting inadequate preventive campaigns. The plaintiff argued that the Costa Rican Tobacco Regulation Law paled in comparison to the requirements of the FCTC. The Court ruled that there was insufficient evidence demonstrating negligence by the State in protection the people from the harms of tobacco, as was required by the law and the FCTC. Consequently, the Court concluded that the plaintiff's addiction resulting in his death derived from his own decision to smoke and that the State carried its responsibility properly. The appeal was dismissed.   

Saenz Sibaja v. Municipality of Oreamuno [Costa Rica] [September 26, 2008]

The plaintiff filed an appeal for legal protection against his employer, the Municipality of Oreamuno, claiming that the smoking area near the dining area of the government building where he worked constituted a violation of the domestic tobacco control laws, including the federal law implementing the FCTC.  Additionally, the plaintiff claimed the smoking area violated his right to health and his right to a healthy and safe work environment. The Regulatory Law on Smoking (Ley de Regulación del Fumado) prohibits smoking in public offices, except in specific regulated areas that must be kept as far away as possible from dining areas where other workers could be affected. The Court ordered the Municipality of Oreamuno to relocate the smoking area away from shared spaces.  The Court held that just requiring a smoker to abstain from smoking while other workers are around is an insufficient measure as it creates a harmful working environment. The Court ordered the Municipality to pay costs and damages to anyone affected by the smoking area.

Vega Atencio v. Ministry of Justice [Costa Rica] [December 12, 2006]

A prisoner presented an appeal of protection against the Ministry of Justice claiming that his right to health and his right to life were being violated because his cellmates were allowed to smoke, which affected his personal health. The Court observed that the Regulatory Law on Smoking (Ley Reguladora del Fumado), which requires that places be smoke-free, excludes the National Prison System. Because there is an expressed authorization and no legal prohibition, the plaintiff’s cellmates and other inmates can smoke throughout the prison.  The Court dismissed the plaintiff's case, but recommended that the prison relocate inmates who, like the plaintiff, do not want to be exposed to smoke to areas where the impact of smoking is reduced.

Brenes Corrales v. Costa Rica, et al. [Costa Rica] [October 06, 2006]

The plaintiff filed an appeal for legal protection, claiming that the production and sale of cigarettes cause serious damages to health and the environment.  The plaintiff demanded that the State, public agencies and private businesses prevent the sale of these products. The plaintiff additionally claimed that because he and his children suffered from asthma and he had experienced cardiorespiratory arrests allegedly related to health effects of tobacco smoke, his rights to life and equal protection were violated.  He argued that it is the State's obligation to ensure a clean environment. The Court dismissed his appeal arguing that smoking is a legal activity and found the current legislation to be proportional and reasonable. 

Brenes Corrales v. Ministry of Health, et al. [Costa Rica] [August 19, 2003]

The plaintiff challenged the constitutionality of Regulatory Law on Smoking (Ley Reguladora del Fumado), a statute regulating advertisement of tobacco products, for not imposing a total ban on the promotion and marketing of an activity that is dangerous to people's health. He requested the establishment of a public policy that would allow for the proper protection of the right to health, the right to life and the right to a clean environment. The Court dismissed the claim arguing that the regulatory measures found in the present law were reasonable and proportional and that a complete prohibition could not be implemented.