Type of Litigation: Health Care Cost Recovery

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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).

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.

Oklahoma v. Native Wholesale Supply [United States] [June 10, 2014]

Native Wholesale Supply imported and distributed several hundred million cigarettes in the State without reporting them as required under State laws enacted as part of the Master Settlement Agreement. A lower court had awarded the state $47 million dollars, and the tobacco company was seeking a new trial.  Here the Supreme Court upheld the lower court's grant of summary judgment and denied the tobacco company a new trial. 

The Government of Saskatchewan v. Rothmans, et al [Canada] [October 01, 2013]

The government of Saskatchewan sued a number of tobacco companies seeking to recover the health care costs of treating citizens with tobacco-related disease.  The government alleged that the tobacco companies engaged in a decades-long conspiracy to mislead Saskatchewan about the health risks of smoking and to suppress information about the dangers of smoking. Three of the tobacco companies sought to dismiss the claim, arguing that the court did not have sufficient jurisdiction over them. The court rejected the tobacco companies’ argument and allowed the claim to proceed. The court found that there was enough evidence to show a real and substantial connection between Saskatchewan and the tobacco companies.

Ontario v. Rothmans Inc. [Canada] [May 30, 2013]

The government of Ontario sued a variety of tobacco manufacturers seeking to recover $50 billion in health care costs caused by tobacco-related disease. The claim was brought under the Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, an Ontario law that gives the government the right to recover health care costs arising from “tobacco-related wrongs.”  The government alleged that the tobacco companies engaged in a decades-long conspiracy to mislead Ontario about the health risks of smoking and to suppress information about the dangers of smoking. Six of the foreign tobacco companies argued that the Ontario courts do not have jurisdiction over them. The appeals court affirmed an earlier ruling finding that that the court has sufficient jurisdiction to proceed against the foreign companies. 

Tennessee v. NV Sumatra Tobacco Trading Co. [United States] [March 28, 2013]

The State of Tennessee sought to recoup money owed to it under legislation related to the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) for cigarettes sold in the state.  Under the MSA and Tennessee law, tobacco manufacturers who did not agree to settle were required to establish escrow accounts in states where they continued to sell cigarettes.  In this case, an Indonesian tobacco manufacturer sold cigarettes through a series of intermediaries that eventually were sold to consumers in Tennessee.  Neither the distributor in the U.S. nor the manufacturer paid any money into the escrow accounts as required by the MSA.  The manufacturer challenged the case by claiming that Tennessee courts did not have personal jurisdiction over the company under the due process clause of the 14th amendment.  After conflicting conclusions in the lower courts, the Tennessee Supreme Court found the company did not have the necessary minimum contacts necessary to establish personal jurisdiction.  The court said the company did not purposely avail itself of the state's laws and the contacts with the state were attributable to uncontrolled third parties.  The court upheld the trial court's ruling and dismissed the case.

Attorney General of Canada v. Imperial Tobacco Ltd. et al. [Canada] [November 14, 2012]

This class action suit was brought by 1.8 million people in Quebec against three major tobacco manufacturers.  The tobacco companies claimed that if they were found liable for personal injury, then the government should share financial responsibility as well, because tobacco products are government regulated products.  The Supreme Court of Canada rejected this argument in July 2011 in a separate, but similar, case.   In this decision, the Quebec Court of Appeal also rejected the tobacco manufacturers’ arguments and reversed the lower court ruling.  The Court of Appeal granted a motion to dismiss by the government, and prohibited the amendment of the complaint to include the Canadian government as a potential defendant. 

Ontario v. Rothmans Inc. [Canada] [January 04, 2012]

The government of Ontario brought an action against various tobacco manufacturers seeking recovery of 50 billion dollars in health care costs that had been or would be paid by the government for treatment of its insureds' diseases or risks of diseases related to tobacco use.  The claim was brought under the Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act.  The government alleged that the manufacturers had engaged in an intentional scheme of deception, arguing, among other things, that the manufacturers had been aware of the harmful health effects of cigarette smoke and second-hand smoke for several decades but had suppressed evidence revealing these effects and had purposely misled the public about the health risks of cigarette smoke.

This order reviews certain companies challenge to jurisdiction.  The court rejects the challenge to jurisdiction and orders costs to be calculated for all the proceedings leading up to this ruling.

R. v. Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd., et al. [Canada] [July 29, 2011]

The Government of British Columbia and a class of smokers of “light” or “mild” cigarettes brought separate actions against tobacco companies seeking redress for the companies’ failure to inform the public of the harmful nature of various types of cigarettes.  The tobacco companies, in turn, issued third-party notices to the Government of Canada, arguing that, if held liable to the plaintiffs, the companies would be entitled to compensation from Canada under various theories of law.  The Court held that the companies' pleading disclosed no reasonable cause of action, finding, among other things, that:  (1) an alleged duty of care to smokers did not exist; (2) Canada’s relationship with consumers and the tobacco companies was not sufficiently proximate to establish tortious liability; (3) Canada’s public health policy encouraging smokers to switch to low-tar cigarettes did not breach the duty of care; (4) Canada was not liable as a “manufacturer” under the Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, under the Negligence Act, or at common law; (5) Canada did not constitute a “supplier” within the meaning of the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act because Canada did not promote the use of low‑tar cigarettes for commercial purposes; and (6) Canada’s regulation of the tobacco industry was not an implicit promise to indemnify compliance under the narrow doctrine of equitable indemnity.

Dubek v. Maccabi [Israel] [July 13, 2011]

This is an appeal to the Supreme Court in two suits by healthcare providers against major tobacco companies for compensation for costs of treatment harms of smoking.  In one case (Macabbi) the District Court dismissed the suit and in the other (Clalit) the Court denied a motion to dismiss.  The Supreme Court held that both cases should be dismissed due to lack of any liability or duty of care owed by the tobacco companies to healthcare providers.  According to the decision, any suit must be filed against specific tobacco company, must name an individual that was harmed by smoking, and must state a specific harm.