Quebec Class Action

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).

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Letourneau, et al. v. BAT, PMI, JTI, No 500-06-000076-980 and No 500-06-000070-983, (Quebec 2015).

  • Canada
  • May 27, 2015
  • Province of Quebec, District of Montreal, Superior Court Class Action Division

Parties

Plaintiff

  • Cecilia Letourneau
  • Conseil Quebecois Sur Le Tabac et La Sante
  • Jean-Yves Blais

Defendant

  • Imperial Tobacco Canada Limited
  • JTI-Macdonald Corp.
  • Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc.

Cited Legislation

Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms

Quebec Consumer Protection Act

Related Documents

Type of Litigation

Tobacco Control Topics

Substantive Issues

Type of Tobacco Product

None