Canadian court orders tobacco firms to pay for damages

Ottawa, June 2 (IANS) A Canadian judge has ordered three major cigarette companies to pay $12 billion to smokers in what is believed to be the biggest class-action lawsuit ever seen in the country, said a media report.

Judge Brian Riordan on Monday ruled in favour of two groups representing Quebec smokers, ordering Imperial Tobacco, Rothmans Benson & Hedges, and JTI-MacDonald to pay for punitive and moral damages, CBC Canada news reported.

The legal proceedings began in March 2012, 13 years after two class-action lawsuits were initiated by groups comprising about one million people.

One suit, known as the Blais File, involves individuals who became seriously ill from smoking. The other, the Letourneau File, was launched by a group whose members say they are unable to quit smoking.

According to a report by Canada’s CTV news, the three firms will split the $12 billion according to responsibility set out by the court — 67 percent by Imperial Tobacco, 20 percent by Rothmans Benson & Hedges, and 13 percent by JTI-MacDonald.

The judgment calls on the three companies to issue initial compensation of a total of more than $1 billion in the next 60 days, regardless of an appeal.

The judge will decide at a later date how to distribute those funds.

The three companies have issued statements saying they will challenge the verdict.

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