Canadian Tobacco Suit Goes Up In Smoke

A Canadian court has thrown out a class action lawsuit that was launched nine years ago against three tobacco companies, saying the process would require a thousand years of litigation to resolve.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled the multimillion dollar suit against Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd., Rothmans Inc, Rothmans Benson & Hedges and JTI-Macdonald Corp did not meet the requirements for class action.

Four smokers originally launched the lawsuit against the tobacco companies, with one of the plaintiffs having died in the interim. They were requesting $1 million (US$748,000) each in damages. If it had been allowed to proceed, the class action would have included everyone who had ever smoked in the province of Ontario.

“Even if the defendants were to only contest a portion of the individual claims, and each dispute could be concluded in one day, simple mathematics indicate that such a process would require the equivalent of 1,000 years of litigation, if it were to be conducted sequentially,” said Justice Warren Winkler in his 22-page written decision.

The lawsuit would have been the largest in Canadian history.

Source: Reuters, “Canada Court Tosses Out Tobacco Suit,” February 5, 2004.