Judge to rule on whether Newfoundland court has jurisdiction in tobacco case

Rosie Mullaley
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The largest courtroom in Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s was filled with lawyers Thursday for the start of a hearing about whether or not a case against big tobacco can he heard here.

Close to a dozen of them — some from this province, others from elsewhere — were seated at the lawyers’ benches. Even the spectators were lawyers.

It’s no surprise, considering what’s at stake.

The province’s attorney general filed the lawsuit against several multinational tobacco companies, seeking to recover past health-care  costs, and future treatment of patients who suffer from a variety of ailments caused by tobacco.

It’s also seeking the cost of the legal proceedings for the province.

Many of the lawyers in court represent major tobacco companies, including Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc., Philip Morris U.S.A. Inc., JTI-Macdonald Corp., R.J. Reynolds, Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd., British American Tobacco and the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers’ Council.

Chief Justice David Orsborn is hearing the case, which took almost two years to get to court.

But before considering the bigger issue, the judge must determine whether or not the court has jurisdiction to make, or enforce, an order against the companies resulting from litigation.

That was the issue argued Thursday. After hearing arguments on the matter most of the day, Orsborn reserved his decision. He didn’t indicate how long it would take before he’s ready to render it.

Newfoundland and Labrador is the fourth province to file a statement of claim against the tobacco industry — Ontario, British Columbia and New Brunswick are the other three — and more provinces are working towards doing so.

In order for the court to hear the case, it must first be determined to be “a good, arguable case.”

The same argument regarding jurisdiction was raised in the Ontario lawsuit.

In May, the Ontario government was successful when the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled there was a sufficient cause of action with a sufficient connection to Ontario.

This province was able to proceed as a result of the Tobacco Health Care Costs Recovery Act, which was developed in May 2001.

The act gives the government authority to sue tobacco companies for the cost of treating smoking-related illnesses, which is estimated to be $360 million a year.

The act wasn’t proclaimed until Feb. 8, 2011. It was anticipated tobacco manufacturers would challenge the legislation, as they had in other provinces.

Similar cases, mostly in the United States, have resulted in multibillion-dollar out-of-court settlements.



Twitter: @TelyCourt

Organizations: Rothmans, Benson Hedges, Philip Morris USA Inc Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd. British American Tobacco Canadian Tobacco Ontario Court

Geographic location: Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, British Columbia New Brunswick United States

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Recent comments

  • seanoairborne
    June 22, 2013 - 16:51

    Well,they done the same thing here in the good ole USA and got billions from the tobacco companies.The billions the states got from those "legal" companies was supposed to go to support millions of smokers with tabacco cessation programs to help them quit smoking and medical care programs for cancer patients.Guess what,not a penny went to help those folks to stop smoking or for cancer care programs.The money was spent on infrastructure in the states.Things like Planned Parenthood and welfare programs and to grease the palms of the politicos!This is a money grab by The Provincial Governments and courts to take money from legal corporations,( that contribute billions to the economy in the way of jobs and educational scholarships to thousands of young people to attend higher learning institutions, that they would not otherwise be able to attend ,and many other worthwhile endeavors that these large corporations are involved in to better the general welfare of the average working person),and to do with it as they see fit. And that is to squander it to please their low life constituents.Not a penny will be spent to help people quit smoking.None of the ill gotten gains will go to the medical care system.It'll be used for pet projects to keep the useless politicians in a job that a lot of their liberal tofu eating supporters don't mind at all! In fact they're fine with armed robbery as long they are the ones that ain't being robbed!What a bunch of unadulterated crap.Can't you people learn from the mistakes of this country?What a shame!!

  • gloria
    June 21, 2013 - 14:27

    Tom I agree with your comment 100%. All provincial governments inhale Millions of dollars per year from the sale of cigarettes so they obviously see no harm in supplying us addicts with harmful drugs but,how many have been convicted for possession or sale of marijuana? Is this not a harmful drug or could it be that to charge a tax to the users this drug would have to be legalized giving the legal aged people their right to CHOOSE for themselves . Oh by the way 64 years of age so far have never spent a night in hospital (only to give birth to my children) Absolutely no expense caused to the medical program due to smoking. May see a Doctor every couple of years. May eventually be diagnosed with cancer but so will thousands of others who have never smoked. Children of this era are not exposed to cigarette smoke yet unfortunately they are being diagnosed with Cancer every day.Time we looked at the foods we eat and what they contain,vegetable,fish, meat,milk bread to mention a few are saturated with different drugs and chemicals.Our environments are polluted and the licensee the GOVERNMENTS of course. Have a good day

  • tom
    June 21, 2013 - 12:10

    The government makes more off the tax of tobacco than the manufacture actually makes on a LEGAL product. Maybe I need to sue the government for allowing the product to be on the market.

  • bob conway
    June 21, 2013 - 11:46

    why not bring the nlc to court .how may families have been destroyed. because of liqour.

  • Jeff
    June 21, 2013 - 11:11

    Hmmmm, why would a product supposedly costing the government hundreds of millions a year in related treatment not be banned by that government? Oh right, the hundreds of millions in taxes it generates.

  • kathypeddle
    June 21, 2013 - 10:15

    i am sure there are just as many or more deaths as aresult of drinking do why isnt there a lawsuit against the beer and licqure companys