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Newfoundland and Labrador's lawsuit vs. big tobacco still awaiting trial date

There are currently 60 buildings for seniors subsidized by the province that are designated as smoking buildings. 123RF
Eighteen years after it was announced, there is still no trial date set in legal action by the provincial government against big tobacco producers. - File photo -File photo

Provincial government has spent $850,000 on litigation costs thus far

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Almost 18 years after a lawsuit was announced between the provincial government and big tobacco, there’s a $850,000 price tag, but not much else to say so far.

In 2001, then-premier Roger Grimes announced the Tobacco Health Care Costs Recovery Act with the intention of suing big tobacco producers in an effort to make up lost revenues from health-care costs associated with the negative health effects of tobacco use.

In 2011, the province announced it had hired American law firm Humphrey, Farrington and McClain to take on the case. The American firm retained Roebothan McKay Marshall to assist with the legislation.

Currently, the case is still in the document disclosure phase of discovery, with no trial dates ready to announce, according to the Department of Justice.

Since 2002, the provincial government has spent $850,000 on the litigation, which has yet to go to trial.

As the matter is still before the courts, the department says it’s inappropriate to comment further on the matter.

After worries of an initial court challenge to the jurisdiction of the lawsuit, a ruling in favour of the government of British Columbia on a similar lawsuit established grounds for this province to proceed.

In May 2016, tobacco companies filed defences in the cases, which continue in the discovery phase.

Newfoundland and Labrador is far from the only province to announce legal efforts against the major tobacco distributers.

In 2008, a civil settlement was reached between the federal government and all provinces for more than $600 million in total fines and civil penalties, with payment to take place over 15 years. Rothmans, Benson and Hedges also agreed to a $100 million criminal fine, with another $450 million in civil penalties over the next 10 years.

In 2010, the Canada Revenue Agency announced another settlement, this time between JTI-Macdonald and Northern Brands international to a $150 million and $75 million criminal fine, respectively. Another $525 million in civil penalties were paid in that case, as well. 

So far, only the Yukon does not have some sort of on-going legal action against big tobacco manufacturers across the country. A number of civil class action lawsuits are also on-going.

Twitter: @DavidMaherNL


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