Tort Tuesday: Quebec court orders tobacco companies to pay $15 billion in damages

A cigarette broken in half.
A cigarette broken in half. Stock photo from iStock/Getty Images.

In a victory for the little guy, the Quebec Court of Appeal recently ordered Imperial Tobacco and Rothman's Benson & Hedges to set aside $1 billion in trust for class action members.

The class action lawsuit netted the plaintiff’s – a group comprising about one million people in Quebec - a historic win after fighting the companies for 17 years. The plaintiff’s alleged that the companies failed to properly inform smokers about the dangers of smoking. The tobacco companies lost and were ordered to pay moral and punitive damages.

Even though the original judgment was handed down in June of 2015, the companies have not paid out a single cent. The judgment ordered the two companies, and JTI MacDonald, to pay $15 billion in damages, with $1 billion of that to be paid immediately.

Fed up with the companies’ excuses on why they couldn’t pay, Justice Mark Schrager ordered the companies to start paying in installments in a ruling he made last week.

In fact, the justice was so annoyed at the companies’ claim that they couldn’t pay that he stated:

“It is not acceptable that appellants merely say that they have no funds to satisfy the judgment or an order to furnish security and continue to distribute earnings because that is 'business as usual.”

Rothman’s Benson & Hedges owes $226 million and has to pay this money in six installments.

Imperial Tobacco, on the other hand, owes $758 million and was given only seven installments to make the payments.

The first payments are due in December of 2015.

Saskatchewan’s Sask Power sued over unpaid work

Another electric power plant is having major troubles, and for once it’s not Hydro One.

Saskatchewan’s Sask Power, is in deep legal waters over its carbon capture project plant near Estevan. It also has a dispute with company overspending and underpaying.

Not only does the energy company have a dispute with SNC Lavalin, who designed a power plant that Sask Power alleges has serious design flaws, but it’s in a large dispute with AB Western as well.

AB Western is the company who was actually hired to build the plant.

AB Western is suing Sask Power for $38 million in alleged unpaid labour. Sask Power turned around and then filed a lawsuit against AB Western for allegedly having overpaid AB Western due to contractor’s errors which resulted in delay.

Sask Power is also suing for breaches of contract and negligence. The corporation estimates that it overpaid the contractors by $111 million.

While AB Western admits there were delays, the company claims they were Sask Power’s own fault, because the company kept making changes in how the plant was to be built.

Nothing has been proven in court, yet, but it seems this is going to be one messy legal battle.

Quick-pick lottery tickets may lead to class action in Quebec

A motion was filed in the Quebec Superior Court last week in which Joel Ifergan - a man who once lost a $13.5 million lottery by seven seconds – is alleging that those who do not pick their own quick-pick numbers can’t win.

He is trying to launch a class-action lawsuit against the Quebec lottery.

Ifergan claims that if one purchases a ticket, which has randomly generated numbers instead of the purchaser’s own pick, then those groupings of numbers are removed from the system, so that the person has no chance at winning.

He relies on testimony of Denis Daly, who is a Loto-Quebec executive. It seems that Daly testified that all tickets with randomly produced combinations are not in the system in the first few draws.

Ironically, Daly had testified against Ifergan years ago. Ifergan had bought a winning lottery ticket seconds after the 9:00 p.m. deadline.

Loto-Quebec refused to honour the tickets, and he took the Crown Corporation to court. However, he lost all legal challenges and the Supreme Court declined to hear his case.

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