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August 4, 2011

Federal Government not liable for costs in Tobacco cases

The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) ruled unanimously on July 29th, 2011, that the federal government cannot be held liable in civil actions against the tobacco companies.

To date, there have been a number of such actions. The government of British Columbia launched a civil action against tobacco companies claiming they should help pay for healthcare costs related to illnesses caused by smoking. Other provinces have since followed British Columbia’s example. In another case, Imperial Tobacco is facing a class action from consumers who bought ‘light and mild’ brands of cigarettes. These consumers are trying to use consumer protection laws to get their money back.

In response, the tobacco companies argued that the federal government should share in the costs if the tobacco industry lose the civil action(s). The tobacco companies claim that the federal government is partly responsible because it collected taxes from tobacco products and played some role in the decision to sell ‘light and mild’ cigarettes.

This unanimous decision of the SCC means that the federal government will not have to help cover the costs if the tobacco industry loses once the cases proceed

You can read the case online at: