On May 27, 2015, the Honorable Brian Riordan (“Justice Riordan”) of the Superior Court of Quebec rendered his judgment (the "Riordan Judgment") in two class actions instituted in the names of the class representative plaintiffs, Mr. Jean-Yves Blais (now deceased) and Ms. Cécilia Létourneau, against three tobacco companies: JTI-MacDonald Corp., Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltée and Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc. (together, the “Tobacco Companies”).
Justice Riordan held the Tobacco Companies liable for the damages suffered by the members of the class actions pursuant to the provisions of the Civil Code of Quebec, the Consumer Protection Act and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. The Tobacco Companies were found to have used deceptive and misleading marketing strategies and to have failed to adequately warn consumers of the inherent risks in using tobacco products, which increased the likelihood of, among other things, cancer and emphysema. As well, the Tobacco Companies failed to warn consumers of the addictive nature of nicotine in cigarettes. The Tobacco Companies were found to have disregarded the health of their consumers in order to generate massive profits. As such, Justice Riordan condemned the Tobacco Companies to solidarily pay moral and punitive damages to the class action members. With interest and the additional indemnity, the award was close to $15.5 billion.
Prior to the Riordan Judgment being rendered, class action counsel, Trudel Johnston & Lespérance, Kugler Kandestin and De Grandpré Chait, engaged Fishman Flanz Meland Paquin LLP to assist them with issues that would arise following the anticipated judgment, including insolvency issues, insurance claims and matters related to the execution of a successful final judgment.
The Tobacco Companies appealed the Riordan Judgment and were ordered by the Quebec Court of Appeal (the “QCA”) to furnish nearly $1 billion of funds as security for the appeal. On March 1, 2019, five judges of the QCA unanimously upheld Justice Riordan’s decision, with minor modifications.
Shortly thereafter, the Tobacco Companies sought protection before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (“CCAA”). Fishman Flanz Meland Paquin LLP has been acting in the CCAA proceedings as counsel for the Quebec Class Action Plaintiffs, and lawyers of the firm have appeared and pleaded before the assigned CCAA judge, the Honourable Thomas McEwen, on multiple occasions.
For more information on the tobacco-related class action lawsuits, please visit the Trudel Johnston & Lespérance website.
In the media:
Globe and Mail
Superior Court of Quebec:
Summary of the Quebec Court of Appeal: