The Quebec Superior Court has told tobacco firms that they must pay $15.5bn (£8bn) in damages to smokers for failing to alert customers of the health risks of smoking.
The court told tobacco firms that they had failed in their duty “not to cause injury to another person”, ordering them to pay the damages – which are the largest award for damages in Canada’s history.
The companies include Imperial Tobacco Canada, Rothmans Benson & Hedges and JTI-MacDonald, all of whom have vowed to appeal the decision made by Judge Brian Riordan.
The plaintiffs in the case were smokers in Quebec who said that the firms has failed in their duty to warn them of the health risks associated with smoking, but the companies have argued that packaging of cigarettes have had a “high awareness” and have displayed health warnings for more than 50 years.
One of the firms, JTI-MacDonald said in a statement, “That awareness has been reinforced by the health warnings printed on every legal cigarette package for more than 40 years.”
Judge Brian Riordan said the companies had amassed profits totaling billions of dollars “at the expense of the lungs, the throats and the general well-being of their customers”.
He added, “If the companies are allowed to walk away unscathed now, what would be the message to other industries that today or tomorrow find themselves in a similar moral conflict?”
BATS and Imperial Tobacco Canada said, “There are strong legal grounds with which to challenge both the overall judgement, and to seek a stay of the provisional execution order, which Imperial Tobacco Canada will do within 30 days of the original 27th May ruling.”
“As such, no payments will be made until the request to stay the provisional execution order has been heard and a judgement made.”