Thursday, 27 December 2012

An end to 2012

December 19th was the 98th day in the joint trial of the Blais/CQTS and Létourneau class action lawsuits against Canada's three large tobacco companies, and the last day of hearings for 2012.

This eye on the trial was diverted from the courtroom on this day, but fellow blogger, Pierre Croteau, reports that the last witness for the year was Mr. Wolfgang Hirtle, a process engineer who worked in Imperial Tobacco's blending operation before his retirement in 2010.

The plaintiffs reportedly tried, without obvious success, to invite Mr. Hirtle to testify that the waste tobacco that went to be remixed as "reconstituted tobacco" would have included debris from the manufacture of fine-cut in the company's Montreal plant. Instead, Mr. Hirtle said that the waste came from other manufacturing sites.

The transcript from Mr. Hirtle's testimony, when it becomes available, will add more detail to an increasingly  complex side-story in this trial -- the way Canadian tobacco companies shared the use of Imperial Tobacco's facilities to make reconstituted tobacco and how or whether waste tobacco that included additives was separated out before the 'reconstituting' process took place. A task for 2013!

Looking ahead

January looks like it will be a busy month, even if much of the activity is behind scenes.

  • Justice Riordan is expected to decide on the status of 19 documents which were the subject of a two-day "2870" discussion in mid-December.
  • Plaintiffs will be busy reading the CTMC documents that must be provided to them by the end of this month,  following a September 12 ruling by Justice Riordan. 
  • The defendants have been asked/told to prepare a timetable or structure for their defence, and to share it with the court by January 14th.

When the trial resume on January 14th, discussion will continue on how or whether to admit documents for which witnesses are not available ("2870" documents). And there will be other disputes to resolve!

In the following weeks, the plaintiffs are scheduled to introduce their expert witnesses:  Christian Bourque (surveys on knowledge of health effects), Richard Pollay (marketing), Alain Desjardins (lung disease), André Castonguay (toxicology), Louis Guertin (larynx cancer),  Jack Siemiatycki (epidemiology), and Juan Negrete (addiction). Some additional fact witnesses are also expected to be called by the plaintiffs, but not yet scheduled. The plaintiffs are expected to have completed presenting their proof by the end of March.

An important decision on another Quebec tobacco lawsuit is pending. On December 14th, the tobacco industry tried to persuade Quebec Superior Court Justice Stéphane Sansfaçon to put the Quebec government's $60 billion lawsuit on ice until the industry's constitutional challenge to that law has been resolved.

Looking back - the numbers

It's been a busy year in Canada's first big tobacco trial. How big? Well, some numbers are bigger than others. Here's a look at some stats for the first year.

Pages of transcript

18,000 *
Number of exhibits now available through plaintiffs’ web-site

Number of objections recorded

950 *
Number of days’ testimony

Years of age of oldest witness (Peter Gage)

Average years of age of witnesses

Number of witnesses (including by deposition)

Number of issues decided by the Court of Appeal

Number of written rulings by Justice Riordan, excluding those related to federal government

Number of female witnesses

Number of witnesses testifying in French

Number of times Justice Riordan ruled against plaintiffs in written rulings

Number of issues decided by Appeal Court in favour of tobacco companies

* estimate based on the 96 transcripts available. 

Happy New Year!