Thursday, 9 May 2013

The trial continues! ...

Justice Riordan did as he said he would. He provided a ruling only a week after the tobacco companies laid down a series of dense requests in the form of the 'pre-defence' motions that were recently argued during the Quebec tobacco trial.

And he did as his body language said he would -- he dismissed each and every one of their requests. No, he would not dismiss the case. No, he would not agree that damages could not be assessed on a province-wide basis. No, he would not ignore the saga of the destruction of scientific documents by Imperial Tobacco.

His fourteen page ruling helpfully summarized the key questions that were contained in the bolus of arguments presented to him before providing concise responses. The companies not only did not get the satisfaction of any judicial sympathy to their concerns, they often did not get the satisfaction of a clear (and appealable?) "no".

Should the lawsuits be thrown out for lack of proof?
No. "Let us be clear. We are not deciding the issue at this time. ... enough evidence has been adduced 
through the Plaintiffs' experts to refrain from cutting the trial off now."

Must rulings be based on the circumstances of each individual smoker?
At this time, no.  "To transfer all matters of causality and damage quantification to the individual level, as the Companies are ardently attempting to do by these motions, would be to frustrate the class action process in its entirety. Even if fault were found at the collective level, the Companies could, and it is clear that they would, set up aggressive defences to each and every individual claim, requiring the members to undertake lengthy and costly trials. This is exactly what class actions are supposed to avoid, at least to the extent possible."

Must damages - punitive or compensatory - be assessed at an individual level and not on the basis of a class? Can punitive damages be assessed on the basis of the class even if compensatory damages are assessed individually?
Too early to decide. "It is certainly not the time to decide that now in light of the proof already in the record. The Companies should have the opportunity to counter this proof and make their arguments on these points, and the Court will grant them that opportunity. ... For now, the Court dismisses the Companies' argument on [these points]."

Can the fact that the industry has launched a constitutional challenge to Quebec's Bill 43 (the Tobacco-Related Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act) cast doubt on the parts of that law that remove time limitations on this class action? Does Bill 43 also affect punitive damages?
No and not at this time. "As of this time, Bill 43 is valid and in force ... It thus serves no purpose to rule on this question on a preliminary basis now."

Can the whole issue of document destruction be made to go away?
No. Haven't you got the message already?  "The Court consistently held on the previous occasions that it considers this relevant and admissible evidence. We have not changed our mind."
(A stupid mistake in an earlier version of this post contained the wrong information) 

Should Cecilia Letourneau's comments in a small claims court make her ineligible to be part of this lawsuit?
No. "The circumstances of this alleged renunciation are anything but clear, pointing rather to the opposite conclusion."

Should the fact that Mr. Blais smoked cigarettes manufactured by JTI-Macdonald mean that he does not have a claim against Imperial Tobacco or Rothmans, Benson and Hedges?
No. "The Companies' maintaining "a common front in order to impede users of their products from learning of the inherent dangers of such use" has previously been held to be sufficient to give all class members a claim against all the Companies."

The entr'acte is over. Next week, the curtain will rise on the second act of the trial when the industry will call their first witness -- Quebec historian Jacques Lacoursière.