Canada government wins big tobacco liability case

Fri Jul 29, 2011 9:55am EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's federal government is not liable for billions of dollars in damages stemming from lawsuits against tobacco companies, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday.

The decision is a major defeat for the tobacco industry, which argued that Ottawa had allowed and regulated the use of tobacco and should therefore pay at least part of any damages awarded by provincial courts.

Several of Canada's 10 provinces have sued or say they will sue the tobacco industry to recoup tens of billions of dollars in healthcare costs incurred by treating smokers. None of the cases has come to trial.

The case is Attorney General of Canada v. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of British Columbia et al, Case No. 33563

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Janet Guttsman)

<p>An office worker smokes a cigarette in downtown Toronto in this February 19, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/J.P. Moczulski</p>