Ontario Court of Appeal refuses to dismiss $50B tobacco lawsuit

TORONTO — Several big foreign tobacco companies have lost a bid to have a $50 billion lawsuit by the Ontario government thrown out of court. Ontario’s Court of Appeal has refused their request.

The three-judge panel unanimously said it sees no legal reason to overturn a lower court ruling that the case should proceed. Ontario launched a lawsuit against 14 tobacco companies in September 2009 to try to recoup past and present health-care costs related to smoking.

The province claims the corporations should be on the hook for billions of dollars because they misrepresented the risks of smoking, did not take steps to reduce the effects and marketed cigarettes toward children and teens.

The tobacco companies argued that the Ontario Superior Court of Justice didn’t have jurisdiction to hear the case. They also claim the lawsuit is based on a false theory that the companies conspired in the 1950s to withhold information from Ontario smokers about the harmful and addictive ingredients in cigarettes.

None of the allegations have been proven in court. The Ontario government says smoking is the leading cause of premature deaths and illness in the province and costs the health-care system $1.6 billion a year.

Every province except Nova Scotia has filed similar lawsuits. (CP24)

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