TORONTO, Jan 6 (Reuters) - An Ontario judge has ruled
that a C$50 billion ($48.82 billion) lawsuit against a group of
14 tobacco companies can proceed, after rejecting an application
to dismiss the lawsuit by a group of seven companies.
Canada's most populous province launched the lawsuit in
2009, seeking past and ongoing healthcare costs borne by
taxpayers due to tobacco-related illness since 1955.
The decision was announced by the Ontario attorney general
on Friday. The companies named include Rothmans Benson &
which is partly owned by Philip Morris, Imperial Tobacco
Canada ltd, a unit of British American Tobacco, and
The lawsuit alleges the companies knew about the
addictiveness of cigarettes and the health risks they posed and
they deceived the public by misrepresenting those risks. The
companies have denied the claims.
The application from seven companies sought a dismissal on
the basis that the court had no jurisdiction over them.
The tobacco industry is facing suits from several provinces
seeking to recoup healthcare costs. In Canada, the public
healthcare system is administered by each of the 10 provinces.
"We are pleased with the court's decision which paves the
way for Ontario's lawsuit to continue," the attorney general
said in the statement.
Ontario is struggling to rein in its C$16 billion deficit,
the deepest budget gap of any Canadian province, and healthcare
is by far its biggest expense.
The government said smoking is the leading cause of
premature death and illness in Ontario and costs the healthcare
system C$1.6 billion annually.
The decision follows a Supreme Court of Canada decision in
July that ruled the federal government is not liable for damages
from health-related lawsuits.
(Reporting by Cameron French)
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