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Court rules Canada out of tobacco suits

July 29, 2011 at 1:36 PM
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OTTAWA, July 29 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court of Canada ruled Friday the federal government cannot be a defendant in a class action lawsuit over smoking-related illnesses and deaths.

The nine judges were unanimous in their decision that tobacco companies alone could be named in lawsuits filed by the four provincial governments of British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Ontario. Four other provinces have announced they are drafting similar lawsuits, Postmedia News reported.

British Columbia was the first to sue the country's largest cigarette maker, Imperial Tobacco, 13 years ago to try to recover as much as $10 billion in healthcare costs, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. said. Ontario is seeking $50 billion, the reports said.

The federal government provides some funding for universal medical care, but provinces and territories administer their own medical systems.

The high court rejected tobacco companies' arguments the federal government had been negligent in protecting citizens and should therefore be included as defendants, the CBC said.

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