Few corporate so called legal “persons” are as heartless a big tobacco. When it comes to crushing their opponents, there is no low they won’t stoop to in their legal tactics, or, for that matter, their threats of violence towards whistle blowers (see The Insider, a movie about former tobacco company executive Jeffrey Wigand) and others who dare cross them.
So I guess it shouldn’t be surprising when they dispatch an army of high priced lawyers to a small claims court in Rimouski Québec with the intention of scaring the shit out of the plaintiff, a small town teacher named Cécelia Létourneau, who decided to take them to court back in ’98, for a lousy 300 shekels (the cost of her nicotine patches, apparently) and her legal fees, which at the time amounted to pittance of $33. To cut a long story short, the suits at Imperial Tobacco where either too scared or too stupid to read the writing on the wall of their legal situation, and decided they would mount a vain rearguard legal action against the growing number of lawsuits being filed against them.
The result? They are now facing a class action lawsuit, filed on behalf of 1.8 million Québec smokers worth a staggering 27 billion dollars in Quebec’s Superior Court! Oops.
Don’t expect a resolution to this matter anytime soon. As Judge Brian Riordan put it (my translation): “we know when it started but we never know when it will finish!” Some experts estimate that we’re looking at a trial that might be as long as two years!
However, we can be certain that, in making their case, the tobacco giants will employ every trick in the book to deceive the public into believing the cornerstone of their classic legal defense, repeated to the press by Imperial’s chief defense lawyer Mistress Suzanne Côté (my translation): ‘It’s a matter of free will and that the illness that the claimants have suffered is not necessarily caused by cigarettes.”
While the negative effects of cigarettes are well documented, the simple causality between the drug and the variety of health problems associated with it can be tricky to prove in court. It’s worth remembering that in order to establish a tort (délit) under our civil code, there generally has to be a causal link between the harm suffered and the damages claimed.
That said, Mme Létourneau’s epiphany moment came when she paid her doctor a visit, and he suggested to her that her problem with quitting wasn’t a lack of will power but rather the addictiveness of the vile weed itself! It is now well established, though denied for years by corrupt tobacco executives and their puppets in government and the scientific community, that not only was her doctor right but that industry chemists like Jeffrey Wigand were being paid by their bosses to find ways of increasing nicotine (the most addictive property in cigarettes) content in their product.
So much for the argument that smoking or not smoking is simply a matter of personal choice.
This pattern of deception and obfuscation of the truth seems to have become the MO of that other corporate monster, big oil, and their notorious attempts to suppress the reality of climate change. Which begs the question: might there be a way that we could take the oil industry to court over the insidious damage that they continue to do to our environment and the health of every living creature on earth?
Then maybe we could expose their lies and the people they pay to repeat them in public the way we have shone a light on the evils of the tobacco business. An evil that I finally extinguished from my life only two years ago after having smoked for roughly 15 years.