Ontario government lawyers look to move ahead with lawsuit against tobacco companies
TORONTO – Lawyers representing the Ontario government are asking a judge to lift a stay on legal proceedings against three major tobacco companies so the province can pursue a lawsuit to recover smoking-related health costs.
Ontario launched its lawsuit against a dozen Canadian firms and their parent companies roughly a decade ago and the case was projected to go to trial late next year or in early 2021.
But pre-trial preparations stalled last month after three of the tobacco companies involved in the suit sought creditor protection in response to a separate legal battle in Quebec.
Quebec’s highest court upheld an earlier judgment in March ordering the companies to pay out more than $15 billion to smokers in that province who took part in two class-action lawsuits.
The companies quickly turned to the Ontario court for relief and obtained an order suspending all legal proceedings against them as they try to negotiate a settlement with all their creditors, including several provincial governments.
In a hearing Thursday, lawyers for Ontario argued their trial should be allowed to go ahead because the remaining 11 companies involved will not have to take part in mediation.