Caputo v. Imperial Tobacco Ltd.


January 13, 1995:   Toronto lawyer, Richard Sommers, attempts a class action suit against Canada's 3 major tobacco companies. This is the first class action suit against tobacco companies outside of the United States. The case is called "Letourneau" after the first of the three plaintiffs named (Donald Letourenau, David Caputo, Luna Roth).

May 26, 1995:
The statement of claim is amended.  Mr. Letourenau withdraws as a named class representative and is replaced with Lori Cawardine and Russel Hyduk.

April 12, 1996:
Judgment issued (Master Peppiatt) on demands for particulars.

September 14, 1996:
Court ordered plaintiffs to file submissions on legal arguments, which were produced on October 16, 1996.  Class is estimated at 2.4 million persons.

June 1997:
Hearing and ruling on examination of representative class

June 4, 2003:
Ontario Superior Court upholds a Master's ruling.

February 2, 2004
Justice Winkler of Ontario Superior Court rejects the class action.

March 8, 2005
Justice Winkler of Ontario Superior Court denies Imperial Tobacco's request for costs to be awarded against class representatives.


Media Coverage

Three Smokers sue tobacco firms in class action (Globe and Mail, January 14, 1995, p. A1.

Big-tobacco hearing finally begins:[ONT Edition]
Ho Anderson. Toronto Star. Toronto, Ont.:Jan 13, 2004. p. A15

Tobacco companies kept smokers in the dark about how addictive and dangerous cigarettes really were by destroying documents and refusing to place adequate risk warnings on packages, lawyers said yesterday at a hearing to certify what could become the biggest lawsuit in Canadian history.

The class action suit was initiated in 1995 on behalf of millions of Ontario smokers by four representative plaintiffs David Caputo, Luna Roth, Lori Carwardine and Russell Hyduk, who died in 2003. Each is suing for $1 million in damages, and for the creation of nicotine rehabilitation centres.

The suit targets Imperial Tobacco Ltd., Rothmans, Benson & Hedges, and RJR-Macdonald Inc. Litigators from Sommers & Roth have been pursuing the case at the law firm's expense for eight years, with many delays - which the judge described yesterday as "procedural rambling."Another delay almost occurred yesterday when defence lawyers objected that the plaintiffs had been late in amending legal arguments.

But Justice Warren Winkler proceeded as planned, spending most of the day listening as lawyer Kirk Baert cited precedent after precedent in his attempt to sway the judge to rule the case a class action.

Several times, Winkler stopped Baert and asked him to stick to the case at hand.

Ontario law does not require people to opt in to class actions, only to opt out. If approved, the action could result in millions of smokers filing claims against the tobacco companies.

Credit: Toronto Star

Indexing (document details) Author(s): Ho Anderson Section: News Publication title: Toronto Star. Toronto, Ont.: Jan 13, 2004. pg. A.15 Source type: Newspaper ISSN: 03190781 ProQuest document ID: 523849441 Text Word Count 238


Lack of evidence in lawsuit against tobacco companies, lawyers say
Brautigam, Tara. Canadian Press NewsWire. Toronto:Jan 13, 2004.

TORONTO (CP) - A class-action suit against Canada's three main tobacco companies should not be allowed to proceed because of a glaring lack of evidence, defence lawyers argued Tuesday.

Defence lawyer Deborah Glendinning said lawyers for the four plaintiffs "glossed over" much of the evidence in their statement of claim and opening remarks Monday during the class-action certification hearing.

"(They) threw the spaghetti to see if it would stick," Glendinning said.

"But they didn't file the evidence to support it."

David Caputo, Luna Roth, Lori Cawardine and Russell Hyduk launched the lawsuit nine years ago, but numerous procedural delays have prevented it from going ahead. Hyduk died last year but his estate trustee is continuing with the case.

The plaintiffs allege Rothmans, Benson & Hedges, Imperial Tobacco Canada and JTI-Macdonald conspired to hide the health risks of smoking and the addictive nature of tobacco from the public in order to boost cigarette sales.

Up until 1972, the companies gave no warnings to consumers about the likelihood of cigarettes causing cancer and other life-threatening diseases, the plaintiffs say.

They are seeking $1-million each in damages, as well as funding for nicotine addiction rehabilitation centres.

If approved, observers say the multimillion-dollar class action could become the largest in Canadian history. Every past and present smoker in Ontario would be eligible to participate.

Kirk Baert, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told Justice Warren Winkler the case was similar to more than 40 class actions involving millions of smokers that have taken place south of the border.

"We can look to the United States courts to get background and context," Baert said Tuesday.

But defence lawyer Lyndon Barnes said the statement of claim was "over-inclusive" and that there was no rational connection between every smoker in the province and the claims of the plaintiffs.

Glendinning also said the plaintiffs have not demonstrated how the public would benefit from such a suit; nor are their health problems and reasons for smoking applicable to the rest of the province's smokers, she added.

"I encourage you to have a critical eye towards the evidence," Glendinning told Winkler.

Under Ontario law, the public does not have to opt in if a class action is approved, meaning millions of smokers could wind up suing the three tobacco companies on their own if the suit proceeds.

All class actions must be certified by a judge before they can proceed.

The hearing is scheduled to last two weeks, but a decision whether to proceed with the suit could take months.

Indexing (document details) Subjects: Crime, Health, Litigation Classification Codes 9172 Author(s): Brautigam, Tara Publication title: Canadian Press NewsWire. Toronto: Jan 13, 2004. Source type: Periodical ProQuest document ID: 548227961 Text Word Count 419





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