Big Tobacco to appeal Quebec smokes ruling

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MONTREAL – The country’s largest tobacco companies are set to return to court today to fight a ruling that they must pay out more than a billion dollars in settlement money in the coming weeks.

A Quebec judge ruled just more than a month ago that Imperial Tobacco, Rothmans, Benson & Hedges and JTI-Macdonald had to fork over $15.6 billion to smokers who either fell sick or couldn’t quit the habit.

The judgment called on the firms to provide initial compensation of more than $1.1 billion within the first 60 days, regardless of whether they planned to appeal.

One anti-smoking group, the Quebec Council on Tobacco and Health, is denouncing the decision by the companies to fight having to make the initial payment.

The case stemmed from two 1998 suits that were consolidated, with the first witnesses heard only in 2012.

It was believed to be the biggest class-action lawsuit ever seen in Canada.