Appeal in big tobacco liability case begins today

Only two of original four plaintiffs remain

tobacco companies

A case against two tobacco companies brought by Professor Erkki Aurejärvi continues today, Monday, in the Helsinki Court of Appeals.
Originally, four women wanted compensation for harm caused to their health by “light” cigarettes. The diseases included emphysema and lung cancer. Only two them are still seeking damages from two tobacco companies – British American Tobacco Finland and Amer, the latter of which gave up the tobacco business years ago.
One of the plaintiffs died before the district court session, and the other withdrew her appeal last winter for health reasons.
The plaintiffs lost the first round in Helsinki District Court and each of them were ordered to pay EUR 250,000 in court costs.

The appeals court will have to evaluate if the women were aware of the risks that they were taking when they chose to smoke. The lower court found that they were. According to the decision, the women might not have become ill if they had stopped smoking in the mid-1970s, when they knew, according to the judgement of the court, thatwinston cigarettes was dangerous.
One of the women’s arguments is that they were addicted to nicotine. In their view, it is not a matter of a conscious risk if a person becomes dependent on nicotine already as a child.
The companies have emphasised that the production and sale of tobacco is a legal business.

Aurejärvi sees the case as the last tobacco trial involving individual plaintiffs. However, the case could lead to class-action suits if the women are even partially successful, Aurejärvi says.
The first product liability case against tobacco companies in Finland started in 1988 and concluded in 2001; plaintiff Pentti Aho, who died while the process was going on, lost when the Finnish Supreme Court ruled for the defendants in a split decision.
A decision in the new case ie expected early next year. Aurejärvi believes that the side that loses will probably appeal the case to the Supreme Court.


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