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· Imperial (ca)
|Jump to full article: Globe and Mail (ca), 2003-03-03|
Author: JANE GADD / Monday, March 3, 2003 - Page A2
Now, nearly six years after her lawsuit was launched and five years after she died, Ms. Spasic has won a victory from the grave.
An Ontario Superior Court judge has told Imperial Tobacco Ltd. and Rothmans Benson & Hedges Inc. to stop stalling her case with pointless motions and has shot down the companies' attempts to force her lawyer to do the impossible -- to document what Ms. Spasic's lawsuit alleges, the shredding of files containing health-hazard information about tobacco and the firms' efforts to conceal it from the public.
"The plaintiff could not know particulars of document destruction and retention policies," Mr. Justice Lloyd Brennan ruled. "If [Ms. Spasic's claims] are untrue, the time has come [for the companies] to deny them in a statement of defence."
Although Canadian law has not previously recognized the civil tort of spoliation, or evidence destruction, Judge Brennan ruled that it is time to do so in Ms. Spasic's case.
The ruling, on one of dozens of technical motions brought by the companies that have bogged down the lawsuit's progress, has much wider significance than just this case, Garfield Mahood of the Non-Smokers Rights Association said.
If the trial judge finds that tobacco firms deliberately concealed this evidence, "it will open the door to governments to finally regulate this rogue industry in a meaningful way," he said.
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