Several special factors that lead to litigation in the USA are not replicated in any other country, suggesting that litigation is unlikely to spread significantly elsewhere in the world.
Most legal systems do not offer the possibility of punitive damages or have a system of class actions. This limits the opportunity for plaintiff lawyers to make huge earnings – potentially running to hundreds of millions of dollars – on a contingency ('no win, no fee') basis
Unlike the USA, in some countries defence costs may also be awarded against an unsuccessful plaintiff, which is a deterrent to speculative litigation.
British American Tobacco Group companies are currently involved in product liability litigation in a limited number of countries. The vast majority of these cases are either dismissed or abandoned for one reason or another. We believe the financial risks in the ongoing cases are manageable given the facts and the law. There is little or no incentive for huge speculative suits outside the USA.
Examples of tobacco industry litigation around the world include:
- Australia: The Court of Appeal decided, like the US federal courts, that smokers' actions are not suitable for class action treatment and held that personal injury actions are more appropriately brought by named individuals.
- Brazil: Cases against our subsidiary Souza Cruz have largely been individual cases and there have been over 250 judgements in Souza Cruz's favour.
- Chile: In its only decision on tobacco product liability litigation to date, the Civil Court of Santiago robustly rejected claims brought by a plaintiff in relation to an individual smoking and health claim.
- Colombia: The 14th Administrative Judge of Bogota ruled emphatically in British American Tobacco Colombia's favour in a class action, dismissing all claims.
- Finland: The District Court of Helsinki rejected three individual smoking and health claims by relying, in part, on an earlier judgment by the Supreme Court that rejected a similar smoking and health claim. Two of the claims are now on appeal.
- Germany: Seven legal aid petitions, two involving British American Tobacco Group companies, have been refused due to insufficient legal merit to the claims.
- Ireland: Approximately 300 individual smoking and health claims were filed in the 1990s and the vast majority have been dismissed, discontinued or lapsed. At present only 15 cases remain and, of those, 14 have already been dismissed but are under appeal.
- Israel: There is a health care costs reimbursement case, which is the longest running action of its kind. After more than ten years, a decision by the Supreme Court regarding the fundamental legality of the claim is awaited.
- Netherlands: Nearly 50 pre-litigation smoking and health claims were filed against Group companies in the Netherlands. One test case proceeded to litigation, where the Civil Court of Amsterdam rejected all the plaintiff's claims. The majority of the remaining claims were either withdrawn or have lapsed.
- Russia: A claim in relation to allegedly misleading “Lights" packaging brought by the Russian Ministry of Health was rejected, and the decision upheld on appeal.
- Spain: Civil courts have unanimously dismissed lawsuits brought by the provincial government of Andalucia (including Spain’s highest court) and by regional laryngeal cancer associations on jurisdictional grounds for failure to include the Spanish Government as a necessary party. Despite this, the provincial government of Andalucia has brought a new action before Contentious-Administrative Court.
- Uganda: Class actions where the defendants included a Group company have been dismissed with court costs ordered against the plaintiffs.