A potentially precedent-setting case of David-and-Goliath proportions has roared into action with Imperial Tobacco Group at the centre of the UK’s first smoking-related court trial.
McGrigor Donald’s Edinburgh office is defending Imperial against a claim of negligence brought by the widow of Alfred McTear, who is being represented by Ross Harper on a no-win, no-fee basis.
Margaret McTear is claiming that Imperial was negligent because it failed to warn her husband of the dangers of smoking.
McTear started smoking in 1964 when cigarette packaging did not carry any health warnings. He was diagnosed with cancer in 1992 and died at 49, three months after filing his claim against Imperial in 1993.
Imperial is vigorously defending the claim. A spokesman said in a prepared statement: “We believe that this case is speculative and that our legal defences are robust.”
Ross Harper litigation partner Cameron Fyfe said: “Our legal arguments are sound. But we were refused legal aid nine times, so tactically [Imperial are] ahead. If we were to win, this would open the floodgates – not just in Scotland, but also in England and Europe.”
In 1999, Leigh Day & Co began a group action against Imperial and Gallaher, the maker of Benson & Hedges cigarettes.
However, that action was thrown out before it reached the courts, because some of the plaintiffs were diagnosed with lung cancer outside the statutory period during which claims must be filed.
McGrigors litigation partner Jacqueline Harris is leading Imperial’s defence.