OTTAWA — A 16-year battle in British Columbia will drag on a little longer as the province fights to recover billions of dollars in health-care costs linked to tobacco-related diseases.
The Supreme Court of Canada has said it will hear the appeal of a B.C. court ruling that required the province to hand over patient information that tobacco giant Phillip Morris International says it needs to fight the B.C. lawsuit.
The B.C. government turned to the high court after the B.C. Court of Appeal unanimously agreed that Phillip Morris be given access to raw data used by the province in 2001 when it filed its lawsuit against 13 tobacco companies.
Jurists found trial fairness required handover of the databases, but lawyers for the province argued the data contains health-care information about individuals and its release could violate privacy laws.
The B.C. Appeal Court's decision differed from a 2016 ruling by the New Brunswick Court of Appeal that refused to release raw health-care data to tobacco companies.
B.C. was the first province to sue big tobacco for health-care recovery costs, following similar action in the United States that led to companies paying hundreds of billions of dollars to state governments.
Every Canadian province has since followed suit.
As is usual, the Supreme Court did not provide reasons for its decision to allow the appeal.