Tobacco `victims' unable to sue

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The Independent Online
A GROUP of lung-cancer sufferers was yesterday refused permission to sue two tobacco companies.

High Court judge Mr Justice Wright decided not to exercise his power to allow the action against Gallaher and Imperial Tobacco to continue after it was brought outside the legal time limit. The plaintiffs in eight test cases had lodged their claims more than three years after being diagnosed with lung cancer, one missing the time limitation by 24 years.

They had asked the judge to exercise his discretion under the 1980 Limitations Act to allow the action to proceed but in a judgment at the High Court sitting in Liverpool he refused that application.

Mr Justice Wright said: "The conclusion I have arrived at in each case is that it would not be appropriate for me to exercise my discretion to allow the cases to continue. Each of the applications must be refused."

Had it been successful, the application would have paved the way for a larger group of lung-cancer sufferers, who lodged claims more than three years after diagnosis, to sue the two firms. Now, 14 sufferers of an original group of 52 will proceed with compensation claims against the firms in a trial due next year.

After the judgment was handed down, Martyn Day and Irwin Mitchell, the solicitors representing the plaintiffs, issued a joint statement. "Obviously many clients will be disappointed ... We now have to consider this very carefully to determine how next to proceed."

A Gallaher spokesman said: "We were always confident we would get this judgment. We clearly welcome it."

The lung-cancer sufferers had claimed at an earlier hearing at the High Court in London that the eight suffered injury because all the cigarettes with which they were supplied between the 1950s and 1970s contained far more tar than was reasonably safe or appropriate.