Smokers in Quebec claiming they were never warned about health risks linked to smoking will be paid $12.4bn (about N2.4 trillion) by tobacco firms, following a court order.
Reuters reports that Superior Court Justice Brian Riordan said in his decision that by choosing not to inform health authorities or the public directly of what they knew, the companies chose profits over the health of their customers.
The case is believed to be the biggest class-action lawsuit ever seen in Canada even as the companies - JTI-Macdonald, Imperial Tobacco, and Rothmans, Benson & Hedges said they will appeal.
Over a million Quebecers were represented and argued the companies were liable because they knew they were putting out a harmful product and hid the health effects of tobacco.
The judgement calls on the companies to issue initial compensation of more than $800m (about N159 billion) in the next 60 days, regardless of whether they elect to appeal.
The judge will decide at a later date how to distribute those funds.
The Quebec case marked the first time tobacco companies had gone to trial in a civil lawsuit in Canada and involved two separate groups of plaintiffs - some of whom became seriously ill from smoking and others who said they couldn't quit.
In his ruling, Justice Riordan said,
"The companies earned billions of dollars at the expense of the lungs, the throats and the general well-being of their customers. If the companies are allowed to walk away unscathed now, what would be the message to other industries that today or tomorrow find themselves in a similar moral conflict?"
But the industry argued people knew about the risks of smoking and that the products were sold legally and with federal government approval and strict regulation.
The 3 firms will split the payout according to responsibility set out by the court - 67% will fall to Imperial Tobacco, 20% to Rothmans, Benson & Hedges, and 13% to JTI-Macdonald.
The trial stemmed from two cases that were originally filed separately in 1998 before being certified and consolidated in 2005, while the case began sitting in 2012.