Tobacco Claims Case Opens in Norway
OSLO, Norway (AP) - Norway's first court case against the tobacco industry to claim compensation for a smoking-related illness opened on Monday.
Smoker Robert Lund, 67, is terminally ill with cancer and is suing Norway's largest tobacco concern, claiming its tobacco products damaged his health and that it has an obligation to compensate him.
Lund started smoking in 1954, when Norway still allowed tobacco advertising and there were few public health warnings about the dangers of smoking. He still smokes about 30 home-rolled cigarettes a day.
In 1998, two years after he was diagnosed as having lung cancer, Lund decided to sue tobacco marketer Tiedemanns Tobakksfabrik AS, which controls about 80 percent of the Norwegian market.
Tiedemanns argues that it cannot be held economically liable for health damage suffered by those who choose to smoke.
Lund's attorney, Edmund Asboell, said his client hopes to live long enough to see the case through.
``The doctors have said his days are numbered, or as he, himself, asked me to say: He will die soon,'' said Asboell in his opening remarks before the district court in Orkanger, about 300 miles north of Oslo.
The case is expected to take about 10 days to determine whether the tobacco company can held accountable. If so, a separate court case would determine the amount of compensation.
In June, a government commission said smokers have a good basis in Norwegian law for claiming compensation from the tobacco industry, especially if they started before Norway banned tobacco advertising in 1975.
The commission was set up by the government in 1998 to study the legal framework of such claims after seeing huge settlements between American states and the U.S. tobacco industry.
Its report predicted up to $256 million a year in compensation claims in the nation of 4.5 million people. About 32 percent of Norwegian adults smoke daily.