PM Harper appoints Suzanne Côté, partner and head of law firm representing Encana in Ernst vs Encana, to Supreme Court of Canada

Osler Expertise > Energy (Oil and Gas)

The successful and timely execution of complex energy undertakings – ranging from conventional exploration and development, to oil sands and offshore development, to major projects such as pipelines and storage facilities – hinges on highly sophisticated strategy.

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Maureen Killoran Q.C., Calgary Managing Partner Maureen is the Managing Partner of Osler’s Calgary office and a trusted advisor to many major commercial clients. 

Notable Matters

Ernst v. EnCana, Energy Resources Conservation Board, and the Province of Alberta: Defending EnCana in an action by a landowner for alleged damages sustained due to “fracking” in oil and gas operations.

Talisman, Shell Canada, TAQA North, Mancal, ConocoPhillips, and EnCana in a dispute with the Sunchild First Nation over duties of consultation and the cumulative effects of energy developments.

EnCana Corporation in preliminary inquiry and scheduled seven week trial re: charges pursuant to the Canada Wildlife Act in relation to commercial activities in the Suffield National Wildlife Area:  R v. EnCana, May 2009 (Judicial District of Medicine Hat). [Emphasis added]

SUZANNE CÔTÉ Backgrounder by Stephen Harper, November 27, 2014
Suzanne Côté is a partner and head of the Montréal litigation practice at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP. Ms. Côté specializes in complex civil and commercial litigation, including cases involving manufacturer’s liability, and class actions, and public law.

Originally from the Gaspésie, Ms. Côté was a member of the Board of Directors for the historical society of Gaspésie and President of the Chamber of Commerce in Gaspé. Before joining Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt, Ms. Côté was a partner at Stikeman Elliott LLP (Montreal), Côté & Ranger (Gaspé), and Michaud & Côté (Gaspé), and a lawyer with Jean-Roch Michaud (Gaspé). Ms. Côté shares her life with Gérald R. Tremblay.

Her parents live in Gaspé. [Where methane has already contaminated citizen water wells after methane leaks to surface by Petrolia and where Petrolia successfully sued the community for implementing frac buffers to protect community drinking water supplies and citizens]

Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced the appointment of Suzanne Côté to the Supreme Court of Canada. Ms. Côté will fill the seat previously occupied by Mr. Justice Louis LeBel. The appointment is effective December 1, 2014. … Suzanne Côté is head of the Montréal litigation group at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP. She is one of the most experienced litigators in the country with extensive expertise in civil and commercial litigation over a distinguished 34 year career. [Emphasis added]

PM picks Quebec lawyer Suzanne Côté for Supreme Court seat by Sean Fine, November 27, 2014, The Globe and Mail (includes correction)
While the Conservative government has criticized judges for not deferring to Parliament on social-policy issues, and Mr. Harper has expressed a wish for law-and-order judges, Ms. Côté’s judicial philosophy is untested.

“It is striking that this is another nomination without even the somewhat perfunctory passage via the parliamentary committee,” Prof. Leckey said.
(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Côté as a judge; she is, in fact, a lawyer.)

[Refer also to:

Big tobacco heads to court; up to $27B at stake by, March 12, 2012
Smokers who get sick or can’t quit have no one to blame but themselves, tobacco companies argued during the first day of a landmark class-action suit that pits Quebec’s nearly 2 million smokers against Canada’s big tobacco groups. At stake is $27 billion in damages and penalties. The case is considered the biggest class-action case in Canadian history. The tobacco companies – Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd., Rothmans, Benson & Hedges; and JTI-Macdonald — arrived at a Montreal court Monday with a slew of lawyers and public relations officials in tow.

One by one, the tobacco groups suggested that smokers must share some individual responsibility for their illnesses and addictions. They also shifted blame to the federal government, which regulates the tobacco industry. During opening statements, Imperial Tobacco lawyer Suzanne Cote argued that the public has known for decades that smoking is bad for your health. “Those who decide to start smoking or continue smoking should assume responsibility for a choice they make — because no one can say they don’t about the dangers associated with smoking. Everything Imperial Tobacco has done is legal and in large part with guidance from the federal government.”

The companies said they have always followed federal rules. In recent years, the government has ordered that graphic warnings be placed on packaging and has changed the visibility and marketing rules to curb smoking.

Cote pointed to a series of federal government memos from the 1960s that, she said, proved the government was aware smoking was harmful. The smokers, for their part, claim they were duped for years by big tobacco companies who misled the public with slick advertising campaigns, dubious marketing and skewed research. One of the lead plaintiffs told reporters Monday that she started smoking in the 1960s after being “programmed” by industry TV advertisements that made cigarettes seem cool.

The case involves two suits; representing those Quebecers who are sick with smoking-related illnesses, and those who are addicted. The Quebec case is being closely watched in both Canada and abroad, said Rob Cunningham of the Canadian Cancer Society. “It’s very difficult for a class action to actually get to trial against the tobacco industry. Very few in the United States or the world have actually gotten to that stage,” said Cunningham, a lawyer.

“The tobacco industry has repeatedly tried to postpone this trial but they have been unable to delay the inevitable forever.”

Lawyer Bruce Johnston, who is representing Letourneau, said the industry’s attempt to blame the government is a non-starter. Johnston said it’s the companies that are liable — not the victims or the federal government. He said nothing absolves the companies for putting out a product that, according to him, they knew was harmful but found ways to show otherwise.

“Their strategy is, ‘If science is against you, then make your own science,”‘ [Like the oil and gas/fracing industry does?] said Johnston, who plans to present some 300 documents as part of his case.

The case involving smokers who can’t quit seeks $10,000 in compensatory and punitive damages per plaintiff. Johnston said that figure had been carefully calculated. He cited evidence that shows companies make a one-cent profit per cigarette sold. He said it’s also believed that every million cigarettes sold costs one smoker their life.

“That’s how they calculate profits in the industry: $10,000 is the price for a human life for them,” Johnston said.

In the United States, the tobacco industry has been walloped with legal bills. It has resolved actions by the states aimed at recovering tobacco-related health costs under the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement. That agreement, signed in 1998, calls on the companies to pay a minimum of US$206 billion over 25 years. In 2006, the U.S. government also won a racketeering suit against the major tobacco companies.

So far, legal battles over tobacco have made less waves in Canada.

One other civil case that has been certified stems from a 2003 filing in British Columbia, involving light and mild cigarettes. A trial date hasn’t been set in that case and others filed elsewhere in Canada are nowhere near trial. The Quebec case took more than 13 years to make it before a judge after delays, motions and appeals.

Separately, provinces are also seeking the right to pursue tobacco companies to recoup health-care costs. Four provinces have filed: British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador. The six others have announced their intention to file.

The Quebec civil trial won’t be over for some time. After the plaintiffs make their case, the defendants won’t start theirs until 2013. Eventual appeals are inevitable at the end. [Emphasis added]

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