Delaying trial for 12 years: SC orders CTC to pay widow Rs.400,000 as costs

The Supreme Court in a landmark judgment, on Thursday, ordered the Ceylon Tobacco Company (CTC) to pay Rs.400,000 as costs to a smoker’s widow after the company was found to have prolonged the trial for more than 12 years by filing petitions in the Appeal Court and the SC.

Chief Justice Priyasath Dep concurring with Justices Sisira J. De Abrew and Prasanna Jayawardena held that the District Court should hear and determine the trial on its merit as soon as possible and dismissed the appeal filed by CTC and affirmed the Orders of District Court and the Court of Appeal.

The SC observed that the CTC had succeeded in delaying the case in the District Court for more than 12 years causing the widow to incur expenses which would have been to her a heavy burden and a considerable inconvenience.

It said these obstacles might have even prompted the plaintiff, probably with limited resources to be discouraged and giving up on the legal action.

The plaintiff Lalitha Padmini Fernando was the widow of K.S. Perera, a tailor, who had started smoking when he was a teenager. In September 1996, he was diagnosed with incurable cancer and died on April 13, 2001 at the age of 60.

Prior to his death, he had instituted legal action in the Colombo District Court against the Ceylon Tobacco Company to recover damages on account of suffering from cancer allegedly caused by smoking cigarettes manufactured by the company.

On April 11, 2003, the plaintiff instituted legal action against CTC pleading four alleged causes of action and seeking Rs.5 million from the CTC.

Manoj Bandara with T. Herath instructed by Sudath Perera Associates appeared for the CTC while Kanishka Witharana with H.M. Tillakaratne instructed by Medha N. Gamage appeared for plaintiff Lalitha Padmini Fernando.

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