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Aho v. Finland [Finland] [October 16, 2007]

Mr. Pentti Aho, a smoker who died from cancer of the larynx, filed suit against two tobacco companies claiming compensation for the cancer caused by smoking cigarettes. He based his claim on false and illegal marketing and on violations of a ban on selling harmful products. The District Court ruled that because the selling of tobacco was not prohibited, the sale of the product itself did not give rise to liability for damages. Further, noting plaintiff’s awareness of tobacco-related health issues, the District Court held that the marketing of tobacco products could not give rise to liability for damages. Mr. Aho appealed. The Court of Appeals rejected the case, but observed that the tobacco companies had sought to mislead customers by failing to inform them of the possible detrimental effects of tobacco on health. Mr. Aho, however, could not receive any damages for the tobacco companies’ negligence because the Court did not find a causal link between smoking and the damage alleged. After another appeal, the Supreme Court found that there was a causal link between smoking and the damage alleged, but it did not find a causal link between the damage and the tobacco companies’ marketing activity.

Family members of the deceased Mr. Aho later sued Finland claiming that the length of the proceedings had constituted inhumane and degrading treatment.  Further, they claim that that the criminal justice system had failed to prosecute and convict the perpetrators, thereby violating Mr. Aho’s right to life.  The Court found no violation.

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