MONTREAL - The Quebec Court of Appeal says the federal government cannot be sued or held liable for damages in lawsuits involving Big Tobacco.

And in a province where big tobacco is being sued for $27 billion in a landmark case, the ruling could have an impact on the landmark trial.

Tobacco companies have tried using the federal government to defend themselves in the case, saying their cigarette sales simply followed government guidelines. The companies say they will sue Ottawa to recoup damages if they lose the case.

The verdict was rendered late yesterday by the province's highest court.

It comes on the heels of a unanimous Supreme Court of Canada ruling in July 2011 that decided the federal government can't be dragged into court cases aimed at getting tobacco companies to foot the bill for smokers who get sick.

The latest Quebec ruling says the Supreme Court case, involving two lawsuits from B.C., is no different from the case in Quebec.