Nation/World

Tobacco Firms Losing Documents Disputes Judges In Florida, New York, Minnesota, Mississippi And Kansas Have Ruled That Industry Papers Should Be Made Public

The recent rulings being fought by tobacco forces:

Five judges in Florida have issued three separate rulings in recent months that eight industry documents should be made public because they contain evidence that the tobacco companies “utilized attorneys in carrying out and planning fraudulent activities and undertook to misuse the attorney-client relationship to keep secret research … related to the true dangers of smoking.” Those rulings came in Florida’s suit seeking $2.7 billion to compensate the state for expenses incurred in treating sick smokers.

A federal judge in Uniondale, N.Y., ruled earlier this year that 305 previously withheld documents dealing with so-called “special projects” of the Council for Tobacco Research - scientific studies conducted under the supervision of lawyers “solely to further the economic interests of the industry” - have to be made public. That decision came in a personal-injury case filed by former Lucky Strike model Janet Sackman, who developed throat cancer.

In St. Paul, the judge in Minnesota’s massive suit against the industry has made several rulings that the state has shown sufficient probable cause that industry documents contain evidence of a crime or fraud and should be turned over to the plaintiffs. The judge said that the cigarette companies should not be allowed to conceal scientific research that they have touted in advertising campaigns but now want to keep secret.

In Laurel, Miss., a judge said that 10 of the Liggett documents he reviewed showed signs of fraudulent activity. In that suit, the widow of a barber who did not smoke is claiming that her husband’s 1994 death from lung cancer was caused by exposure to smoke from his customers’ cigarettes.

In a suit in Kansas City, Kan., by David Burton, who suffers from vascular disease, a federal magistrate in February ordered R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to turn over 32 “special projects” documents. Company lawyers contended that all the documents were privileged because they contained confidential attorney-client communications. But the judge ruled that none of the documents was entitled to such protection and he noted that three of them “may contain evidence that RJR knew during the relevant time period that nicotine was addictive.”

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