A judge gave a British company and its tobacco subsidiaries a five-day reprieve Monday so they can appeal his order that they turn over more than 2,000 confidential documents.
Judge Kenneth Fitzpatrick on Saturday sanctioned the companies because two former employees did not appear for depositions in St. Paul in January as he ordered.
As part of the sanctions, Fitzpatrick revoked the attorney-client privilege shielding more than 2,000 documents that either refer to the two men, were authored by them, or received by them. He ordered the companies to immediately turn over the documents to the state and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, which are suing the tobacco industry.
The companies are B.A.T. Industries PLC and two of its subsidiaries, British-American Tobacco Co. Ltd. and BAT (U.K. & Export) Ltd. The judge granted them a five-day stay Monday so they could appeal.
The plaintiffs served notice more than a year ago that they wanted depositions from former BATCo researchers Ray Thornton and Alan Heard. BATCo’s lawyers said they no longer worked for the company and weren’t under their control, although the men still had consulting agreements.
Lawyers for B.A.T. Industries and its subsidiaries said being forced to turn over privileged documents would cause the companies irreparable harm.
B.A.T. Industries is a diversified holding company based in London that also includes the U.S.-based Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. under its umbrella.
They all are among the 11 defendants in the lawsuit filed by the state and Blue Cross to recover $1.77 billion they say they have spent treating smoking-related illnesses.