New York’s top court to hear appeal on CBS-tobacco case
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ The state’s top appeals court court has agreed to hear an appeal from Brown & Williamson Tobacco in its efforts to gather information about whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand from CBS’ ``60 Minutes.″
Earlier B&W attempts to take depositions from ``60 Minutes″ officials and to obtain tape not broadcast from interviews with Wigand were rejected by a New York trial judge and a mid-level appeals court.
Without comment, the seven-member New York Court of Appeals agreed Thursday to hear B&W’s appeal of those lower court rulings.
``We’re aware of it, and we will be filing our papers with the court,″ said Michael Silver, CBS’ director of communications. He declined further comment.
A New York City lawyer for Brown & Williamson said he was delighted by the Court of Appeals’ action. ``CBS should not be allowed to hide behind the First Amendment to avoid its obligation as a citizen to come forward with relevant evidence of Jeffrey Wigand’s wrongdoing,″ Jerome Katz said.
B&W has sought the material for a lawsuit in Kentucky against Wigand, a biochemist and former B&W vice president who allegedly breached confidentiality agreements by divulging company secrets on ``60 Minutes.″
Wigand has charged that, among other things, Brown & Williamson’s former chairman, Thomas Sandefur, lied to Congress when he testified that he believed nicotine is not addictive.
The tobacco company, based in Louisville, Ky., has sued Wigand for theft, fraud and breach of contract for allegedly stealing documents and violating a confidentiality agreement with the company. Wigand was fired by B&W in March 1993.
B&W wants taped material from the Wigand interviews that were not shown on television and has sought depositions from eight CBS employees, including ``60 Minutes″ reporters Mike Wallace and Morley Safer and the show’s executive producer, Don Hewitt.
A New York Court of Appeals spokesman said the appeal would likely not be heard by the court for several months.
The company’s cigarette brands include Kool, Capri, Raleigh and Viceroy.