More Disclosure for Tobacco Cos.
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ A judge ordered cigarette makers Saturday to release about 39,000 more internal documents, including some that the plaintiffs in Minnesota’s tobacco trial call the most significant to emerge in the case.
Ramsey County District Judge Kenneth Fitzpatrick wrote that the industry, which had already released 33 million pages in the case, falsely claimed attorney-client privilege to keep the documents private.
``Upon review of randomly selected documents, it has been determined that defendants have in numerous instances claimed privilege where none is due and blatantly abused the categorization process,″ Fitzpatrick wrote.
As many as 39,000 documents were ordered released by Monday to the state and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, who are suing tobacco companies.
A court-appointed special master, Mark Gehan, recommended last month that attorneys for the state be allowed to use the documents. The papers are part of more than 240,000 documents that lawyers for the tobacco industry have tried to keep private under a claim of attorney-client privilege.
Fitzpatrick wrote that Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. categorized one document as relating to advertising even though it referred to research conducted among 16- and 17-year-olds. The document should have been released with papers regarding children, he said.
The state and Blue Cross are suing the tobacco industry to recover the $1.77 billion they say they have spent to treat smoking-related illnesses. It is the first of 40 state lawsuits against cigarette makers to go to trial. Texas, Florida and Mississippi settled their cases.
The 11 defendants include Philip Morris Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., British-American Tobacco Co. Ltd. and Lorillard Tobacco Co. Liggett Group Inc. has settled with the state and is a defendant of Blue Cross only.