SEATTLE - June 11, 1998 - King County Superior Court Judge George Finkle has granted the state's request to use key portions of a document the state claims will provide strong evidence of wrongdoing by the nation's largest tobacco company, RJR Tobacco. The state expects to use the document as evidence in its upcoming trial against the tobacco industry.
State attorneys say the document – prepared by the law firm Jones, Day, & Pogue for RJR – details the industry's efforts to cover up damaging findings from its own research and contradicts sworn testimony by industry officials. It also describes potential legal claims which could be could be brought against RJR along with the evidence that could be used against it. Tobacco attorneys argued the document was protected from use in trial based on attorney-client privilege.
The document was originally part of the 39,000 documents placed on the Internet by US House Commerce Committee Chairman, Thomas Bliley (R-VA). However, when the tobacco companies turned over a list of documents to the state for review, it was missing, subsequently catching the attention of state attorneys.
“The industry continues to hide the ball and withhold documents,” said Senior Assistant Attorney General John Hough. “Judge Finkle recognized this and granted our request to use it in our litigation.”
In a second ruling, Judge Finkle gave the state legal jurisdiction to prosecute British American Industries, P.L.C. (BAT Industries) a conglomerate and parent company of Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company. In his order, the judge acknowledged that a jury could conclude from the evidence that BAT Industries was an active partner in conspiracy and fraud with its subsidiary, and subsequently is subject to prosecution.
“BAT Industries has not refuted the state's allegations regarding its participation in the alleged conspiracy to suppress health information, create doubt regarding any adverse scientific health findings, conceal the manipulation of nicotine, restrain competition based on health, resist government regulation, and commit other wrongful acts,” wrote the judge.
Washington is the next state to go to trial against the tobacco industry. The trial date is set for September 14, 1998.