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July 19, 1995

Lawyer Control of Internal Scientific Research to Protect Against Products Liability LawsuitsThe Brown and Williamson Documents

Author Affiliations

From the Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California, San Francisco (Mr Hanauer, Ms Barnes, and Drs Bero and Glantz), and the Department of Medicine, St Peter's Medical Center, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick (Dr Slade).

JAMA. 1995;274(3):234-240. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530030054034

Objective.  —To understand how attorneys for the tobacco industry in general, and Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corporation (B&W) in particular, have responded to the threat of products liability litigation arising from smoking-induced diseases.

Data Sources.  —Documents from B&W, the British American Tobacco Company (BAT), and othertobacco interests provided by an anonymous source, obtained from Congress, or received from the private papers of a former BAT officer.

Study Selection.  —All available materials, including confidential reports regarding research and internal memoranda exchanged between tobacco industry lawyers.

Conclusions.  —The documents demonstrate that the tobacco industry in general, and B&W in particular, were very concerned about the threat of products liability lawsuits, and they illustrate some of the steps taken by lawyers at one company to avoid the discovery of documents that might be useful to a plaintiff in such a lawsuit. These steps included efforts to control the language of scientific discourse on issues related to smoking and health, to bring all potentially damaging internal scientific documents under attorney work product and attorney-client privilege to avoid discovery, to remove "deadwood" documents, and to insulate B&W from knowledge of potentially damaging scientific information from other BAT companies.(JAMA. 1995;274:234-240)