In the News The Clarion-Ledger

Informant's Testimony Expected

Tobacco company whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand is expected to be among witnesses during the trial of a lawsuit over second-hand tobacco smoke.
Plaintiff lawyers representing the family of cancer victim Burl Butler listed Wigand and industry insider Ian Udyss among their witnesses.
The tobacco industry's long-running attack on Wigand's credibility has grabbed headlines since 1995 and inspired a movie.  He's expected to come under attack again.
Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. attorney Andrew McGaan on Friday said he wants to raise questions about Wigand being paid by one of the Butler family's former lawyers.
"Mr. Wigand has a very special relationship with plaintiff's former counsel, " McGann said, referring to attorney Ron Motley of Charleston, S.C.
Wigand, former director of research for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. of Louisville, Ky., told lawyers for the state and the Butler lawsuit in a 1995 deposition that B & W hid potentially damaging research and that its chairman lied to Congress by saying it didn't believe nicotine was addictive. 
Udyss, a former Philip Morris scientist, told the Food and Drug Administration in 1996 that the company manipulated nicotine levels.
Both men may testify by deposition.
Butler, who did not smoke, sued the tobacco industry seven years ago, claiming that he contracted lung cancer from breathing customers' cigarette smoke in his Laurel barber shop.  His family sued the tobacco industry for $650 million in 1994 after he died.
Sixty-six people were selected as potential jurors Friday.  They return Monday for questioning.  Circuit Judge Robert Evans said he expects opening statements to be Tuesday and testimony to begin Wednesday.  Testimony could last six weeks.
The lawsuit evolved amid a nationwide assault on the tobacco industry.  But jurors won't hear much of that history.  Evans, in a series of rulings Friday, limited testimony.
He prohibited discussion of the national attorney general's settlement with the tobacco industry.  The tobacco industry can't tell jurors that Butler's family accused their former lawyer, Motley of selling them out, sued his firm and settled.
And the industry can't refer to stolen documents when talking about Brown & Williamson internal records handed over to lawyers in Mississippi's suit by whistleblower Merrill Willams.  Evans preferred "taken with or without authorization" to describe the former paralegal's action relating to documents he copied while he worked at a Louisville, Ky., law firm that represented Brown & Williamson.  The documents are expected to be shown to jurors.  Williams is not a witness.
In a ruling that took away a piece of information plaintiffs had hoped to use, Evans said they can't rely on testimony about the Food and Drug Administration's attempt to regulate nicotine as a drug.  McGaan successfully argued that the FDA action was inadmissible because an appeals court said FDA lacked authority.
Plaintiff lawyer T.Roe Frazer argued unsuccessfully that Butler's lung cancer was a primary cancer caused by environmental tobacco smoke and that cigarettes are a defective product.  Evans said a jury must decide.
Furr pointed to physicians who will testify for the defense that Butler also had cancer of the kidney, thyroid, prostate and pancreas, and that cancer had spread to his brain and bones.
This article has been reprinted with permission of The Clarion-Ledger, May 9, 1999.