Cigarette maker fails in attempt to ease burden in libel suit against ABC News
VIRGINIA — In late December a Circuit Court judge in Richmond rejected Philip Morris’ attempt to narrow the scope of the libel suit the tobacco company brought against ABC.
In March 1994, Philip Morris filed a $10 billion libel suit against ABC television in Circuit Court in Richmond. The tobacco maker contended that several ABC News programs made false and reckless statements about the cigarette manufacturing process. “Day One” and other ABC News programs reported that cigarette companies manipulated the level of nicotine content in cigarettes in order to maintain sales.
During the “Day One” report, a silhouetted confidential source, identified as a former manager of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, claimed that the tobacco companies added nicotine to cigarettes “to keep the consumer happy.”
Circuit Judge T.J. Markow rejected Philip Morris’ contention that it should win the suit if it can prove that it does not put more nicotine back into cigarettes than occurs naturally in tobacco. The tobacco company claimed that it only restored nicotine removed in the production process, and whether it intended to addict smokers was irrelevant if it did not add extra nicotine, reported the Associated Press.
Judge Markow ruled that even if the tobacco company restored only the amount of nicotine it had originally removed, Philip Morris’ reason for restoring the nicotine was crucial to the case, according to AP.
In another ruling issued the same day, the judge stated that ABC cannot obtain information from other tobacco companies about nicotine. The judge explained that although ABC’s report was about the tobacco industry in general, the television report identified Philip Morris specifically. (Philip Morris Companies Inc. v. American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.; Media Counsel: Stephen Sachs, Washington, D.C.)