VIRGINIA–In early May the Circuit Court judge presiding over Philip Morris’ libel claim filed in Richmond against ABC denied the network’s request that the tobacco company be sanctioned for giving ABC discovery documents printed on dark red paper.
Circuit Judge Theodore J. Markow also rejected ABC’s contention that the red paper, which cannot be photocopied, emitted a nauseating, chemical odor. Markow detected no unpleasant odor on paper samples he inspected. The judge ruled that the documents were in “reasonably usable form.”
Philip Morris handed over 25 boxes of documents on the colored paper pursuant to discovery requests. The documents included what Markow described as “sensitive trade information,” such as the formulas for the contents of cigarettes.
ABC had asked Markow to order Philip Morris to pay approximately $50,000 of the network’s legal fees, as well as for other unspecified sanctions against the tobacco company.
Prior to Markow’s ruling, Philip Morris provided new copies of the material to ABC on standard white paper.
Philip Morris filed a $10 billion libel suit against ABC in March 1994 after the ABC News program “Day One” reported that cigarette companies manipulated the nicotine content in cigarettes in order to maintain sales.
In late January Markow stayed an earlier order directing airline, rental car and credit card companies to comply with a subpoena issued by Philip Morris for the transactional records of three ABC journalists. The journalists’ records were sought in an effort to identify the confidential source for ABC’s televised report. (Philip Morris Companies v. American Broadcasting Companies; Media Counsel: William Broaddus, Richmond)
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.