Tobacco Firm Sought to Cull Studies as ‘Deadwood’

Litigation: Lawyer wrote memo as company resisted efforts in wrongful death suits to disclose research.

It was an interesting time to be cleaning house.

The year was 1985, and tobacco companies, facing a surge in wrongful death claims, were being pressed to disclose internal documents on their knowledge of the risks of smoking.

Even as they fought the discovery requests, lawyers at Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., the third biggest U.S. cigarette maker, sought to clear what they called “deadwood” from company files.

In a memo that used the term seven times, B&W corporate counsel J. Kendrick Wells said he had advised Earl Kohnhorst, B&W’s vice president for research, development, and engineering, on the need to prune scientific reports from his files.

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