The following lawsuits and resulting court documents provide background on the tobacco documents: where they came from and why they are publicly available.
Brown & Williamson v. The Regents of the University of California. Case No. 967298
In 1994, a few thousand pages of confidential, internal documents from the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation were copied and leaked by an anonymous whistleblower. One of these document sets, containing scientific studies on nicotine’s addictive nature and other health effects of tobacco smoke, was sent to UCSF professor Stanton Glantz under the anonymous name "Mr. Butts". Dr. Glantz deposited these documents into the UCSF Library Archives for use by researchers. Brown & Williamson sought to permanently remove the disputed material from the Library with a suit filed in San Francisco Superior Court. The University of California contended that the documents were in the public domain and should be available to scholars and other interested parties. The Court ruled that these documents should be made available for public review. Brown & Williamson appealed that decision but the California Supreme Court rejected the appeal, allowing UCSF to release the documents.
State of Minnesota, et al. v. Philip Morris, et al. Case No. C1-94-8565.
In 1994, the Attorneys General of four States -- Mississippi, Minnesota, Florida, and Texas -- separately filed lawsuits against the tobacco industry for reimbursement of health care expenditures arising from tobacco-related illnesses. During the course of this litigation, the rest of the States joined in similar legal actions (see MSA below). In 1998, the state of Minnesota settled with the five major US tobacco companies: Philip Morris, R. J. Reynolds, Lorillard, Brown & Williamson, and the American Tobacco Company; the British American Tobacco company; and the two tobacco industry associations – the Tobacco Institute and the Center for Tobacco Research. One of the provisions of the Minnesota settlement was the creation of two depositories into which the companies had to place the millions of documents produced in the case. British American Tobacco's depository in Guildford, England, and the US companies' Minneapolis, Minnesota depository were created and required to remain open to the public for ten years.
Master Settlement Agreement (MSA)
In 1998, 46 attorneys general signed the MSA with the major US tobacco companies - Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Texas had settled prior to the MSA (see Minnesota above). The MSA effectively settled the remaining lawsuits by requiring yearly payments by the tobacco companies to the States and placing restrictions on advertising, marketing, and promotion of cigarettes, including prohibiting the use of cartoons and other youth-targeting methods, advertising on billboards or in public transportation, and merchandise branding. As part of the MSA, the companies were ordered to publish their internal documents produced for the cases on their own document websites as well as place them in the Minnesota depository.
US v. Philip Morris, et al. - The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) case
In 2006, the US Department of Justice filed a civil lawsuit which found the nation's top tobacco companies violated the RICO Act, misleading the public for years about the health hazards of smoking. As a result of this case, the companies are now obliged to make publicly available any documents produced for litigation on smoking and health until 2021.
Engle, et al. v RJ Reynolds and the Engle Progeny cases
In 1994, a small Miami law firm, headed by Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt, filed a class action lawsuit against the major cigarette manufacturers: Engle, et al. v. RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al. The Engle plaintiffs sought $200 million in damages on behalf of a nationwide class of smokers injured by their addiction to cigarettes. The complaint alleged the defendants manipulated nicotine levels and concealed information about its addictiveness. The nationwide class was certified by a Florida judge but later limited to just Florida citizens and residents. On July 14, 2000, the jury issued an extraordinary punitive damages verdict of $145 billion, to be split among the defendants according to each company’s market share. The cigarette manufacturers appealed which resulted in reversal of the trial court’s judgment and decertification of the class itself in 2006. In light of the decertification, the Florida Supreme Court provided a way forward for the former Engle class members by waiving the statute of limitations and permitting them to rely on several of the liability findings from the first phase of the trial in their own individual lawsuits. These individual lawsuits are collectively known as Engle Progeny cases.
The following court documents come from related litigation and provide further examples of tobacco lawsuits.
Other jurisdictions including Alabama, City and County of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York