Tobacco Litigation

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THE BATTLE OF MINNESOTA Document Discovery In The 1997 Minnesota Tobacco Litigation . I. INTRODUCTION Although any legal observer would tell you the prospect long loomed on the horizon, on July 14, 2000, when a Florida jury handed down a judgment of $144.8 billion dollars against the seven major tobacco companies , the mental shock of hearing such a figure was still staggering. It remains unclear as of this writing exactly how much of this massive verdict will ever be collected by the plaintiffs - a behemoth class of Florida smokers - injured by the products marketed, manufactured and sold by the defendants. In the days immediately following the judgement, the tobacco industry carried on business as usual and even the companies’ stock prices remained largely unchanged . Irrespective of the minimal immediate financial and social effects of this judgment, the legal implications for the tobacco industry, the plaintiff’s bar, and the state and federal government entities presently bringing suit for tobacco related harms, cannot be overemphasized. The Florida judgment, the largest in civil legal history, although unique in its outcome, was only one more chapter in the long and still unfolding saga of American tobacco litigation. After many years of successfully fighting countless “wars” in the arena of civil mass torts, Goliath had fallen, and although he was far from dead, he could no longer afford to laugh at the prospect of the battle before him. The husband and wife legal team of Stanley and Irene Rosenblatt had successfully felled an opponent that, less than a decade earlier, had toppled even the best and brightest of the plaintiff’s bar. The Florida plaintiffs’ arsenal, however, was filled with the unique and powerful ammunition of countless “confidential” documents passed between the defendants’ employees, and even their legal counsel. Without a slingshot full of these stones, Goliath was unlikely to have fallen, and the manner, and legal justification for how they were introduced into evidence remains a controversy of great legal significance. For even now, as the practical and legal ramifications of the Florida case and judgment remain unclear, many legal scholars are still busy debating the outcome of a prior legal battle, without which the Florida judgment never could have occurred: the battle of Minnesota. II. Tobacco Litigation - A History of The Three “Waves” A. The “First Wave” (1950 - 1980) For ease of reference, the history of tobacco litigation is usually summarized into three “waves.

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