A federal judge has ordered the release of studies conducted for a tobacco company over the past 30 years on the dangers of smoking, and attorneys in a tobacco liability case here said Friday that the documents could sway juries against cigarette makers.
In lifting a 1985 order sealing the 18 boxes of documents, U.S. District Judge A. David Mazzone ruled that the public had a right to access to the studies conducted for Liggett & Myers Tobacco Co.
The judge delayed implementation of Thursday's order for 10 days to give Liggett & Myers time to appeal. Alan Hilburg, a spokesman for the Durham, N.C.-based Liggett & Myers, said the company would fight Mazzone's decision.
"It was never intended for public dissemination," Hilburg said of the material. "It really comes down to an invasion of privacy."
The studies, conducted by the Arthur D. Little Co. beginning in 1954, were compiled as part of the preparation for the trial of a lawsuit filed by the estate of a Newton man who died of lung cancer in 1980 at the age of 49.
The widow of Joseph C. Palmer sued the tobacco company, blaming her husband's death on the fact that he smoked L&M; cigarettes for 24 years.
Mazzone ruled that the case should go to trial, but it was dismissed last August, 1987, when an appeals court ruled that the warning labels on cigarette packages protect tobacco companies from liability suits.
Attorney Samuel Adams, who represented Liggett & Myers, predicted that the documents, if released, would be used as evidence in pending suits against tobacco companies and might sway juries against cigarette makers.
Tobacco companies have never lost a smoking liability suit.