Australia, New South Wales - court of appeals rejects BAT's request to remove judge..

January 4, 2009 - Back in November 2009 the New South Wales (NSW) Court of Appeal was asked by British American Tobacco (BAT) that Judge Jim Curtis should be disqualified because of a pre-trial ruling he made in a similar case in 2006 about its destruction of documents.

BAT Australia's application to have Curtis dismissed in the latest case has been rejected by two judges. The court of appeal in New South Wales said that BAT had caused "a real risk of a diminution of public confidence in the administration of justice'' by seeking to have Curtis removed. In a damning summary, it said that upholding BAT's challenge would lead the public to believe the company had "manipulated the system in the hope of obtaining a more favourable outcome from a different judge."

British American Tobacco Australia Services Ltd v Laurie & Ors [2009] NSWCA 414 HEARING DATE(S): 25 November 2009, JUDGMENT DATE: 17 December 2009

BAT which each year produces 715 billion cigarettes in 41 countries and employs more than 50,000 people. The company last year made global profits of almost £2.7bn.

BAT has been fighting lawsuits in Australia for almost a decade. On 11 April 2002, a jury ordered BAT Australia to pay Rolah McCabe A$700,000 (£390,000) in damages, the first award of its kind.

McCabe was a 51-year-old woman dying of lung cancer who was said to have started smoking at the age of nine. She alleged that BAT Australia knew cigarettes were addictive and dangerous, and that, through its advertising, the company had targeted children. McCabe died six months after the initial ruling in her case, which first revealed evidence of BAT Australia's policy of destroying documents.

BAT Australia was not immediately available for comment. But its parent company has pledged to vigorously contest all lawsuits brought against it.

The company states on its website: "The tobacco industry has a strong record of winning these cases and we, along with many analysts, believe this will continue, although it's always possible that sometime, somewhere, a smoking and health case will be lost."

Reference: 'Arrogant' BAT tried to remove a judge Tobacco company loses application in cancer case, Jamie Doward, home affairs editor, The Observer -, 1/3/2010.