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Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. v. Wigand

(Contract Breach, KY Cir. Ct. 1995) Citation: 228 A.D.2d 187 (6 Jun 1996); 913 F Supp 530 (WD Ky, 24 Nov 1996)

This breach of contract suit was brought by John L. Kiser, on behalf of Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. against Jeffrey S. Wigand on November 21, 1995.
The plaintiff claimed that the defendant, a former employee, committed theft, fraud, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary and common law duties, and misappropriation of trade secrets. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant had signed an Employee Agreement in which he agreed that upon termination all confidential records would be left with the plaintiff, and not to use or divulge information obtained through his employment following termination. It states that the defendant violated this agreement when it testified in a United States Department of Justice civil investigation proceeding. In that testimony he made statements contradicting previous testimony that complied with the termination agreement by stating that the plaintiff had the technology to develop a reduced ignition propensity cigarette. The defendant also made public media appearances in which he allegedly violated his agreement not to divulge confidential information. In addition to compensatory damages and costs, the plaintiff sought a restraining order and temporary and permanent injunctive relief prohibiting the defendant from disclosing any information obtained in the course of his employment and returning any documents or materials to the company.
During discovery, the plaintiffs subpoenaed CBS to turn over unpublished materials for the preparation and broadcast of the "60 Minutes" interview with Mr. Wigand. The Supreme Court of New York, New York County, under the Honorable Robert Lippmann, quashed the subpoena on February 28, 1996. The defendants appealed.
The Supreme Court, Appellate Division (228 A.D.2d 187) affirmed the quash on June 6, 1996. The appeal was heard by the Honorable Judges Murphy, Wallach, Williams and Mazzarelli. The plaintiff failed to overcome the qualified newsgathering protection to which CBS was entitled. The items sought were not "critical or necessary" to the plaintiff's underlying action.