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Asbestos subpoena quashed.

Asbestos subpoena quashed

A New York State judge has turned down a subpoena request by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. of Winston-Salem, N.C., that had asked for access to the raw data representing two decades of a scientist's research on asbestos. Judge Ethel B. Danzig ruled that compliance with the subpoena would "place an unreasonable burden upon the medical and scientific institutions involved and would unduly disrupt [their] ongoing research.' She also said a subpoena might have denied the researcher his right to first release of his yet-unpublished data.

Reynolds is a defendant in a lawsuit, now pending in California, that contends combined exposure to asbestos and smoking was responsible for the death of the plaintiff's husband. While preparing for the case, Reynolds's lawyers learned that the plaintiff intends to use expert witnesses whose testimony will rely on published research by Irving J. Selikoff, a renowned asbestos researcher at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Since Selikoff refused to appear as a witness in the case, the Reynolds lawyers didn't know how they could probe the validity of Selikoff's published findings short of subpoenaing the raw data behind them: some 324 linear feet of material stored in 97 file-cabinet drawers and 250 bound volumes, according to Mount Sinai.

Collected over more than 20 years and still actively used, the data result from studies involving 18,170 individuals. Selikoff estimated that to ensure the study participants' confidentiality, it would take thousands of hours to purge their identities from his files. As a result, Mount Sinai, with the American Cancer Society's help, decided to fight the subpoena.

But the story isn't over. James Fyock, a spokesman for Reynolds, says the company plans to appeal the ruling. In addition, a similar subpoena request for Selikoff's data, filed with a U.S. District Court, was stayed pending resolution of this request, and may now be resolved.
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Title Annotation:R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. asks for raw data on asbestos research
Author:Raloff, Janet
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 25, 1987
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