Clayton Utz off the hook in BAT shredding case

Victoria Court of Appeal finds no evidence that Sydney firm devised strategy to destroy documents

The Victoria Court of Appeal yesterday (5 December) overturned a decision in the case against British American Tobacco (BAT), which found that BAT and Sydney-based firm Clayton Utz had wilfully shredded documents relevant to litigation against the company.

In April this year a Melbourne court awarded Rolah Ann McCabe A$750,000 (£267,963) after finding that BAT sold her an addictive product and was responsible for her cancer. In summing up, Judge Eames also condemned the role of BAT’s lawyers, Clayton Utz.

However, in its 5 December decision, the Court of Appeal overruled the decision. It stated that there was no evidence to justify the finding that the company or Clayton Utz had devised a strategy for the destruction of documents or had changed the policy on document destruction in order to make it appear innocent.

The Court of Appeal ruling also cleared Clayton Utz senior partner Brian Wilson of any wrongdoing in relation to the matter.

The ruling comes just two months after the death of McCabe from lung cancer. Since the original decision in April, the firm has closed its tobacco litigation practice.