Rolah McCabe tobacco lawsuit comes to an end after 11 years

THE marathon Rolah McCabe tobacco lawsuit finally ended in Melbourne yesterday – more than eight years after she died of lung cancer.

Lawyers for parties involved in multiple proceedings told Justice Stephen Kaye in the Victorian Supreme Court that they had settled their differences.

It is believed that the case that has become a landmark around the world for smokers seeking to sue tobacco companies chewed up tens of millions of dollars in legal costs.

In April 2002, Mrs McCabe, 51, of Cranbourne won $700,000 after Justice Geoff Eames in the Supreme Court ruled that British American Tobacco had deliberately shredded documents to sink her legal action.

Rolah McCabe leaves the Supreme Court in 2002 after sucessfully sueing tobacco giant. Her marathon fight against British American Tobacco finally ended yesterday, more than eight years after her death.

Rolah McCabe leaves the Supreme Court in 2002 after sucessfully sueing tobacco giant. Her marathon fight against British American Tobacco finally ended yesterday, more than eight years after her death.

She was the first cancer sufferer outside the US to beat a tobacco company.

Mrs McCabe died seven months later and the following year the Court of Appeal overturned the damages payout, saying BAT was entitled to destroy documents as part of its “housekeeping” arrangements.

Since that decision, which was appealed to the High Court, there have attempts by Mrs McCabe’s family to reopen her case on new evidence and a flurry of lawsuits between BAT and associated companies and law firm Slater and Gordon over documents.

Outside court yesterday Mrs McCabe’s son Jamie said he was relieved it was all over.

“Mum’s decision to take on big tobacco was a difficult one particularly as she battled terminal lung cancer,” Mr McCabe said.

“She did it because she thought it was the right thing to do. It’s been a long battle but mum would have been proud of us for preserving her legacy just as her children will always be proud of her.”

Peter Gordon, of Slater and Gordon, said he knew Rolah McCabe would be enormously proud of her children, who continued her fight.

Mr Gordon had to step aside from being the McCabe family lawyer after BAT, a company he called the best resourced litigant in the world, sued him personally.

“Whilst Rolah is only one of thousands of people killed every year by tobacco what she stood for both in her commitment around these courts and the commitment of her children ever since is an important legacy,” he said.

Mr Gordon said lawyers in the US had recently used information unearthed in the McCabe case to fight tobacco companies on behalf of smokers, winning initial damages of billions of dollars.

The family lawyer, Leon Zwier, of Arnold Bloch Leibler, said they never got to the point of reopening the original McCabe legal action.

He said the family was seeking to use new documents that had come into existence but that dispute was now over.

“The 11-year tobacco war between the McCabe family and British American Tobacco is finally over,” Mr Zwier said.

source: heraldsun.com.au

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