Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Day 30 - The wrong witness

There are new obstacles between the front door of the Palais de Justice and the court-room where the Montreal class action tobacco suits are now in their eighth week of trial.

Montreal is gripped with protests by post-secondary students, and a security presence is now at all entrances. All but lawyers must present their bags for inspection. This is also the season of school excursions, and a mini trade-fair has sprung up in the foyer to introduce middle-school students to the justice system.

That is to say, the Palais de Justice is at once welcoming to outsiders and uncomfortable with them. A similar  ambivalence may have contributed to the frustration when Carol Bizzarro testified this morning.

Not so much a directing mind, as mindlessly following direction

During the time that Imperial Tobacco implemented its document destruction policy, Carol Bizzarro was manager of administration. Among her responsibilities was the company's library and central file registry, the contents of which were affected by the company's document destruction policy. The plaintiffs had made it clear that they wanted her evidence about the details of implementing that policy.

If they were expecting a librarian with a flair for classification or an administrator with a fetish for detail, they were in for a disappointment. Carol Bizzarro fit neither stereotype any more than she looked typical of the pensioner she has become. She arrived stylishly dressed in clothes one might expect on a woman half her age and looked more like the object of blond jokes than the subject of a corporate cover-up.

Although Ms. Bizzarro had supervised the implementation of the document retention/destruction policy (Exhibit 319), she had very little recall of any of the details. Her answers suggested she had little real engagement in the work around her. Even under André Lespérance's patient questioning, she said little.

Inability to recall seems to be an occupational hazard for former Imperial Tobacco employees, but there was something about her version of the "I don't remember" chorus that seemed to touch a few nerves. This is the first witness that Justice Riordan has openly chastized. "'I don’t remember' is not an adequate answer – try harder," he admonished her.

She was not a witness like the others. By class and disposition, Carol Bizzarro seemed a true outsider to the legal tribe in courtroom 17.09. Although a day and a half had been set aside to hear from her, she was dismissed before lunch.

Filling in the gaps

With a half day suddenly released from its schedule, the plaintiff lawyer's turned to the time-consuming task of entering documents as evidence. Imperial Tobacco's lawyers (this time Suzanne Coté) again applied blanket objections, which again made the exercise more efficient. Despite grumblings about "document dumps" and objections that put some exhibits "under reserve," the exercise was uneventful.

The exhibits entered today range from Exhibit 329 to 426. Some are the scientific reports that were identified on Imperial Tobacco library's card catalogue (Exhibit 319 D). Others related to CTMC meetings and decisions and various BAT scientific meetings.

By inference, these will be linked to the testimonies in the coming weeks by Roger Ackman (May 28) Scientist A. Porter (May 29 - 31),  ITL President Marie Pollet (June 4-5), CTMC former director Bill Neville (June 6-7) and whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand (June 20-21).