BAT, which produces the Lucky Strike and State Express 555 brands, filed the claim after the Florida judge went into hospital with a smoking-related heart condition after the class action trial had been running for more than a year. Dade County circuit judge, Robert Kaye was forced to call a four week pause in the trial while he received treatment.
"As a former smoker with a heart condition he is potentially part of the class and that makes him unsuitable," BAT's chairman, Martin Broughton said.
If the tobacco industry is successful, a mis-trial will be called and the case will begin again. If it continues, the industry would be certain to mount an appeal. According to BAT, the decision on whether the judge is unsuitable has to be made by the judge himself.
The news accompanied BAT's announcement it is offering pounds 4.2bn for the outstanding 58 per cent stake in Imasco, the Canadian tobacco and financial services group. BAT plans to keep the Imperial Tobacco business in Canada, and sell the financial division for pounds 3.2bn to Toronto Dominion Bank.
Investment, page 17