Verdict Reached in Secondhand Smoke Case

Feb. 10, 2003
A Miami jury found in favor of tobacco companies sued by a flight attendant who claimed exposure to environmental tobacco smoke exacerbated his health problems.

In a unanimous vote, the jury found R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and other cigarette manufacturers are not liable for personal injury resulting from exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke in a case filed by James A. Seal, a United Airlines flight attendant from 1973 to the present.

Seal claimed occupational exposure to secondhand smoke in airplane cabins before smoking was banned by airlines aggravated his asthma.

Seal's case is the sixth case of its type to go to trial since 2001. Juries ruled in favor of the tobacco industry in the Fontana, Janoff and Tucker cases, but ruled against the industry in the French case. The Quiepo case ended in a mistrial in May 2002 and was subsequently dismissed.

R. Dal Burton, Reynolds Tobacco's attorney in the case, claimed "credible evidence does not exist to show that secondhand smoke aggravated Mr. Seal's asthma."

The Seal case is among approximately 2,800 suits filed by individuals seeking compensatory damages for injuries allegedly caused by occupational exposure to secondhand smoke as flight attendants. These suits stem from the Broin class action lawsuit, which was settled in 1997. Under the Broin settlement, four cigarette makers agreed to fund a $300 million medical foundation and the settlement permits individual flight attendant lawsuits and related compensatory damage claims to proceed.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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