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Author Topic: New York City Woman Sued for Smoking by Neighbors in Her Apt  (Read 1537 times)

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Offline Eeyore

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New York City Woman Sued for Smoking by Neighbors in Her Apt
« on: April 05, 2008, 05:58:41 AM »

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New York City Woman Sued for Smoking by Neighbors in Her BuildingBy JOHN STOSSELApril 4, 2008 —

Do you smoke? Well, you better be careful where. I don't smoke, and Idon't like the smell, but what some people are doing to smokers makesme say give me a break.
For the last 12 years, Galila Huff has owned Caffé la Fenicé,   a restaurant serving Italian food on the Upper West Side of New York City.
Smoking there is forbidden.  New York state bans it in all restaurants and bars.
Huff's apartment is a few blocks away at The Ansonia, an ornateturn-of-the-century building that both Babe Ruth and Arturo Toscaninionce called home.
Huff lives there alone except for her Chihuahua, and her cigarettes.  For 40 years, she's smoked a pack or two a day.
But then in October, she got a letter from her neighbors. Itsaid, "Dear Resident, immediately cease smoking in your apartment,unless and until you take adequate steps to properly ventilate yoursmoke out of your apartment such that none enters the common hallway."
Huff couldn't believe it.  First she can't smoke in her own restaurant, now she can't smoke in her own apartment?
"I mean the cigarettes smell, yeah. But I'm not puffing into their faces," she said.
The complainants -- Jonathan and Jenny Selbin -- wouldn't agreeto a television interview, but they did file a lawsuit against Huff,saying she is "willfully, intentionally, recklessly and/or negligentlyendangering the health of plaintiffs and their 4-year-old son. & Asevidenced by her refusal to address the grave danger posed to thehealth of a small child, despite repeated requests and warnings,defendant's conduct is actuated by evil and/or reprehensible motives."
Huff's dog didn't escape mention in the lawsuit either. Thelawsuit continued, "Such motives are also evidenced by the fact thatafter plaintiffs complained about the smoke, defendant encouraged herdog to urinate on plaintiffs' property and in front of their doorway."
When asked whether it's true that her dog urinated on herneighbor's property, Huff said, "I never saw that, but maybe. I don'tknow." The dog had no comment.
Legal System 'a Tool for Bullying'?Huff took steps to insulate her apartment. The apartment buildingdid construction work, sealed off air ducts and made sure no smokecould get from her apartment to the Selbins', but now the neighborswere complaining about smoke in the hallway.
And who are these neighbors? Surprise! They're lawyers.Jonathan Selbin is a partner in the big law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann& Bernstein. He made sure his special skills were clear to Huff ina letter: "We are both lawyers, and both litigators, for whom the usualbarriers to litigation are minimal."
That's very true. Reading that drove me to write an Op-Ed for the Wall Street Journal (CLICK HERE to read).
"Without any question, the legal system has become a tool forbullying in this country," said Philip Howard, chair of the legalreform group Common Good. "And if you're a lawyer, and you don't have to go out and spend money for another lawyer, you can use it as a hammer."
"People think of lawsuits as kind of a neutral process & have yourday in court," Howard said. "Being in a lawsuit is a traumatic event,and if someone sues you, for almost anything & it's just like abludgeon. It changes your life. You can't sleep at night."
He's right. Remember the Chungs, the dry cleaners in suburbanWashington, D.C., who were sued because they reportedly lost one pairof pants?
When the Chungs found the pants days later and presented themto their customer, he refused to accept them and claimed they were notthe pants he had given them, despite the matching tag, and promptlyfiled a lawsuit. Not for their value, about $800, but for $67 million.
The man who filed that suit was -- surprise again -- a lawyer.He was a local judge, in fact, named Roy Pearson. Pearson took hiscomplaint to trial. He did drop the damage amount from $67 millionthough -- to $54 million. The case was finally dismissed, but becauseof the dispute, the Chungs had to close one of their two stores.
'This Is An Abuse'Likewise, Huff says the Selbins' lawsuit has taken a toll on her."Almost for one year, I'm not sleeping and I'm having stomachache."
The "20/20" team didn't smell any smoke in the common spaceoutside Huff's door. And, the Ansonia isn't your typical apartmentbuilding. The hallways are huge, 10 feet across and 100 feet long. Youcould drive a car through there. Any smoke that comes out of anapartment would dissipate. And the door of the lawyers who are suing isat least 50 feet from Huff's main entrance.
Still, smoke can leak out from many places, so Huff worked toreduce the smell. She says she's tried to quit smoking, but failed. Shegot four air purifiers & big ones. "I was trying to do everythingto change what I could change or what I could add: the machine, thewindows, to seal the apartment. I did everything that I could havedone. & This is an abuse."
And it's not as if she intruded on the Selbins' space. Huff haslived in her apartment for 15 years. The Selbins moved next door fiveyears ago.
"I was first here and when they come to buy the apartment &  they didn't smell it?"

When we asked the Selbins about that, Jonathan Selbin wrote us," I have lived in the building since 1999. My wife and I looked at whatis now my apartment on several occasions, and on those occasions therewas no strong smell of smoke in the hallways. I do not know why thatwas -- perhaps she was away during those visits. Or perhaps it wasbecause I visited during the day, and the smoke is usually worst firstthing in the morning and again in the evening, in other words, timesshe is home."
One other point. Their building is on Broadway in New YorkCity. There are lots of chimneys, and exhaust fumes from cars, trucks,and buses. How pristine does the air have to be? We're breathing allkinds of things around here.
This week Jonathan Selbin wrote ABC News and asked, "Have youasked Ms. Huff how she would react if we put dog poison in the sharedhallway?" So we asked her.
"How can you say something like this?" Huff said.
Selbin also wrote ABC News, "We also do not want to try to tellMs. Huff to stop smoking (in her home or anywhere else), nor is it ourbusiness what she does in the privacy of her home. It is only becauseher smoke comes into our common, shared hallway that it has become ourbusiness."
You don't want Jonathan Selbin getting into your business.  He's a class action lawyer.  He sues companies for millions.  His law firm Web site brags that a magazine named him a "Super Lawyer."  It's not good to fight with a "super lawyer."
This week, he sent Huff a settlement agreement with a new listof demands that she must meet if she hopes to get out from under hislawsuit. It includes one that says she will not seek any furtherpublicity.
"I don't want to harm anyone. I'm trying not to smoke," Huffsaid. "But you know, I cannot do more than that. This is my demon, I'ma smoker. What can I do? I'm smoking for 40 years."
What can she do? Does she have to move? On Thursday night she agreed to his demands.  Give me a break.


ABC News asked people on the street -- smokers andnon-smokers -- what they thought of the lawsuit. We told them that awoman who smokes in her own apartment is being sued by her neighborsbecause they say they can smell the smoke in the hallway, and askedthem for their reactions.
Follow up questions included:How would you react if someone sued you for smoking in your own apartment?
Where can you smoke nowadays?
The neighbors that sued are lawyers themselves. What do you think about that?

CLICK HERE TO SEE SOME OF THEIR RESPONSES

ABC News Producer Frank Mastropolo contributed to this report.
    "Hey, hey, hey, hey now.  Don't be mean.  We don't have to be mean. because, remember, no matter where you go, there you are."      - The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai across The Eighth Dimension

Offline Just_a_Biker

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Re: New York City Woman Sued for Smoking by Neighbors in Her Apt
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2008, 08:21:22 AM »
This is only shows how disgusting our society has become...  Someone should sue this "super lawyer" for being  a jackass!!
The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance. Cicero - 55 BC, Rome

Offline Eeyore

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Re: New York City Woman Sued for Smoking by Neighbors in Her Apt
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2008, 09:50:39 PM »
I do not smoke, I am allergic to it -- But I would not sue a neighbor for smoking in her own home ---
But then again - this is New York City
    "Hey, hey, hey, hey now.  Don't be mean.  We don't have to be mean. because, remember, no matter where you go, there you are."      - The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai across The Eighth Dimension