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Wed, Feb 12, 2003

Secondhand Smoke Not Aggravating FA's Asthma: Court

R.J. Reynolds Wins 'Seal' Flight Attendant Case In Florida

A Miami jury found last week that R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and other cigarette manufacturers are not liable in the Seal case, a secondhand smoke suit filed by James A. Seal, a United Airlines flight attendant. Seal 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.

"After hearing all the facts in this case, the six-member jury unanimously agreed that Mr. Seal's exposure to secondhand smoke in airplanes did not aggravate his asthma," said R. Dal Burton, Reynolds Tobacco's attorney in the case. "In fact," he added, "credible evidence does not exist to show that secondhand smoke aggravated Mr. Seal's asthma. "This victory was particularly satisfying because an order that was entered in these flight-attendant cases effectively and wrongfully prevented us from fully defending ourselves," Burton said. "Despite this handicap, we prevailed."

Seal is a flight attendant who claimed that his underlying asthma was aggravated as a result of his exposure to secondhand smoke in aircraft cabins from 1973 until the present, while working as a flight attendant for United Airlines.

Seal is among approximately 2,800 suits filed by individuals seeking compensatory damages for injuries allegedly caused by occupational exposure to secondhand smoke as a flight attendant. These suits stem from the Broin class-action suit, which was settled in 1997.

Other defendants in the Seal case included Philip Morris USA Inc., Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation, Lorillard Tobacco Company and the American Tobacco Company.

FMI: www.rjrt.com (Look under Tobacco Issues, Litigation, Case Backgrounders, Seal Backgrounder.)

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