More flight attendants meet deadline to sue over secondhand smoke
MIAMI -- Hundreds more nonsmoking flight attendants who blame secondhand smoke in airliners for their respiratory and other illnesses met a deadline Thursday for filing personal injury lawsuits.
The last-minute filings brought the nationwide total to an estimated 2,200, according to Miles McGrane, an attorney with one of six Miami firms coordinating the litigation.
The deadline was set under a $349 million settlement with the tobacco industry reached in 1997, during a trial in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.
Most of the money, $300 million, went to establish a research foundation.
Lawyers kept nine court clerks busy with fresh filings on the final day to take advantage of industry concessions that were part of the deal that ended the trial.
"When I first started flying in the middle of 1966, one of the first things I remember hearing from anyone is, 'Gee, Patty, I've got the lungs of a smoker.' That's what my doctor told me, and I've never smoked," said American Airlines attendant PattyYoung. Young, of Dallas, and Norma Broin of Virginia were leaders of the lawsuit.
Miami lawyers Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt won the settlement. The husband-and-wife team also won a $245 billion verdict for sick Florida smokers against the industry in July.
Now the individual flight attendant cases will move forward, with each seeking compensatory damages for medical expenses, lost pay, pain and suffering.
About 25 of the attendants died of lung cancer, McGrane said, and others were forced into retirement, underwent surgery or are on regular medication.
Attendants blamed diseases like lung cancer and chronic sinusitis on their years of flying before smoking was banned on U.S. flights in 1990. Now they are banned on most international flights as well.
Cigarette makers have said they are confident they can show no flight attendants were harmed by secondhand smoke.