U.S. judge rules Northwest smoking suit may proceed
SEATTLE, April 6 (Reuters) - A federal appeals court, reversing a lower court decision, ruled on Thursday that nonsmoking flight attendants could sue Northwest Airlines Corp. for allowing smoking on trans-Pacific flights.
The class action suit seeks ``tens of millions'' of dollars for up to 4,000 flight attendants forced to breathe tobacco smoke on long flights for years after the airline banned smoking on domestic flights and in its corporate offices.
Minneapolis-based Northwest had argued that the lawsuit was invalid under the Airline Deregulation Act passed two decades ago that preempted laws mandating pricing and services provided by air carriers.
``We're obviously pleased,'' said plaintiffs' attorney Steve Berman in Seattle. ``This is an important ruling because it allows the case to go forward.''
Northwest did not immediately say whether it would ask the Ninth Circuit Court to rehear the case or to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
``We don't agree with (the ruling) and are considering an appeal and it has of course nothing to do with the merits of the case, which we believe are wholly lacking,'' Northwest spokesman Jon Austin said.
Northwest now prohibits smoking on all flights, domestic and international.