Despite tobacco deal, secondhand smoke trial goes onJune 21, 1997
Web posted at: 12:07 p.m. EDT (1607 GMT)
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MIAMI (CNN) -- Despite the tentative tobacco settlement, a landmark class action lawsuit by flight attendants who say they got sick from secondhand smoke on airplanes apparently will proceed.
It was unclear, however, if the trial would be allowed to reach a conclusion.
One part of the industry-wide deal announced Friday in Washington ends 17 class-action suits against cigarette-makers, with plaintiffs getting no money.
But the Florida judge in the flight attendants case says the trial -- now in the jury selection phase -- will continue until someone convinces him otherwise.
Dade County Circuit Judge Robert Kaye has previously expressed concerns about the constitutionality of a federal effort to impose an industry-wide settlement on a state court.
Attorneys Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt, who say they represent up to 60,000 flight attendants, asked Kaye on Friday to issue an order declaring that the settlement reached between tobacco companies and state officials does not affect the class action suit.
The judge did not issue an order and questioned whether he had the jurisdiction to do so.
Meanwhile, attorneys for the four tobacco companies being sued by the flight attendants say they expect to proceed with the case, Broin vs. Philip Morris, named after lead plaintiff Norma Broin.
Broin became an American Airlines flight attendant in 1976 and was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1989. Her cancer is now in remission.
"I've been told that I'm free to tell the court that this case is going forward," said David Hardy, an attorney representing Philip Morris Inc. and Lorillard Tobacco Co. (119K/10 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
"I have no reason to have any different view of that than Mr. Hardy does," said attorney Hugh Whiting, who represents R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
Hardy said he knew Lorillard's position was the same as Philip Morris'. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. lawyer Edward Moss said his client also would agree.
Stanley Rosenblatt, however, is skeptical that the trial will reach a conclusion. He said on Friday he expects tobacco companies will seek a federal judge's order to stop the flight attendants' case. (111K/10 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
The suit, filed in 1991, is the first lawsuit on secondhand smoke to make it to trial.
Legal experts say the case and others like it probably will go forward, but they caution it's too early to write that in stone.Correspondent Robert Vito and Reuters contributed to this report.
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