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S P E C I A L   S E C T I O N Tobacco Under Attack

Miami lawyers play David to tobacco's Goliath

Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt

Contentious secondhand smoke trial in 3rd month

August 12, 1997
Web posted at: 5:46 p.m. EDT (2146 GMT)

From Correspondent Robert Vito

MIAMI (CNN) -- Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt are experienced and successful trial lawyers who have taken on the biggest legal fight of their careers, a fight many have advised them against.

The parents of nine children, the Rosenblatts have taken on one of the world's richest and most powerful businesses: the tobacco industry.

The Rosenblatts represent 60,000 flight attendants in a $5 billion class-action suit against five major cigarette makers for illnesses blamed on secondhand tobacco smoke in aircraft cabins. The tobacco companies deny all the allegations.

"Every lawyer Susan and I ever discussed this with said 'Rosenblatt, you're out of your mind,'" says Stanley Rosenblatt. "This was like taking on a country, taking on the tobacco industry."

The Rosenblatts are pitted against an industry that not only denies all allegations involving second-hand smoke, but that also is rich in cash and toughened by decades of legal warfare.

'It would be a great pleasure to bring them down'

Aircraft cabin

The trial is in its third month and is notable for its contentiousness. During Monday's testimony, there was so much squabbling between the attorneys that the judge ordered the jury out of the courtroom for 30 minutes.

But the Rosenblatts are determined. It took them six years to get the case to trial, an undertaking they financed themselves at a cost of $750,000. And they say they have no regrets.

"I knew it would be very expensive and I thought it was an uphill battle, which it still is, and it would take a tremendous amount of time, which it has," says Susan Rosenblatt.

The David and Goliath nature of the case is evident each time the two sides line up in court. Rosenblatt and Rosenblatt sit alone on one side, the very embodiment of a mom-and-pop law firm, while dozens of tobacco lawyers crowd the tables on the other side.

"It would be a great pleasure ... a great pleasure to bring them down where they belong," says Stanley Rosenblatt.

The Rosenblatts like being compared to David in this battle with a corporate Goliath, and they like to remind everyone who won when David met Goliath on the field of battle.

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