Woman Sued for Smoking Inside Her Own Apartment
By Gerri Elder
In New York and many other areas of the country, smoking cigarettes is illegal in many public places. Smokers in New York are forbidden from lighting up in any restaurant or bar and in other public places must use designated smoking areas.
Galila Huff has lived alone in her New York apartment for 15 years, except for the company of her small dog. She has owned an Italian restaurant on the Upper West Side of New York City for 12 years. She has been a smoker for 40 years and abides by the law by not smoking inside her restaurant. She does smoke inside her apartment, which is only a few blocks away from her restaurant. Huff has always figured she wasn't harming anyone but herself and wasn't violating any laws by enjoying her cigarettes in the privacy of her own home, but her neighbors say that she is wrong about that.
In October, Huff received a letter from her neighbors complaining about the cigarette smoke that drifts out into the common hallway in the apartment building. The letter was far from a simple "please and thank you" type of courtesy note. Her neighbors demanded that she immediately cease smoking inside her apartment until she had the place adequately ventilated so that none of the smoke entered the hallway. The neighbors also pointed out in their letter that they are both litigious lawyers who would not hesitate to sue her.
The letter was from Jonathan and Jenny Selbin, and their demands didn't stop with the letter. ABC News reported that the Selbins filed a personal injury lawsuit against Huff alleging that she is "willfully, intentionally, recklessly and/or negligently endangering the health of plaintiffs and their 4-year-old son. & As evidenced by her refusal to address the grave danger posed to the health of a small child, despite repeated requests and warnings, defendant's conduct is actuated by evil and/or reprehensible motives." The lawsuit was based on a New York law that treats second hand cigarette smoke as a nuisance in private residences and did not seek monetary damages from Huff.
Also mentioned in the Selbin's personal injury lawsuit is Huff's small dog. The Selbin's allege that in addition to refusing to stop smoking inside her own apartment, Huff has encouraged her Chihuahua to urinate on their property and at their doorway.
Huff has taken steps to contain her cigarette smoke to her own apartment. She has had her air ducts sealed off to make sure that no smoke could travel from her apartment into other people's homes, gotten four large air purifiers and has unsuccessfully tried to quit smoking. However, the Selbin's complaint was not about smoke entering their apartment, their complaint concerned the cigarette smoke drifting into the 10 foot wide common hallway that they share with Huff.
The Selbins recently negotiated with Huff's lawyer and reached an agreement that hopefully satisfies everyone. Huff has agreed to use the air purifiers, a window fan and a smokeless ashtray in her home in an effort to reduce the amount of smoke that enters the hallway and the Selbin's have dropped their smoking personal injury lawsuit against her.