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Aztar Sued Over Secondhand Smoke

11 July 2006

WHITE PLAINS, New York – (PRESS RELEASE) -- A New Jersey man has sued the owner of Atlantic City's Tropicana Casino and Resort for failing to protect him and other individuals from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

The lawsuit was filed by Meiselman, Denlea, Packman, Carton & Eberz, P.C. in Superior Court for the State of New Jersey in the County of Atlantic City on behalf of plaintiffs Vincent Rennich and his wife, Lynn Rennich, against Aztar Corporation, which owns and operates the Tropicana.

The complaint -- available to the media upon request -- states that "Aztar caused and permitted an abnormally dangerous activity at the Tropicana and such activity caused Mr. Rennich to suffer lung cancer." The suit demands a trial by jury and is seeking an award of damages to be determined at trial.

It further charges that "Aztar has done nothing whatsoever to warn, guard against or alleviate the dangers of secondhand smoke to those individuals, such as Mr. Rennich, who work at the Tropicana." The suit adds that "Aztar has spent millions of dollars lobbying for its right to continue to subject those who earn their living working within the Tropicana's premises to do so in a smoke-polluted environment; an environment that has caused Mr. Rennich lung cancer."

Vincent Rennich has worked for a company named Adamar or New Jersey, Inc. as a casino table games supervisor at the Tropicana since 1981. He has been subjected there to constant exposure to secondhand smoke "during each and every one" of his shifts for the past 25 years." The complaint states that "Aztar has failed to provide him with any warning of the dangers of secondhand smoke or with a safe environment in which to perform his job through prophylactic measures such as proper ventilation equipment or other air cleaning devices."

Despite known risks of secondhand smoke, the complaint charges that "defendant Aztar purposefully endangers the health of casino workers because Aztar has decided it is more important to accommodate customers who want to smoke while gambling than to ensure the health and welfare of those who are lawfully on its premises providing services such as those Mr. Rennich performs for his employer Adamar."

Mr. Rennich, now 48, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005 at the age of 47, even though he had never smoked a cigarette in his life. Last September, as a result of the cancer, Mr. Rennich underwent surgery to remove the top lobe of his right lung. His doctors have informed that he stands an 80% likelihood of a recurrence of his cancer and that he is susceptible to numerous increased and life-threatening health risks, including, but not limited to, diabetes.

Secondhand smoke is the combination of two forms of smoke from burning tobacco products: sidestream smoke and mainstream smoke. Sidestream smoke, which comes from the burning end of a cigarette, comes from the burning end of a cigarette, cigar or pipe. Mainstream smoke is exhaled by the smoker.

Secondhand smoke is now prohibited at all indoor public places and workplaces in New Jersey, pursuant to the New Jersey Smoke-Free Fair Act except for a few specific types of businesses. Casinos are one of the exceptions where smoking is still allowed. However, the Act does not contain any provisions granting immunity to casino businesses against tort liability for personal injuries caused by secondhand smoke to which they subject their business invitees.

In a report issued last week, U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona said that "involuntary smoking" puts people at increased risk of death from lung cancer, heart disease and other illnesses. Moreover, the reports states that there is no risk-free level of exposure to someone else's drifting smoke, declares the report issued Tuesday.

Some 126 million nonsmokers are exposed to secondhand smoke, according to the Surgeon General. California health officials recently estimated that secondhand smoke kills about 3,400 nonsmoking Americans annually from lung cancer, 46,000 from heart disease, and 430 from SIDS.

"Exposure to secondhand smoke remains an alarming public health hazard," Dr. Carmona said in response to the report. "Nonsmokers need protection through the restriction of smoking in public places and workplaces."

The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services reports that "secondhand smoke is a serious concern for everyone" adding that "nonsmokers who breathe in the smoke can suffer serious illnesses as a result of their exposure."

The U.S. Environment Protection Agency has classified secondhand smoke as a "Group A" Carcinogen -- meaning that it is a substance known to cause cancer in humans and there is no safe level of exposure to it.

The complaint argues that Aztar owed Mr. Rennich "the non-delegable duty of reasonable care to provide a reasonably safe place for Mr. Rennich to work" and "to keep the premises reasonably safe and not to create any conditions which would render the premises dangerous." Furthermore, "Aztar was obligated to discover and eliminate any possible dangerous conditions or circumstances." In short, "Aztar violated its duties of reasonable care that it owed to Mr. Rennich."

Lynn Rennich, the wife of Vincent Rennich, is suing Aztar for Loss of Consortium. "As a direct and proximate result of defendant's negligence and other alleged wrongs. . .Lynn Rennich has been and will be deprived of the services, society, companionship and consortium of her husband."

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