Olympic Airways v. Husain

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Olympic Airways v. Husain was a wrongful death case brought against the Greek airline Olympic Airways by Rubina Husain on behalf of her deceased husband, Abid M. Hanson, a physician who had asthma and was sensitive to secondhand tobacco smoke.

In December 1997, Dr. Abid Hanson and his wife, Rubina Husain traveled with their children from San Francisco to Athens and Cairo for a family vacation. During a stopover in New York, Dr. Hanson learned for the first time that Olympic Airways allowed passengers to smoke on international flights. Because Dr. Hanson suffered from asthma and was sensitive to secondhand smoke, he asked for and obtained seats away from the smoking section. Dr.Hanson had no problems on the outgoing flights. However, he and his family arrived early at the Cairo airport to request non-smoking seats. Dr Hanson showed the check-in agent a physician's letter explaining that he had a history of recurrent, extreme and sometimes life-threatening allergic reactions and asked the agent to make sure that their seats were located in the non-smoking section.

After boarding the plane for the flight to San Francisco, Dr. Hanson and his wife discovered that their seats were located only three rows in front of the economy-class smoking section. Ms. Husain advised the flight attendant, that her husband could not sit in a smoking area, and said they would have to move him. The flight attendant said she could not re-seat him because the plane was full and she was busy. As the flight progressed and became smokier, Dr. Hanson used his inhaler and experienced increasing respiratory distress. His wife continued to press for him to be re-seated away from the smoking area, but the flight attendant did not assist. His wife had to administer a shot of epinephrine to Dr. Hanson. Dr. Hanson's condition continued to worsen. Eventually CPR and oxygen were administered, but he died.

His wife, acting on behalf of her deceased husband, filed a wrongful death suit against the airline. [1]

The family prevailed and a federal judge ordered Olympic Airways to pay a total of $1.4 million to Dr. Hanson's survivors. It was the largest secondhand smoke court award up to that point.[2]

Olympic Airways appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the $1.4 million award in a 6 to 2 ruling. The full case can be accessed at http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/03pdf/02-1348.pdf

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