Ex-Inmate Loses Lawsuit Over Secondhand Smoke

A man who was notorious among the city’s law enforcement officials for being a leader in the illegal numbers business has lost a lawsuit against the Department of Correction that blamed the Rikers Island smoking policy for his bladder cancer.

A jury voted 6-0 on Friday to reject the claim of the man, Raymond Marquez, who pleaded guilty to illegal gambling charges in 1996 and had to pay a fine of $1 million. Mr. Marquez was arrested two years later on similar charges and spent 29 months at Rikers waiting for his trial. It was during that time, Mr. Marquez said, that he was exposed to secondhand smoke that led to the cancer diagnosis in 2000. (Mr. Marquez was acquitted of the crime he was charged with in 1998.)

At that time, prisoners could smoke in the inmate living area. In 2003, when the city passed its public-smoking ban, that practice ceased.

Mr. Marquez, 78, filed the $15 million suit despite the fact that he had been a smoker for 30 years. David Marquez, Mr. Marquez’s son and lawyer, said that his client had not inhaled deeply when he smoked, and that by the time he went to Rikers, he had not smoked for 23 years.

“There are medical books, current and past, that say that the risk for bladder cancer in someone who has smoked dissipates over 20 years to the level of a never smoker,” David Marquez said Tuesday afternoon.

The lawyer said he was considering appealing the jury’s verdict. He said his father was not in the dire stages of cancer.

Scot Gleason, the lead lawyer for the city in the case, said he believed he sold the jury on two major points.

“We never violated any laws,” he said.

He said he also persuaded the jury to consider society’s attitudes toward smoking at the time Mr. Marquez was in Rikers, 1998-2001, not what they are now.

“The way we as a society have treated secondhand smoke has evolved over time,” he said, adding that there was a time it was perfectly acceptable to smoke in the workplace or anywhere in a restaurant.

But David Marquez said that the ventilation system at Rikers was untested and inadequate, and that the people running the jail had a responsibility to keep the ventilation up to standard because of the high rate of smoking.

“The landlord had an obligation to maintain the place in an environmentally safe condition,” he said.

Dating to the 1950s, Mr. Marquez, who had the nickname Spanish Raymond, was at the top of the illegal numbers business. He was something of a Harlem celebrity, touting flashy clothes, cars and jewelry.

source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/14/nyregion/14lawsuit.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&oref=slogin



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