Second Hand Smoke Court Case

A jury in Suffolk County threw out a Boston woman's lawsuit in which she claimed her real estate broker hid the fact that a downstairs neighbor had a smoking habit. This is one of the first suits of its kind to come to trial in the state of Massachusetts.

Asthma Trigger

The 14-member jury took less than an hour to decide for the Gibson Sotheby's International Realty broker and against Alyssa Burrage. Burrage said that the tobacco fumes emanating from the condominium just below her own triggered her asthma. This is according to the real estate firm's lawyer, Jay S. Gregory. Burrage paid $405,000 for her condo.

The trial took a week to play out and included testimony from the 32 year-old Burrage, who works in advertising, and her parents, who said they smelled smoke every time they visited their daughter during the year 2006. The condo is located in Boston's South End. According to Burrage, the broker Joseph DeAngelo, kept insisting that the seller must have been a smoker and that the smell would be sure to dissipate over time.

Huge Discrepancy

However, according to Gregory, DeAngelo testified on the stand that the issue of smoking never came up during any of the times he showed the brick row house on Milford St. to Burrage." There was a huge discrepancy between her version of events and his," said Gregory. "It’s not to say that they [Burrage and parents] are blatant liars." But, said Gregory, their testimony seemed to contain, "self-serving hindsight" and "faulty memory."

In a statement to the press, Burrage said she was sorry that the verdict had not gone in her favor but glad to have brought some attention to the problem of secondhand smoke. My goal was never to pass judgment on people’s life choices, but rather to give myself and others a voice to protect their own health in their own home," she said. "Ultimately, if this case makes brokers more careful about how they view secondhand smoke issues and keeps them honest in the future about this important issue, then my efforts will not have been in vain."

Emotional Distress

Burrage's lawyer, Colleen C. Cook had requested the jury to award the plaintiff over $70,000 worth of damages including the costs of remodeling the condo prior to moving, and for personal injuries and emotional distress.

While the jury didn't vote in Burrage's favor, a senior staff attorney for the Northeastern University School of Law's Tobacco Products Liability Project. Edward L. Sweda Jr. states that the suit will wake up brokers to smoking issues in relation to property sales.