Passive Smoking Lung Cancer Death Case Settled In Favor of Plaintiff

Date: 1/19/06


January 20, 2006, Atlanta, Georgia

Context: Employer's Liability to Employee for Failure to Provide Work Environment Free from Tobacco Smoke

Thaxton v Norfolk Southern Railway Co, 239 Ga App 18; 520 SE2d 735 (8 July 1999)

State court of Fulton County; The Honorable Penny Brown Reynolds

• Mr. Larry Ray Thaxton, a lifelong nonsmoker, was born in 1956, and died from lung cancer at the age of 40 in 1996 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, U.S.A. From age 26 to the time of his death, Mr. Thaxton was a railroad worker employed by the Norfolk Southern Railway in an outdoor job on various sites far from his home. During the week, he was housed in bunk trailers in various campgrounds provided by the railroad.

• Mr. Thaxton complained to his employers regularly about his constant involuntary exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke from co-workers in the bunk cars where he lived during the work-week. After he contracted lung cancer, Mr. Thaxton filed a lawsuit against the railroad, alleging that his exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke in Norfolk Southern’s trailer-camp housing caused his lung cancer. Mr. Thaxton alleged that his employer was negligent in exposing him to ETS, which the railroad denied.

• A quantitative risk assessment incorporating experimental measurements of secondhand smoke concentrations in a typical bunk-trailer indicated that his work-related secondhand smoke exposure doubled Mr. Thaxton’s odds of lung cancer death. The case settled in favor of the plaintiff after 10 years of litigation, in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 19, 2006, for an undisclosed amount.

• The railroad contended that Mr. Thaxton was not exposed long enough, nor to enough smoke to measurably increase his risk of lung cancer. They further contended that secondhand smoke exposures outside of work or other unknown causes accounted for his lung cancer, and that it was “scientifically impossible” to conclude that Mr. Thaxton’s work-related secondhand smoke exposure caused his lung cancer.

Contact: John Moss, Esq., Matthews & Steele, 15 Piedmont Center, NE, Suite 1560, Atlanta, GA 30305, telephone 404-264-1292.

Plaintiff’s expert, James Repace, MSc., Repace Associates, Inc., Secondhand Smoke Consultants, 101 Felicia Lane, Bowie, MD 20720.