Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Upper West Side Couple Settles Suit Over a Neighbor’s Smoke

The New York Times
April 8, 2008

The war over secondhand smoke at the Ansonia has ended.

A couple at the Ansonia, a historic Upper West Side apartment building, who had sued a neighbor over her wafting cigarette smoke have agreed to settle their lawsuit, one of the plaintiffs said on Monday.

The plaintiffs — Jonathan Selbin and his wife, Jenny, both lawyers — had sued their fourth-floor neighbor, Galila Huff, claiming that smoke seeping from her condo into the common hallway was jeopardizing the health of the Selbins’ young son.

Mr. Selbin confirmed the settlement and said Ms. Huff had agreed to take steps to minimize the spread of her smoke. After news of the suit was reported in February, the manufacturer of an air-cleaning system came forward to offer free equipment to Ms. Huff and the Selbins.

“She agreed to use the donated air filters and a smokeless ashtray, which is all we ever asked her to do,” Mr. Selbin said in an e-mail message. “Period.”

In the lawsuit, Mr. Selbin, who honed his skills taking on major corporations, charged that Ms. Huff’s constant smoking made the hallway smell like a casino. Ms. Huff, in turn, accused the Selbins of overreacting and of treating her like a monster. She declined to comment on the settlement on Monday.

The couple had also accused Ms. Huff, the owner of Caffe La Fenice, an Italian restaurant, of encouraging her Chihuahua to urinate on their son’s stroller in retaliation for their complaints.

Mr. Selbin indicated on Monday that the publicity surrounding the lawsuit had not been pleasant. “I am confident you will find a way to make us look like terrible people all over again for insisting on such an onerous thing,” he said in the e-mail message.

After the lawsuit was filed, a company called Aerus, formerly known as Electrolux, offered to install — at no charge — an air filtration system that, the company said, would remediate the smoke.

Joseph P. Urso, the chief executive of Aerus, said on Monday that he believed that the filtering system was instrumental to reaching a settlement.

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