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Shimp v. New Jersey Bell Telephone Company

A Major Public Health Concern

Tobacco smoke has been established as a carcinogen and is also associated with emphysema, heart disease, stroke, and other conditions. The health risks incurred by smokers could also affect those who are exposed to tobacco smoke involuntarily. The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that second-hand smoke causes approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths per year in nonsmokers, and the U.S. Labor Department reported that environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) has killed many more workers than have workplace homicides. Despite concrete evidence on the dangers of ETS, workers exposed to this substance have not had a single clear means through which to pursue remedies for injuries.

Both state and federal courts have grappled with the issue of how best to address the problem of ETS related health problems in the workplace. Plaintiffs have tried several different causes of action under either statutory or regulatory provisions. These include claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act and claims under workers' compensation laws, in which parties sought monetary awards from employers after becoming ill or injured on the job. The decision in Shimp v. New Jersey Bell Telephone Company, in which the plaintiff sought injunctive relief instead of damages, is notable in that it was not based on statutory law but on principles of common law. Common law is a body of law, inherited from England, in which courts resolve disputes between parties without regard to any particular statute, or written law. Decisions are based upon precedent (prior decisions) and essentially balance the rights of the parties before the court on the basis of fundamental concepts of equity and common sense.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980Shimp v. New Jersey Bell Telephone Company - A Major Public Health Concern, A Common Law Right, Clear And Overwhelming Evidence, Balancing Rights And Legislative Response