Last year, a federal class action lawsuit was filed against Caesars Entertainment Corporation alleging that the casino corporation failed to safeguard its employees from secondhand smoke. The named plaintiff in the case, Denise Bevrotte, alleged that her son died of cancer from inhaling secondhand smoke at work. Bevrotte’s son was employed as a dealer at Caesars’ Harrah’s New Orleans Hotel and Casino for over 15 years. Bevrotte brought the suit on behalf of all non-smoking employees of Harrah’s New Orleans Casino. The case filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana is captioned Bevrotte v. Caesars Entertainment Corp. d/b/a Harrah’s New Orleans Hotel and Casino, No. 2:11-cv-00543-SSV (E.D.La. 2011). The class claims were dismissed in October for failure to allege a common issue. Last week, Bevrotte’s remaining wrongful death claim was dismissed for failure to allege facts sufficient to demonstrate that she was her son’s statutory beneficiary. While these dismissals were a clear win for Caesars, they offer little fodder for legal bloggers on the validity of secondhand smoke claims. Undeterred, we now offer our thoughts.
As frequent casino visitors, we here at Abnormal Use empathize with the concern over secondhand smoke. When we discard our money, we could do without that pleasant aroma of Virginia Slims. On the other hand, we understand why casinos allow smoking. Casinos are big business. If people want to smoke while pouring their money into slot machines, casinos are glad to accommodate. For those who don’t enjoy smoke, casinos offer many other vices.
Even though we ourselves disdain smoke, we would never sue a casino because of it. First, we have never knowingly been injured as a result of casino smoke. Sure, any secondhand smoke has undoubtedly blackened our lungs beyond repair, but so too has the smoke from every other bar and restaurant into which we have ventured over the course of our wearisome lives. How do we single out the casino?
We recognize that Bevrotte’s son served as a Harrah’s employee for over 15 years. As a result, his smoke exposure at the casino is far more significant than that on our casual weekend vacation. Even if Harrah’s is a more identifiable tortfeasor for Bevrotte, we share one thing in common. We each made a choice. While our reasons for entering the casino may have been different, nobody forced us to go. By entering the casino, we know we will be exposed to secondhand smoke, yet we continue to go. While we continue to learn about the impact of smoke inhalation, the dangers of secondhand smoke are not a new discovery. We assume the risk and shouldn’t sue others for our own perilous decisions.