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Wrongful death case against Caesars dropped by federal judge

Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment Corp. will not have to defend itself in litigation that alleges a Harrah's casino employee died of leukemia because of on-the-job smoke exposure. A federal judge recently dismissed the wrongful death suit, which she said should have been pursued as a workers' compensation claim.

The dismissal of the personal injury lawsuit also negates an attempt to turn the lawsuit into a class action, which was expected to involve over 1,000 nonsmoking Harrah's casino employees. Nevada laws prohibited smoking in many public places in 2006. Las Vegas casinos and other state gaming licenses are an exception.

The rejected lawsuit stated that the nonsmoking dealer, who worked for Caesars-owned Harrah's for nearly 15 years, was a leukemia victim because of his occupation. The worker's cancer was allegedly connected to exposure from second-hand cigarette and cigar smoke over a prolonged period. The employee died two years ago.

The mother of the cancer patient sought damages because Caesars reportedly failed to protect the worker from dangerous smoke. The judge ruled that the plaintiff could file the complaint as a workers' compensation claim, which would absolve Harrah's of liability. The plaintiff's attorney argued unsuccessfully that a court should decide whether leukemia qualified as an occupational hazard.

Another federal case about the effect of tobacco smoke on employees has been underway since 2009 against Wynn Las Vegas. The casino is charged with thinking more about the pleasures of customers than the health of employees, although state laws back the casinos' decision to allow smoking. Casinos owners also contend that they have installed adequate ventilation systems to handle the expected smoke.

The pending Wynn Las Vegas case also seeks class action permission. Attorneys for the casino say federal law demands that class action suits contain plaintiffs who do not all reside in the same state. Over 90 percent of the current and ex-employees of Wynn are Nevada residents.

Source: VEGAS INC, "Judge dismisses second-hand smoke lawsuit against Caesars Entertainment," Steve Green, July 17, 2012

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