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Smoking cigarette 370.(Photo by: Daniel Munoz/Reuters)
Court orders 10-fold increase in smoking compensation
Likely to serve as precedent against owners of premises that fail to enforce laws.
The Bella Shlomkin’s club, which two years ago was ordered by the Central District Court to pay the Israel Cancer Association NIS 90,000 for failing to ensure no smoking on the premises, received an unpleasant surprise on Thursday.

The Supreme Court, sitting as the Court of Civil Appeals, decided to increase the Tel Aviv club’s compensation payment in a class-action suit to NIS 1,160,000, “to be used to fight and prevent lung cancer.”

The unprecedented ruling, according to lawyer Amos Hausner, chairman of the Israel Society for the Prevention of Smoking, is likely to be used against all owners of premises that fail to enforce no-smoking laws, including those related to illegal open-air smoking. Hausner presented the original case against the club and appealed the relatively small size of the original compensation.

Indoor workplaces and other public places – including outdoors such as bus stations and CityPass’s Light Rail stations in Jerusalem – will have to become aware of the fact that this ruling is a precedent and that they be the next one to be liable for failing to enforce the law, Hausner said.

Hausner’s case on the behalf of former Soviet immigrants was recognized by Judge Michal Nadav of the Central District Court as a class-action suit representing many nonsmoking customers who suffered from cigarettes during their time at the club.

The massive hike in compensation was based on the calculation of the number of people exposed to secondhand smoke – 1,160 – multiplied by the compensation of NIS 1,000 for each. The consent of the parties was obtained after a prolonged hearing by the Supreme Court (which did not increase the compensation against an active board member of the club).

The ICA, which was originally supposed to receive only NIS 90,000 plus lawyers’ fees, warmly welcomed the Supreme Court ruling by Justices Miriam Naor, Neal Hendel and Zvi Zylbertal on the basis of a hearing held on May 20 of this year. It said it would use the money for expanding its broad activities against tobacco, which is the No. 1 preventible cause of death in Israel.

In 2008, Mark and Yelena Litvin and Maxim Tutionik – former Russian immigrants who attended Friday-night, Russian-speaking events at the club located on Noah Mozes Street – sued the establishment for not preventing illegal smoking on its premises despite protests from three customers.

One witness testified that he was ejected from the club by manager Ron Fire after asking that the incessant smoking of customers be stopped.
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