Where There's Smoke, There's a Lawyer

When the Chungs found the pants days later and presented them to their customer, he refused to accept them and claimed they were not the pants he had given them, despite the matching tag, and promptly filed a lawsuit. Not for their value, about $800, but for $67 million.

The man who filed that suit was -- surprise again -- a lawyer. He was a local judge, in fact, named Roy Pearson. Pearson took his complaint to trial. He did drop the damage amount from $67 million though -- to $54 million. The case was finally dismissed, but because of the dispute, the Chungs had to close one of their two stores.

'This Is An Abuse'

Likewise, Huff says the Selbins' lawsuit has taken a toll on her. "Almost for one year, I'm not sleeping and I'm having stomachache."

The "20/20" team didn't smell any smoke in the common space outside Huff's door. And, the Ansonia isn't your typical apartment building. The hallways are huge, 10 feet across and 100 feet long. You could drive a car through there. Any smoke that comes out of an apartment would dissipate. And the door of the lawyers who are suing is at least 50 feet from Huff's main entrance.

Still, smoke can leak out from many places, so Huff worked to reduce the smell. She says she's tried to quit smoking, but failed. She got four air purifiers … big ones. "I was trying to do everything to change what I could change or what I could add: the machine, the windows, to seal the apartment. I did everything that I could have done. … This is an abuse."

And it's not as if she intruded on the Selbins' space. Huff has lived in her apartment for 15 years. The Selbins moved next door five years ago.

"I was first here and when they come to buy the apartment … they didn't smell it?"

When we asked the Selbins about that, Jonathan Selbin wrote us, " I have lived in the building since 1999. My wife and I looked at what is now my apartment on several occasions, and on those occasions there was no strong smell of smoke in the hallways. I do not know why that was -- perhaps she was away during those visits. Or perhaps it was because I visited during the day, and the smoke is usually worst first thing in the morning and again in the evening, in other words, times she is home."

One other point. Their building is on Broadway in New York City. There are lots of chimneys, and exhaust fumes from cars, trucks, and buses. How pristine does the air have to be? We're breathing all kinds of things around here.

This week Jonathan Selbin wrote ABC News and asked, "Have you asked Ms. Huff how she would react if we put dog poison in the shared hallway?" So we asked her.

"How can you say something like this?" Huff said.

Selbin also wrote ABC News, "We also do not want to try to tell Ms. Huff to stop smoking (in her home or anywhere else), nor is it our business what she does in the privacy of her home. It is only because her smoke comes into our common, shared hallway that it has become our business."

You don't want Jonathan Selbin getting into your business. He's a class action lawyer. He sues companies for millions. His law firm Web site brags that a magazine named him a "Super Lawyer." It's not good to fight with a "super lawyer."

This week, he sent Huff a settlement agreement with a new list of demands that she must meet if she hopes to get out from under his lawsuit. It includes one that says she will not seek any further publicity.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...