N.Y. City Jury Rejects Second-Hand Smoke Lawsuit by Former Inmate

May 14, 2008

A New York City jury has rejected the claim of a former numbers betting chief who said he got bladder cancer by inhaling secondhand cigarette smoke while in city jails.

The jury reached the verdict in Raymond “Spanish Raymond” Marquez’s $15 million lawsuit against the city. The city Law Department reported the verdict this week.

Marquez, 78, claimed in a 2001 lawsuit that the city and its Department of Correction were negligent and violated a 1990 state law by allowing indoor smoking while he was jailed.

Marquez said his bladder cancer, diagnosed in September 2000, was caused by the secondhand cigarette smoke he inhaled at the Tombs and Rikers Island jails. Beginning in 1998, he spent 29 months in the jails awaiting trial.

During a two-week trial in Manhattan’s state Supreme Court, Marquez testified he smoked for 30 years — from age 15 to 45 — but said that had nothing to do with his bladder cancer, the city Law Department said. The agency said he also testified he never inhaled.

Marquez’ lawyer and son, David Marquez, did not immediately return a telephone call Tuesday.

The city’s lead lawyer, Scot Gleason, said, “This is a perfect example of some of the ridiculous cases that the city must defend against — and on which we waste incredible amounts of taxpayer dollars.”

Marquez, who ran a multimillion-dollar numbers racket for 50 years, was jailed at Rikers Island before and during a trial on certain gambling charges of which he was acquitted in 2001, his son said when the lawsuit was first filed.

The elder Marquez was diagnosed in September 2000 with bladder cancer and has undergone three surgeries, his son said in 2005. He said the cancer was in remission, but his father also suffers from diabetes and heart problems.

The case went to trial after Justice Michael Stallman rejected the city’s motion to dismiss it. Stallman said a jury should decide whether the city was negligent and caused Marquez’ ailments.

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