Should a person pay compensation to the family of a smoker who dies of a heart attack after arguing with him on being asked to not smoke in an elevator?

As far as rules are concerned, no one would say the smoker had the right to smoke in the elevator. A "No Smoking" sign is displayed in every elevator, and no one has the right to violate the rule, claiming he has the freedom to smoke in a public facility such as an elevator or doesn't know smoking is prohibited in elevators.

However, when a person dies, irrespective of the cause of the death a judge often times rules in favor of the deceased because of the traditional thinking that the dead should be respected. Although every person has the right to tell a smoker not to smoke in an elevator, there is no doubt the smoker's death would deal a tragic blow to his family, for which they can go to court in the hope of getting compensation from the other party involved.

In such a case, the court of first instance ruled the person who tried to stop the deceased from smoking did nothing wrong. But considering that the quarrel might have triggered the heart attack that caused his death, the court said the other party pay 15,000 yuan ($2,371.70) as compensation to the smoker's family. Not satisfied by the verdict, the family of the deceased filed an appeal in a higher court, claiming the argument was the direct cause of his death and thus they should be paid 400,000 yuan in compensation.

However, the final verdict by Zhengzhou Intermediate People's Court dealt a blow to the smoker's family, by not only denying their request but also ruling that the other party should not pay a single penny. The investigation conducted by the court showed the smoker was suffering from a serious heart disease and had once undergone a bypass surgery, while the close circuit TV camera footage in the elevator revealed the argument was not violent enough to trigger a heart attack.

Moreover, a person is well within his or her right to reason with a smoker not to smoke in a public place or facility, the court said, annulling the ruling of the court of first instance.

Apart from delivering justice to the defendant, the Zhengzhou Intermediate People's Court's ruling also sided with justice without unnecessarily sympathizing with the family just because their relative had died.

Two years ago, a man surnamed Lan in Zhangzhou, Fujian province, who chased a thief, paid 70,000 yuan to a thief's family as compensation because the thief fell to his death while being chased. The reason: the man should have realized that on a rainy day, the thief could slip and fall to his death. If there is logic in this argument, no one should chase a suspect or take any action against a criminal suspect until he or she makes sure the suspect won't in any condition get hurt or die.

A court verdict should reflect the spirit of the rule of law, according to which those who have violated the law must receive due punishment and those who have defended the rule of law protected.

In the elevator case, the person who asked the deceased not to smoke was not just defending his right of not being exposed to second-hand smoking; he was also trying to protect the sanctity of the rule of law. Ordering him to pay compensation to the deceased smoker's family would only dissuade others from trying to stop people from violating the law.

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