For 18 years, Mildred Wiley was a nurse in the psychiatric ward at a Veterans Administration hospital, caring for patients who smoked so much that she often worked in a blue haze.
Last week, the U.S. Labor Department ordered the VA to pay her widower $21,500 a year until his death - half of her salary - in the first workers’ compensation case in the nation linking secondhand smoke to a cancer death.
The Labor Department ruled Dec. 8 that secondhand smoke was partly to blame for her death from lung cancer in 1991. Mrs. Wiley didn’t smoke. Nor does her husband.
Mrs. Wiley’s husband, Philip E. Wiley of Charlotte, N.C., also has sued seven large tobacco companies. The workers’ compensation ruling is not admissible in court.