A German court has ordered the retrial of a chain smoking pensioner facing eviction over the stench of cigarettes coming from his apartment. Friedhelm Adolfs has become a hero for smoking rights during his legal battle.
The decision by Germany's Federal Court of Justice on Wednesday means the 76-year-old will be able to stay in his Düsseldorf apartment - at least for now.
"I am satisfied," a smiling Friedhelm Adolfs told reporters outside the Karlsruhe court. The pensioner has been a smoker for 60 years, and has lived in his flat for more than four decades.
In 2013, the flat's owner issued Adolfs with an eviction notice for a "serious violation" of rental rules, arguing the widower had ignored requests to empty his ashtrays and properly air his apartment. The landlord's lawyers said Adolfs repeatedly refused to open his windows to get rid of the smell of smoke, which escaped into the stairwell every time he opened the front door.
Adolfs' appeal against the lease termination was thrown out by a lower court last June. But that ruling was overturned on Wednesday by the federal judges in Karlsruhe, who pointed to flaws in the original trial and urged for an out-of-court settlement.
The court criticized the district tribunal for reaching its judgment without visiting the site, speaking to witnesses, or carrying out air pollution readings.
Adolfs' case has attracted a significant amount of public attention because it could have wider implications for millions of other smokers in Germany, where a majority of the population live in apartment buildings.
The trial has also ignited concerns in smoking rights circles about the possibility of smoking restrictions being applied to private homes. Smoking is banned in many enclosed public spaces in Germany, such as government buildings and train stations, as well as in restaurants.
nm/kms (AFP, dpa)