“I no longer have to live from one day to the next, which is good news,” Friedhelm Adolfs told a gaggle of journalists after the judgement. The 78-year-old, who has lived in a ground-floor rented flat for more than 40 years, then lit up a victory cigar in front of the courthouse.
It was a fitting end to a dramatic 4-year legal battle which led to Adolfs being dubbed “Germany’s second-most famous smoker after [ex-Chancellor] Helmut Schmidt”.
After Schmidt’s penchant for gaspers cut his life tragically short at the age of 96 last November, Adolfs would appear to have taken over his mantle as Germany’s best known smoker.
And on Wednesday, the Rhineland pensioner had something else to celebrate, as the Düsseldorf district court ruled that he could stay in his home, overturning a previous ruling which supported his conviction.
The court decided it had not found sufficient evidence that Adolfs was destroying the domestic peace with his cigarette smoke. It also did not approve an appeal.
Although the judgment is not yet final, another reversal in the long-lasting lawsuit has effectively been ruled out.
Adolfs’ landlady had been trying for years to oust the chain-smoker from the flat, claiming he unduly troubled neighbours in the block and endangered their health.
And yet, the magistrate did not consider this a satisfactory reason.
“The evidence has not provided a coherent enough picture for us to assume a sustained infringement on the duty of a tenant,” said Judge Rolf Maurer, concluding that there was no ground to present him with his notice.
The judge emphasised that, for the court, it was a question of whether Adolfs’ behaviour had conflicted with his responsibilities as a tenant, and not whether he fundamentally should be allowed to smoke in his apartment. “That right he is allowed,” said Maurer.
He continued that it could not be proved that Adolfs had not shown enough consideration for his neighbours. According to the court, dismissal without notice requires that one party permanently damages the domestic accord, for instance if the flat is not adequately ventilated or the ash not disposed of.
The court battle has occupied the judiciary for more than three years. Initially, Adolfs suffered several defeats: the judiciary concluded back then that, despite his heavy smoking, he hardly ever aired the flat, and that thick smoke was being drawn into the communal hall and significantly inconveniencing the neighbours.
However, the Federal Court overruled the judgement in February 2015, criticising the Düsseldorf judiciary, and ordered a comprehensive re-examination of the evidence. Thirteen witnesses were questioned, and they contradicted each other substantially in their answer to the vital questions: how much of an irritation was the cigarette smoke, and who was creating it?