The skies of America's airline industry are anything but hospitable these days. Operational costs are up, profits (what profits) are nonexistent, fuel costs are going through the roof and labor problems seem to always be looming on the horizon.
The entire airline industry, with the notable exception of Southwest Airlines, has made losing money an art form. Since the deregulation of the airline industry in 1979, a number of major carriers (including Eastern, Braniff and Pan Am) have gone under while scores of other carriers have filed for bankruptcy protection.
About the last thing the airlines needed were a pack of litigation crazed lawyers looking to score some nice pocket change - but that's exactly what they got.
Some of the lawsuits filed by airline chasing lawyers include the following:
Airlines are bracing themselves for lawsuits being brought by hundreds of passengers over the condition known as deep vein thrombosis ("DVT"). DVT, now commonly known in legal circles as "economy class syndrome" since this condition allegedly tends to afflict passengers on long haul flights, occurs when a blood clot forms due to hours of immobility and cramped seating.
Once the passenger leaves the plane, the blood clot may become dislodged and then travel to a vital organ and have a deadly result. Lawyers are citing that airlines have known about this problem for years and have failed to adequately warn their passengers. There's the key to the piggy bank. Lawyers looking to win millions always claim that the big company knew about the problem and failed to correct it (remember the cigarette lawsuits).
Is the evidence conclusive? Of course not. Does that matter to the lawyers looking hovering over the airline industry.What do you think? These lawsuits have the potential for massive pay-outs, since the airlines have deep pockets to pick. In It's Time to Wake Up and Smell the Lawyers, we examine how money grubbing lawyers always gravitate towards the deep pocketed companies. No big surprise here.
Another hotbed of lawsuit activity concerning the airline industry involves toxic air in the passenger cabin. Airlines and airplane manufacturers are getting hit with a flurry of "toxic air" related lawsuits.
Various lawsuits brought by flight attendants allege that some airlines and the companies that manufactured the aircraft have known (bingo!) that the MD-80 and DC-9 aircraft have design flaws that make it easy for leaking chemical fluids to get sucked into the auxiliary power unit (a small turbine engine used to generate electricity and circulate cabin air before takeoff) and then mix with the cabin air. Naturally, the defendants deny the claims.
After a group of Alaska Airlines flight attendants garnered a $725,000 out of court settlement regarding the claims, Boeing and Honeywell were next on the hit list. The fun had just begun.
A man, traveling aboard U. S. Airways, was taking a snooze when the plane landed in Birmingham, Alabama. Somehow the crew managed to leave him on the plane. When he awoke from his slumber, the man claimed it was really dark and he didn't know if he was dead or alive. He sued for fright and other harms.
A Delta Airlines passenger won $1.25 million for "landing trauma" after a terrifying emergency landing en route to Cincinnati. Her lawyer contended that the episode caused her to suffer post-traumatic stress syndrome (there's another one of those syndromes again) and aggravation of her pre-existing depression. The judge ruled that her terror during landing led to physical changes within the brain and that "could" be defined as an injury.
A government employee sued Air Canada for more than $500,000 because he could not order a 7-Up in French. During a flight, the man ordered a 7-Up in French and the flight attendant couldn't understand the order. Eventually the man ended up with a Sprite. After a heated argument that ultimately required the local police to meet the plane upon arrival, the passenger sued over the language dispute (I'm not quite sure how the argument went since communication appears to have been the problem in the first place). Afterward, the man said he wanted Air Canada to apologize for not offering services in French and to toss him some pocket change for his trouble.
A judge ruled that Southwest Airlines did not unlawfully discriminate against one of its passengers when the airline required the passenger to purchase a second seat on one of its flights. The passenger tipped the scales at over 300 pounds.
A few days earlier, an official agency in Canada recommended that airlines be forbidden to charge their highly obese passengers for a second seat if a excessively corpulent passenger required one. This recommendation was based on the grounds that an highly overweight condition should be counted as a disability entitled to compensation. Twinkie anyone
If you're a member of American Airlines' frequent flyer program, you may have received a class action settlement notice in the mail. The brouhaha centers around the airline's decision to raise the point level requirement for a free coach class ticket from the previous 20,000 mile level to 25,000. Good grief, doesn't anybody have something better to do with their time
By the way, while the class member may receive a 5,000 mile discount on a frequent flyer award or up to $75 off the purchase of a ticket (minimum ticket price of $220), the attorneys are looking to pocket fees "not to exceed $25 million."
When a lawyer is looking to make a fortune, it seems like the sky's the limit these days. Look out below!
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