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At what point does a lawsuit become frivolous?

By farl in Culture
Sat Dec 22, 2001 at 05:00:18 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Read the article. Think about the points it raises and why the lady is trying to sue United.


Now think about it realistically. At some point frivolous lawsuits become so engaging in court, that they seriously detract from courts being able to pursue "honest" criminals (and no, this is not an oxymoron, it is use of the word in its correct form).

Now you might say this lawsuit is not frivolous, that the airline had a real responsibility to go "above and beyond" to secure the safety of its passengers. Well I claim that they made a damn good effort. It is really hard to secure anything totally. Would you like to be the systems administrator on a server right after it has been hacked? We all know that no system is full proof, but we take the risks anyway.

Getting on a plane is no different. Riding in a car is no different. Taking an elevator is no different.

What is different is people's irrational response to tragedy that is caused by freak, random events (and planned acts of terrorism, although these are rarer). If anything, the lady should be suing the Taliban, or some other terrorist organization. Suing United is just a money-grabbing scheme. While she is claiming to not be applying for any money from the Federal fund created for such a purpose, she is going after United for "unspecified amounts".

Money does not solve "substantial non-economic damages including "loss of companionship, grief, sorrow, pain and anguish.", and her lawyer even goes further to state "Mrs. Mariani doesn't want the taxpayers' money,'' he said. "She wants her day in court with United Airlines.'' Well she obviously wants United's money. Why else could she possibly want to go to court? Does she want to air her dirty laundry? Does she want to point out to United (just in case they didn't notice the hijacking of their planes) that there might have been a problem on September 11?

Silly people get silly ideas stuck in their head. Wasting taxpayers money on the court case, after saying she doesn't want the taxpayers' money", seems pretty damn stupid to me. Her case will cost more than what the fund would ever have given her. It is like suing someone for $500 when you waste 100 hours of their time at $400 per hour. The math does not work.

People need to be more realistic. Lashing out at someone who is "realistically" not to blame for what happened (and even if they are, I think they realized their problem, and are going to great lengths to make sure it never happens again), is ludicrous. Darwinism espouses learning through experience, trial and error. While this was a catastrophe beyond imaging, it fits under the "error" category. Learn, move on, and destroy terrorism. Don't attack the wrong people.

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At what point does a lawsuit become frivolous? | 53 comments (37 topical, 16 editorial, 0 hidden)
At first I was... (4.25 / 12) (#4)
by chrome koran on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 05:06:50 PM EST

fully in agreement with you. "Damn suit-happy lawyers!"

But I thought it over, and I'm not so sure in this case...The failings of the FAA, individual airport security management, and yes, the airlines have been well documented in the aftermath of September 11th. (Poorly trained personnel, lax internal policies, no background checks, etc.) If I am to believe even half of what I have read since then, all of these parties knew the problems existed and decided paying some rather lightweight fines on a monthly basis was cheaper than addressing them properly.

I'm not saying she's right. I'm not saying she should get $10 million. However, I think she just might deserve a chance to get up in a courtroom and have the case heard. This isn't nearly as frivolous as dozens of cases that make it to court every day.

A few comments here (2.75 / 4) (#7)
by Zeram on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 05:27:53 PM EST

First, anyone who didn't expect this is either mentally defecent or horribly naive. Second, while I do not neccessarily think this woman deserves to get money out of this suit, if her lawsuit nets her a couple mil, then maybe, just maybe the FAA and the Airlines will sit up and listen and at least try to upgrade the security in Americas airports.
<----^---->
Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
Cost (4.00 / 3) (#8)
by farl on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 05:31:25 PM EST

Care to estimate how much this cost the airlines? Quite a bit more than a few millions. I am willing to venture that its more by at least a few digits.

And yes, such reactions are expected. Does not make them less stupid. Herd mentatlity is predictable, but still herd mentality


Farl
k5@sketchwork.com
www.sketchwork.com
[ Parent ]
Greed (2.80 / 5) (#9)
by sneakcjj on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 05:59:46 PM EST

Sometimes I wonder if the people that died look down upon us, shaking their heads in disgust.

What is the point of this lawsuit? She wants to sue over negligence? If anyone can even remotely be considered negligent it is the U.S. government, but things like that are tough to predict.

This is only about money. I'm sure all she sees when looking at old pictures are dollar signs. All this will accomplish (if she succeeds) is bankrupting United and putting more people out of work.

Way to go lady.

Who's at fault (3.50 / 2) (#12)
by FriedLinguini on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 06:33:16 PM EST

Not sure who will wind up holding the bag here. If United properly implemented all mandatory security procedures required by the FAA, then the suit probably won't stick. However, if the court finds that the highjackers made it through security because of the incompetence of the security personnel or because of lax procedures, then United might well be liable. Yes, the terrorists are very much to blame, but that does not absolve United of the responsibility to follow security procedures mandated by law.

Of course, proving that United failed to follow the law or take reasonable security precautions will be tricky.

As far as the money goes, the bulk of it from a successful lawsuit would probably come from punitive damages. I.e., it's not so much to reward the plaintiff as to punish the defendant.

[ Parent ]

disagree (3.50 / 2) (#14)
by Danse on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 07:49:15 PM EST

While I'm sure she won't mind getting the money, I think what she's really interested in is punishing United. How do you punish a corporation? There's really only one effective way. You gotta hit them in the wallet. Hard.






An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
Here's an idea. (none / 0) (#50)
by dasunt on Mon Dec 24, 2001 at 01:22:34 PM EST

Unfortunately, many corporations tend to look at the potential loss of life as a balance sheet. Sure, hiring cheap workers with a high rate of turnover, improper background checks, and little training for security work would probably lead to disasters, but as long as they don't get blamed and, even if they did, if the payouts were small enough, then its cost effective to put people's lives at risks. (It reminds me of the scene from 'Fightclub' where the guy deals with car accidents that resulted from the defective products).

So, assume the best of her. Assume that this lawsuit is aimed at preventing more loss of life by forcing the airlines to take responsibility for the security of their customers.

[ Parent ]

Thoughts (4.00 / 3) (#11)
by tailchaser on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 06:18:26 PM EST

I can't get to the article, so apologies in advance if any of my random thoughts run counter to something it states.

It is really hard to secure anything totally.
...but I think the issue here is more that it's not really hard to TRY to secure something.

Let's take that hypothetical sysop that you mentioned with his poor little hacked box. Would I like to be him? If I had checked everything myself, patched everything that needed to be patched, and locked the server down to the best extent that was possible, then I wouldn't mind - after all, it would probably have to be a new, unknown, undocumented hack that his me, and I couldn't reasonably be expected to stop something that I didn't know existed. However, if I had just plugged the box in, installed the software, and let it run loose, then I'd be fearing for my job.

Personally, I'd suspect that this is more a case of a lawyer tracking this poor woman down and whispering in her ear than anything else, but maybe I'm just cynical because it seems that the ONLY people making money from large lawsuits are the lawyers. ;p

   -tc

Liability Lawsuits Work (3.66 / 6) (#13)
by tudlio on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 06:37:09 PM EST

Liability lawsuits are the best, highest practice of the capitalist ideal. Capitalism, if it's about anything, is about harnessing greed to deliver beneficial social goods. Liability lawsuits are about using the greed of individuals to identify and punish harmful behavior.

Your approach is a bit egotistical (and more suited to an op-ed). The court system is designed to decide whether a given thesis is true (in this case, whether the airlines fell short of reasonable expectations in ensuring the safety of their passengers). To reach that decision, the court system uses a very elaborate procedure to review all the available and relevant evidence, and to ensure that no individual bias clouds the decision. You, on the other hand, reach that conclusion (as far as I can tell) on instinct and a layman's understanding of the industry.

I agree that there are some suits that, on the surface, are laughable. So does the court, which is why a judge can throw a case out. IMHO, this is not one of them. There are simple measures that airlines could have taken prior to this that would have decreased the chances of a successful hijack. Airlines chose not to take those measures for primarily economic reasons. A successful suit might cause them to choose differently the next time they sit down to make that calculation.

I don't think that any amount of money will make Mrs. Mariani happy again. Nor do I think that Mrs. Mariani "deserves" money because of what happened to her husband. To be coldly honest, I don't care about Mrs. Mariani. I do care about convincing corporations to take seriously their responsibilities toward their customers and their community.




insert self-deprecatory humor here
They don't, really (5.00 / 2) (#18)
by cthugha on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 09:19:17 PM EST

Liability lawsuits are the best, highest practice of the capitalist ideal. Capitalism, if it's about anything, is about harnessing greed to deliver beneficial social goods. Liability lawsuits are about using the greed of individuals to identify and punish harmful behavior.

No it isn't. Corporations don't clean up their act in fear of a negligence action, they just take out liability insurance. United won't be paying the damages here, we will through higher insurance premiums as a result of the additional economic burden on United's insurers. In our system, while profit may be privatized, loss is almost always socialized.

There are simple measures that airlines could have taken prior to this that would have decreased the chances of a successful hijack. Airlines chose not to take those measures for primarily economic reasons.

In other words, in the absence of appropriate regulation, airlines don't impose draconian security measures because they fear we, the paying public, won't be prepared to put up with the inconvenience and choose to fly with another carrier. Whose fault is the lack of security, really? United's or ours?

Nor do I think that Mrs. Mariani "deserves" money because of what happened to her husband.

Here I have a little more sympathy. It may be the case that Mrs Mariani's husband was her sole source of support. Having that sole source of support taken away will probably impose serious hardship upon her. She'll probably have to go out to work to support herself, and with children that may be a seriuous burden. She shouldn't have to put up with this serious disruption to her life because of somebody else's wrongdoing (if there was wrongdoing).

I do care about convincing corporations to take seriously their responsibilities toward their customers and their community.

You'd think that over half a century of negligence litigation would have had some effect to this end, wouldn't you? Funnily enough, it hasn't. Obviously, the current system of fault-based negligence in a largely regulation-free environment doesn't work very well.



[ Parent ]
It has been effective... (3.00 / 1) (#19)
by tudlio on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 09:42:41 PM EST

You'd think that over half a century of negligence litigation would have had some effect to this end, wouldn't you? Funnily enough, it hasn't. Obviously, the current system of fault-based negligence in a largely regulation-free environment doesn't work very well.

I don't agree. There have been any number of cases that have changed corporate behavior, the most famous of which was the McDonald's coffee cup burn. McDonald's was using coffee heated much higher than one would reasonably expect so they could eke out the life of any give pot. After the damage settlement, they lowered the temperature of their coffee. A not entirely unbiased source for other such cases is the American Trial Lawyers Association. Check out this page for a description.




insert self-deprecatory humor here
[ Parent ]
That was more to do with bad publicity (4.00 / 1) (#20)
by cthugha on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 10:08:34 PM EST

I notice that most of the cases on the page you refer to involve very large companies. I would question whether it was the publicity associated with the case rather than the damages award which encouraged the guilty parties to improve their behaviour. You don't need a court system to publicize bad corporate behaviour, a good journalist or public advocate would do the trick.

I wouldn't say that the law of negligence is a totally ineffective way of ensuring good corporate behaviour, but to suggest that it should be relied upon as a general system of corporate behavioural correction is not tenable. You can't point to a handful of cases out of thousands and say, "See? It works!"



[ Parent ]
Publicity only works sometimes (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by tudlio on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 10:39:23 PM EST

....to suggest that it should be relied upon as a general system of corporate behavioural correction is not tenable.

Agreed. I think liability law should be one of a number of different strategies that we, as citizens, employ to keep corporations in line.

I can't resist addressing your suggestion that we use public exposure instead. There are undoubtedly some causes that capture public imagination (like the use of nets that kill dolphins in the pursuit of tuna), but there are others that don't (like the McDonald's case). How many people are going to boycott McDonald's because their coffee is too hot? And how many people can understand and therefore act on environmental damages that aren't as photogenic as dead dolphins or Love Canal children?




insert self-deprecatory humor here
[ Parent ]
Civil law has problems with environmental damage (3.00 / 1) (#32)
by cthugha on Fri Dec 21, 2001 at 07:38:57 AM EST

I can't resist addressing your suggestion that we use public exposure instead.

I wasn't suggesting that at all. I was merely questioning the contribution of the legal system in those particular circumstances?

How many people are going to boycott McDonald's because their coffee is too hot?

They're not going to boycott McDonald's, they're just not going to buy the coffee, leaving McDonald's with a useless product. By your capitalist logic, nothing more is necessary.

And how many people can understand and therefore act on environmental damages that aren't as photogenic as dead dolphins or Love Canal children?

As far as environmental cases go, civil (i.e. private) law has real problems. Environmental damage is really a public wrong, whereas civil law deals with private wrongs. Just think about the problems associated with an action for pure environmental damage. Who would have standing to bring such an action? Who would you award damages to? There's nobody who's directly suffered a loss or injury, so it doesn't make sense to give a big damages award to whichever concerned citizen or action group that brings the case.

There are, of course, cases where people do suffer as a result of environmental damage. The trouble is, they usually suffer incurable or terminal diseases. You can give them a big award, and maybe that will help redeem the offending corporate entity,1 but that method of deterrence still leaves you with a lot of dead or permanently injured plaintiffs. You need to be able to enforce the law before there's an injury, and private law doesn't give you the chance to do that. In addition, you're placing the heavy burden of finding legal representation up to the task of taking on corporate titans on ordinary citizens of modest economic means.

1. You'll probably also get an injunction to stop them continuing the offending behaviour, but since we're talking about the merits of damages as a punitive measure to correct bad corporate behaviour, we'll stick to that and leave other remedies out of it.



[ Parent ]
To paraphrase narrator (4.00 / 3) (#16)
by ZanThrax on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 08:16:40 PM EST

  • First, we estimate the average number of lawsuits and the average settlement per suit. Multiplying these together gives us A.
  • Second, we determine the cost of increasing security to a level sufficient to prevent armed hijackings, including the loss in revenue as people become more and more frustrated with the time it takes to pass through security. This is amount B.
  • If A is not greater than B, then we don't increase security to a level sufficient to prevent armed hijackings.
  • Finally, in the unlikely event that A is actually a sufficiently large number of billions that we implement sufficient security, some lunatics will still hijack a plane if they really want to simply by using blunt objects or their fists to beat passengers.

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.

Farl, I think you're thinking too hard... (4.60 / 5) (#17)
by yankeehack on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 09:12:24 PM EST

:-) No, really, I believe you are.

When I read about Mrs. Mariani suing, I thought good for her. The lawsuit's strong point is that AIRLINES were responsible for AIRPORT SECURITY prior to September 11th. It is a known fact that the airlines awarded the security jobs to the lowest bidder. (Apparently this was done because the companies wanted to be able to land other airport contracts for gate workers, food service, etc in addition to the loss leader security jobs.) This is how Argenbright and ITS and all of those other $5 an hour folks got in there in the first place. Argenbright has had many, many problems at airports all across the country including Philadelphia (where there were convicted felons working security) and Logan (where Mrs. Mariani--who was on a different airliner on September 11th and her husband took off from). In addition, since September 11th, there have been numerous stories about security lapses.

It is important to consider that since United was the company responsible for contracting out for security, United is ultimately responsible for the quality of the service.

Thousands of reasons why we are fighting a just war.

A fair payout . . . (3.00 / 1) (#23)
by Maclir on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 11:35:10 PM EST

Find the average payout from the government fund to the victims' families. Divide by 2 (or 3, or 4). Give that to the misguided litigant.

This is a subject line. (4.33 / 15) (#26)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri Dec 21, 2001 at 12:46:46 AM EST

Think about the points it raises and why the lady is trying to sue United.
The only point I thought the article really raised was, "Survivors please don't join in in suing the airlines, it isn't patriotic." Honestly, they didn't give one good reason for this lady not to sue.
Now think about it realistically. At some point frivolous lawsuits become so engaging in court, that they seriously detract from courts being able to pursue "honest" criminals (and no, this is not an oxymoron, it is use of the word in its correct form).
Huh? Since this is not a criminal suit, but a civil suit, it has no bearing on the ability of criminal courts to go after "honest" criminals.
Now you might say this lawsuit is not frivolous, that the airline had a real responsibility to go "above and beyond" to secure the safety of its passengers.
I sincerely doubt whether Ellen Mariani's lawyers will claim that the airline had a real responsibility to go "above and beyond". More likely the will claim that the airlines didn't even try to do an adequate job on security matters.
Well I claim that they made a damn good effort. It is really hard to secure anything totally. Would you like to be the systems administrator on a server right after it has been hacked? We all know that no system is full proof, but we take the risks anyway.
You don't read the news very frequently, do you? To say that airline security in many US airports is abysmal would be rather charitable.
Getting on a plane is no different. Riding in a car is no different. Taking an elevator is no different.
Incorrect. Four people armed with box cutters in a car or elevator would not be capable of knocking over the Word Trade Centers.
What is different is people's irrational response to tragedy that is caused by freak, random events (and planned acts of terrorism, although these are rarer). If anything, the lady should be suing the Taliban, or some other terrorist organization.
If it can be demonstrated that United was negligent in its security practices and if it can be shown that this negligence contributed to the events of September 11th, does it not follow that United bears part of the blame?

Let's say that an SUV with flawed tires is put into a situation where it would not have flipped if its tires were not flawed by a terrorist in a bigger SUV intentionally ramming into the first SUV. Given that if the tires were not flawed, the SUV would not have flipped, is not the tire manufacturer partly responsible for the accident (and especially so if it can be demonstrated that the tire company knew about the flaws in the tires)?

Suing United is just a money-grabbing scheme.
On the one hand, yes it is a money grabbing scheme. On the other hand, it may also be much more than that. For example, given that Ellen Mariani bought her husband's plan ticket as a surprise with the proceeds of personal endeavors such as yard sales, the lawsuit might be a way of soothing her conscience over her role in the drama. It could also be that Ellen Mariani is interested in seeing an airline get slapped with a big enough fine for it start to take notice of security.
While she is claiming to not be applying for any money from the Federal fund created for such a purpose, she is going after United for "unspecified amounts".
So taking money from an orgnization that may have directly profitted off of intentionally ignoring security concerns is no different from taking money from taxpayers that have no direct link?
Money does not solve "substantial non-economic damages including "loss of companionship, grief, sorrow, pain and anguish.", and her lawyer even goes further to state "Mrs. Mariani doesn't want the taxpayers' money,'' he said. "She wants her day in court with United Airlines.''
This could be the case. Money may very well be of secondary concern to Ellen Mariani. It may even be of secondary concern to her lawyer.
Well she obviously wants United's money.
Really? You can read her mind?
Why else could she possibly want to go to court? Does she want to air her dirty laundry? Does she want to point out to United (just in case they didn't notice the hijacking of their planes) that there might have been a problem on September 11?
Such little imagination. I thought of two reasons above. I could probably think of more.
Silly people get silly ideas stuck in their head. Wasting taxpayers money on the court case, after saying she doesn't want the taxpayers' money", seems pretty damn stupid to me. Her case will cost more than what the fund would ever have given her. It is like suing someone for $500 when you waste 100 hours of their time at $400 per hour. The math does not work.
How will the court case waste taxpayers money? Given that it is a civil suit, one of the parties will have to reimburse the court for costs incurred.
People need to be more realistic. Lashing out at someone who is "realistically" not to blame for what happened (and even if they are, I think they realized their problem, and are going to great lengths to make sure it never happens again), is ludicrous.
One would have thought that after the rash of hijackings in the seventies and after the rash of bombings in the eighties that airlines would have gone to great lengths to make certain that they have adequate security. The fact of the matter is that airline security has routinely been the target of exposes, ridicule, criticism and reproach and many airlines have done very little to improve the situation.
Darwinism espouses learning through experience, trial and error.
And going to court over this is not learning by trial and error how? ;)
While this was a catastrophe beyond imaging, it fits under the "error" category.
Stephen King imagined something very much like September 11 in The Running Man except in that tome the "terrorist" was the good guy. George Carlin imagined terrorists taking over a plain with pocket knives in one of his routines from eighties or nineties (Are you diseased or something like that).

The hostile takeovers by terrorists certainly was imaginable. It was also preventable (although perhaps not by methods that most travellers by air would be willing to accept). Ellen Mariani will likely have to prove with a preponderance of evidence not only that United could have reasonably forseen an attack like this, but also that their negligence contributed to the terrorists being able to carry out their nefarious plans. I'm not a lawyer, but I belive that all United has to do is to show that they were not negligent or that even if they weren't negligent this attack would still have happened. (And personally I believe that the second line of defense is the way to go, I don't think that this type of attack could have been prevented short of several armed gards on a plane which AFAIK is currently against the law.)

But why can't Ellen have her day in court? If her lawsuit really is as frivilous as you seem to think, the judge will throw her case out and (I believe, but could be wrong) that she will have to pay for court costs and United's relevant legal expenses. On the other hand, her suit may very well have merit and if it does then the Darwinism of letting both sides attempt to prove their case before a judge or jury is the best way to find out whose case has the most merit.

Have a day,

Lee Irenæus Malatesta

Ditto (none / 0) (#27)
by Armin on Fri Dec 21, 2001 at 01:07:30 AM EST

You said every thing I wanted to say, but did a better job than I would have. Thanks.

[ Parent ]
oh yeah? (4.00 / 1) (#35)
by garlic on Fri Dec 21, 2001 at 09:39:26 AM EST

"Getting on a plane is no different. Riding in a car is no different. Taking an elevator is no different."

"Incorrect. Four people armed with box cutters in a car or elevator would not be capable of knocking over the Word Trade Centers. "

The problem now is that security has been set up at some places assuming that they can. About 2 weeks ago I went to the Field Museum (in chicago) to check out their Cleopatra exhibit. I had brought a lunch that included apples, and a knife to slice them. The knife in question was a leatherman. For some reason, the Field museum decided they needed to be more secure so that had "guards" checking bags as people came in, and asking people if they had knives.

Now, asking someone if they have a knife to prevent knives from getting into the museum is not really the best way to stop knives from getting into the museum. Not that this should be a goal either. I can't use my knife to hi-jack the museum and fly it into the sears tower. I can use it to slice my apples.

anyway, I was ignorant and I told them that I did have a knife. They asked to see it, and then said I couldn't have it in the museum. I argued with them saying It was for lunch to no avail. They then said I could pick it up on my way out, but weren't going to give me a receipt for it. I was pissed at this point and demanded that they at least put on a scrap of paper that they had my leatherman and give it too me.

I know this went off topic, but I had to get this off my chest. So anyway, I think the point i'm trying to make is that some of the extra security measures are unneeded, and not really preventing anything anyway.

HUSI challenge: post 4 troll diaries on husi without being outed as a Kuron, or having the diaries deleted or moved by admins.
[ Parent ]

Everything you said is true lee (none / 0) (#48)
by ZanThrax on Sun Dec 23, 2001 at 04:49:44 AM EST

including the part about the terrorists still taking over the planes even if reasonable security measures were taken by the airlines.

United may deserve to be kicked around for and forced to fix their abysmal security practices (as should pretty much all the other airlines, and even more so the airports) but in this case, its not their fault.

On top of that, how far do we take blaming enablers? If the airlines and airports are liable for hijackings because their security was pathetic, then perhaps the FAA is liable for allowing their security to be that pathetic. And whichever branch of goverment is in charge of telling the FAA how aggressively to do their job is to blame for the FAA's minimalistic penalties. And whoever elected those people is to blame for putting them in office.

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

Contributory negligence (4.00 / 1) (#49)
by Anonymous 242 on Mon Dec 24, 2001 at 08:35:53 AM EST

On top of that, how far do we take blaming enablers?
Take this with a grain of salt. In the world I live in, any individual or group of individuals in which one can construct a cogent case in front of a jury that demonstrates to them through a preponderance of evidence that the individual or group in question is guilty of contributory negligence is liable for a suit like this.

For the most part I think it a good thing. One might be able to find a jury or judge to take on the FAA. I doubt any sane jury or judge would take a case for the government that appoints the FAA, let alone the people that elect the government that appoints the FAA. (A far better shot in the dark, but still a shot in the dark, would be to go after the people that didn't vote on the theory that their actions were negligent.)

Actions have consequences. We, as individuals, are inarguably responsible for the direct consequences of our actions (barring coercion and so on and so forth). In certain situations, we are also responsible for the indirect consequences of our actions.

Regards,

Lee Irenæus Malatesta

[ Parent ]

Separate court systems... (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by aziegler on Fri Dec 21, 2001 at 02:55:09 AM EST

At some point frivolous lawsuits become so engaging in court, that they seriously detract from courts being able to pursue "honest" criminals (and no, this is not an oxymoron, it is use of the word in its correct form).
There are two court systems in the United States: the civil court system and the criminal court system. There are cases where they overlap, but by and large they run effectively independent of one another.

-austin

Frivolous? (4.40 / 5) (#33)
by LQ on Fri Dec 21, 2001 at 07:56:13 AM EST

I don't think a widow's suit should be termed frivolous just because you don't like her case. And, anyway, the airlines are partially to blame for blocking Clinton's proposed increased security on US internal flights.

Frivolous? (4.25 / 4) (#36)
by /dev/niall on Fri Dec 21, 2001 at 11:53:01 AM EST

How about you define what you think "frivolous" is?

This is not some woman who was served regular coffee instead of decaf-mocha and is claiming damages for mental anguish and nightmares.

Her husband boarded a plane which was hijacked and crashed into a building. The airline is responsible for security. If the airline did not fufill their responsibilities according to the law and FAA regulations, aren't they liable for his death? Doesn't she have a right to make her case for their liability in court?

Who the hell are you to call her suit frivolous? Especially after the recent attention to obvious poor practices in airline security. Her fucking husband is dead. He died on a United plane. United has been shown to have poor security practices. United has certain responsibilities regarding security. Sounds like a pretty good reason for a lawsuit to me.



Re: Frivolous? (4.00 / 2) (#43)
by MeanGene on Sat Dec 22, 2001 at 01:26:44 PM EST

On top of that, it looks to me like this taxpayer-sponsored fund is yet another bailout of large deep-pocketed industry.

If we (through Uncle Sam) want to give these people some money, why should we condition our help on them not suing third parties?

[ Parent ]

Sue United Into Bankruptcy. (3.50 / 2) (#37)
by ignatiusst on Fri Dec 21, 2001 at 01:35:02 PM EST

(1)the airlines claimed responsiblity for their own security,

(2)the worst security in the airline industry is (was?) at the very airports the terrorist used to launch the attack (see this CNN story) - which, by the way, is probably not a coincidence, and

(3)the airlines failed the public in maintaining adequate security because (in my opinion) security is too expensive for their profit margins.

This woman's suit isn't frivolous. The only way United can worm its way out of this one is to get a law passed to protect it from lawsuits against its own incompetence. I sincerly hope this starts a flood of lawsuits that buries the companies that held profit higher than human life and national security.

When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him. -- Jonathan Swift

They did pass a law to protect the airlines. (4.00 / 2) (#38)
by BlaisePascal on Fri Dec 21, 2001 at 03:40:18 PM EST

The only way United can worm its way out of this one is to get a law passed to protect it from lawsuits against its own incompetence.

They did -- to a large degree. The Government has a settlement program for victims of the terrorist attacks, but it comes with the caveat that the recipients of the settlement money agree not to sue the airlines.

Since the money from the settlement is coming from the Federal Government -- the taxpayers -- and not the airline, it effectively lets the airlines off the hook for any legitimate claims of negligence. There is no direct incentive for the airlines to do better.

[ Parent ]

Perhaps I'm a bit late in this response.. (none / 0) (#53)
by Forum on Thu Jan 10, 2002 at 03:34:09 PM EST

Imagin if you will... You're driving down the street with a friend as a passenger and you get carjacked. The carjacker proceeds to steer your vehicle into a concrete divider. Your friend is injured. Is it just for your friend to sue you, because as the 'pilot' of the vehicle, you were responsible for their safety? I think not. The people who should be sued are the hijackers. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, they are dead. There can be no possible monetary retribution for what happened that day, and it sickens me that the values of society view money as the answer for their problems. She doesn't DESERVE a dime. Not a single person on the face of this planet DESERVES any money. If she wants it, go earn it. Don't twist the hearts of jurors to take it from someone.

-forum

-- "When I walk down the street and only 3 or 4 shots are fired at me, I find it hard to stay awake." -HC
[ Parent ]
This isn't frivolous. (3.00 / 1) (#39)
by sonovel on Fri Dec 21, 2001 at 04:06:45 PM EST

This lawsuit isn't frivolous at all. The widow suing may be wrong and her claims may be knocked out in court but that doesn't make it frivolous.

Airline safety and who is responsible for it aren't silly and this topic is worth serious attention.

I lean toward the idea that airlines probably made mistakes, but that there wasn't really any gross negligence behind these mistakes. So my view is that she shouldn't win.

However, the issue is literaly deadly serious and far far from frivolous.



I have to agree... (4.00 / 3) (#40)
by Enk on Fri Dec 21, 2001 at 08:04:08 PM EST

... with the majority of the comments. I do not see this as frivolous. Actually, I think that what she is doing is commendable. Think about it: She has the possibility to make a large chunk of money, but she turns it down. She is taking the path that nobody wants to take; she is taking on the airlines as well as federal policy and law. The only thing that scares me more then the airline industry + the US Government is tobacco companies + the US Government. The government/airline orgy is something that I, personally, would not want to get in the middle of. This is not a small task, and she will probably lose more then she will gain (financially and emotionally). Hopefully, during the process, it will uncover some of the corruption and inadequacies in the industry.

I see frivolous lawsuits as the ones where people have lost all common sense and try to blame their stupidity on others. If you want frivolous, find out why McDonalds has "Warning, Hot Coffee" on their coffee cups, or why soda bottles also have warning labels.

Warning: Hot Coffee (none / 0) (#52)
by BlaisePascal on Thu Jan 10, 2002 at 02:28:31 PM EST

McDonalds has that warning because they got caught doing something bad.

McD served their coffee at 180 degrees, hot enough to scald. They did so because (they claimed) their customers don't drink it immediately, but rather take it away to drink later, and they don't want their customers drinking cold McD coffee.

Their own marketing research showed that this wasn't the case -- people did buy it to drink immediately, even when driving. At that point, it becomes dangerously hot.

McD had receved over 400 complaints, documentable in McD's internal records, of people getting burned and seriously injured as a result of spilled hot coffee from McD's. Although McD knew of the problem, they did nothing to make the coffee less dangerous.

Finally, one woman spilled hot McD coffee on herself after purchasing it from a McD drive-through and suffered 3rd degree scalding burns to her genitals and legs. Contrary to popular belief, she was not driving, nor did she try to hold the coffee cup between her legs. She complained to McD, and asked them to recompense her solely for the medical costs above and beyond those covered by her own medical insurance (about $12,000, if I remember). McD refused, and she sued.

During trial, all the facts about McD's coffee temperature, their internal research, the 400+ previous complaints and McD's refusal to fix their dangerous product came out, and the jury decided that McD was extremely negligent and needed to be punished for their bad corporate behavior.

[ Parent ]

I must say I'm skeptical... (3.00 / 1) (#41)
by Delirium on Fri Dec 21, 2001 at 10:31:09 PM EST

...of claims that the airlines "let" their planes be hijacked and crashed so as to save money. The cost of four jetliners probably is higher than the cost of all their security procedures. And the cost of all the decrease in travel over the past 3 months is significantly more.

Math (3.00 / 1) (#42)
by sigwinch on Sat Dec 22, 2001 at 05:22:56 AM EST

It is like suing someone for $500 when you waste 100 hours of their time at $400 per hour. The math does not work.
In other words, there shall be no justice unless more is stolen than an unsuccessful defense costs.

Remind me to empty your bank accounts $0.01 at a time...

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.

Lawyers? (2.50 / 2) (#46)
by p0ppe on Sat Dec 22, 2001 at 05:02:45 PM EST

``There are families in need who don't need to be manipulated by lawyers,'' he said. ``This does nothing but add to the confusion.''

Yes, it sure adds to the confusion. Why didn't United (and many other US airliners) take security seriously? Why are airport employees not being checked as they arrive in the morning? Why aren't bags scanned?
The big questions is wheter the airliners would improve security, without being forced to by lawsuit?


"Democracy is three wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner."
Representations (3.00 / 1) (#47)
by PresJPolk on Sun Dec 23, 2001 at 02:04:09 AM EST

If the hijackers had weapons that United's security system claimed to be able to weed out, if United had ineadqueate security on the planes themselves, then sue them into oblivion. American, too.

People need to learn that these are businesses. They aren't arms of the government, they aren't magical fairies from happy land from lollipop lane.

People need to learn that flight is an expensive proposition, and that flight isn't some innate right. The lack of thought that led to the absurd "flyer's bill of rights" (codifying that 1) I want to fly fast and easy 2) I want it now 3) and I don't want to pay for it) has to end.

This is the United States discussed here, not France or something. In our legal system the magistrates aren't going to come to your doorstep and let you know when you have a case. The only way to get anything when you even may have a case is to get a lawyer and begin. It's not up to lawyers to prevent "frivolous" suits: lawyers are supposed to ethically represent the interests of their paying clients, not the interests of "society."

And lastly, why isn't United insured? Surely when you are responsible for the lives of thousands, daily, either insurance or lawsuits are the cost of doing business.

Who pays? (none / 0) (#51)
by vmarks on Tue Dec 25, 2001 at 08:36:50 PM EST

So, you can sock it to the Taxpayer via the Federal Government, or-

You can sock it to the Customer of the Airline via a court awarded payout, or a settlement.

Corporations don't pay, they pass on the costs to the Customer via higher prices, the Worker via lower wages, and the Stockholder via lower stock prices.


Sounds like a lose-lose deal to me.

At what point does a lawsuit become frivolous? | 53 comments (37 topical, 16 editorial, 0 hidden)
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