April 8, 2002 12:38 PM   Subscribe

posted by johnnydark (38 comments total)
disgusting? litigation is the Great American Corporate Pastime. why is it disgusting when individuals do it?
posted by quonsar at 12:48 PM on April 8, 2002

More or less disgusting than noninformative front page posts? What's to discuss, you've already made your point.
posted by hummus at 12:50 PM on April 8, 2002

"The suit alleged that Smithwick survived the initial impact of the attack and telephoned her husband, Thomas Smithwick, using a cellular phone. However, she was unable to escape the raging fire and died when the tower collapsed. "

So American Airlines is to blame? Come on.

(BTW, I tend to agree with hummus -- more description is a good idea. If you insist on a single word post, at least add some detain in a title or something.)
posted by me3dia at 1:03 PM on April 8, 2002

The idea that American Airlines is somehow _not_ partially liable for what happened on Sept 11th is what I find disgusting.
posted by schlyer at 1:03 PM on April 8, 2002

How would American Airlines be liable? They're not the one who is doing airport security, airport contractors are. The airlines aren't responsible for x-raying baggage, security personnel are.
posted by benjh at 1:12 PM on April 8, 2002

Maybe if American Airlines has to pay out here, we'll see the end of that moronic questioning about whether you packed your own bag. On a recent flight I actually was asked the Two Questions by a touchscreen kiosk. I tried not to press the button too suspiciously.
posted by luser at 1:14 PM on April 8, 2002

Well I agree with you johnnydark. Especially as the suit has been brought because the widower had received too much cash in the way of life insurance to qualify for victim compensation.
posted by Summer at 1:14 PM on April 8, 2002

Umm.. benjh, the airlines hire the contractors.
Who would you rather sue? A billion dollar airline, a million dollar security company or a $5.25/hour guard?
posted by PrinceValium at 1:15 PM on April 8, 2002

Hey, it's just the way that yanks like to do business every other day of the year, so why should it being linked to 911 make any difference?

Maybe AA should have done more to make sure the airports that put the passengers on its planes were secure.
posted by ajbattrick at 1:17 PM on April 8, 2002

"How would American Airlines be liable?" Their flight officers allowed their plane to be hijacked.
posted by mischief at 1:18 PM on April 8, 2002

Benjh, the airlines are responsible for airport security. Not that I'm defending the lawsuit.
posted by airgirl at 1:21 PM on April 8, 2002

She was highly paid and her estate would not have been eligible to receive any money from the Sept. 11 Victims Compensation Fund because she had substantial life insurance policies.

If she had all this life insurance, why the hell is a lawsuit needed?

Schlyer, what about suing the USA govt. who should not have let the terrorists in? The airplane company that taught them to fly? The company that produced the box cutters used to hijack the flight? The company who does security at the airport? I mean, come ON. Where does it stop?

This is a case of a greedy man wanting more money than he's entitled to, because his sugar-mamma is dead. It's a terrible horrible thing, but to say that American Airlines is negligent and sue them for it will just create a deluge of lawsuits, put all airlines out of business, and blame a company because they didn't prevent something that was so unfathomable that one wonders what they could have done differently...knowing what they knew PRIOR to 9/11.

People like that man and the lawyers that represent them are reprehensible and belong in one of the lower rings of hell.
posted by aacheson at 1:23 PM on April 8, 2002

The bill that established the victims fund also capped tort liability for the airlines at a fairly low level. So it's gonna be first-come first-serve for these types of suits. Also, it's not American that will pay but their liability insurance. (I think liability may actually be capped at the value of their policy). Also, unless something's changed since March, the fund guarantees that everyone who applies will recieve a minimum of $250,000 regardless of their wealth. So I don't know what the lawyer was talking about when he said they were going to get nothing from the fund.
posted by boltman at 1:23 PM on April 8, 2002

posted by ZachsMind at 1:25 PM on April 8, 2002

Things like this scare me. It isn't enough that the atrocity happened to change airline security, but this could as well. If this will come to pass, it could possibly mean more rules and regulations set by the companies to avoid any possible litigation. Conversely, what would keep someone from suing the suers for making trips slower? What if the risk of terror, pain and suffering, wrongful death and economic loss is worth the convenience? Can we hold others' responsible for the collective loss of our lives waiting in a perpetual line of inneffective inspection?
posted by pedantic at 1:32 PM on April 8, 2002

If you oppose retroactive tax cuts that largely benefit only your country's wealthiest, you're a traitor.

If you sue an ailing business (one that tax payers just finished bailing out), for $50 million. After already getting a few million from a life insurance policy, you're being a good American.

Am I mistaken?
posted by octavius at 1:35 PM on April 8, 2002

How long before someone sues Port Authority for building two tall buildings that were such big targets?
posted by riffola at 1:37 PM on April 8, 2002

ZachsMind: Thanks for the irony of using a one word link to a discussion about not using one word links.
posted by jaden at 1:47 PM on April 8, 2002

I think we should all bear in mind that just because something bad happens -- even if a person or entity "causes" it to happen -- doesn't mean that that person or entity is liable. In general, we are only liable for the results of our actions when we fail to exercise the standard of care expected a reasoanble person. Thus, if you die during an operation, as long as the surgeon was following the reasonable standard of care, he's not at fault. If you're injured because your car had an air bag that rapidly deployed, the car company is not liable if that was a reasonable design decision.

With that in mind, let's turn to a few arguments. First, regarding the security screening. The hijackers (or, as I like to call them, "mass murderers") were armed with nothing more than box cutters. Pre-9/11 there was nothing prohibiting someone from bringing box cutters on an airplane. No negligence.

mischeif: ""How would American Airlines be liable?" Their flight officers allowed their plane to be hijacked." I don't know whether you were being facetious, but assuming that you weren't, how do we know what the flight officers did or did not do? Second, pre-9/11 standard practice was not to resist hijackers. No negligence.

Finally, all of the above was purely on the legal level. From a moral perspective, I think this lawsuit is twenty shades of disgusting. Singling out AA simply because it is collectible and has deep pockets (at least for now), as opposed to the entities (hijackers, terrorist organizations, government) who are uncollectible even if much more responsible, and asking the former to pay for the whole pie, is wrong.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:49 PM on April 8, 2002

Well, why don't they just sue the U.S. government for negligence in preventing these people from coming over. Surely there's a few $billion there.

And better yet, why aren't they suing the Saudi government and its local holdings.. After all, they are somewhat responsible for breeding all of this hatred of the United States.
posted by eas98 at 1:49 PM on April 8, 2002

...they didn't prevent something that was so unfathomable that one wonders what they could have done differently...knowing what they knew PRIOR to 9/11.
Oh come on, there was an inherent security risk, they knew that much. You don't have to be a genius to figure it out - Europe did long before. If this guy's motive is to get filthy stinking rich off his wife's death by riding the back of public hysteria and media hype, then I think that's deplorable, but at the end of the day, unless big enough lawsuits are brought against the airlines, it's going to be more cost-effective for them to implement minimal security improvements and shoulder the drop-off in fliers than it is for them to put passenger safety above profits.
I don't want to turn this into a socialist rant, but... *proceeds to turn it into a socialist rant* this is one of the central problems of privitisation. Most consumers are so goddamn lazy that they forget every purchase they make, every cent they spend is a democratic choice, a vote towards which companies thrive and which die on their asses. The American airlines got away with peewee security measures because their customers didn't mind.
I'm not saying putting the State in charge automatically prevents terrorist hijacks, but at least people are more aware of governmental accountability. If the airlines are going to bring in significant, long-term change, they have to realise the extreme negative consequences of not doing so. And the most negative of negative consequences for CEOs are financial ones.
posted by RokkitNite at 1:56 PM on April 8, 2002

if (shudder to think) he wins, what will he spend the money on? a manhattan penthouse? coke? therapy? will he enjoy spending it?
or will he donate it to charity? put it in a trust fund? share it out between the other broken families? the homeless? help rebuild afghanistan?
posted by nylon at 2:12 PM on April 8, 2002

He'll become a highly paid investment litigator.
posted by me3dia at 2:30 PM on April 8, 2002

Not I laywer here, but I think it's safe to say that suing Uncle Sam would be mighty difficult.

There used to be a thing called soverign immunity. Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 of the United States Constitution: "No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and account of receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time."

But this has changed. You can now sue the guv'ment. But Congress (with of course the president's OK) still sets the rules. You can't sue for punitive damages, and there are loads of exceptions to the waiver of immunity. The exceptions are coverd in exhaustive (and exhausting) detail here.
posted by raysmj at 2:32 PM on April 8, 2002

I'd sue the FBI.
posted by terrapin at 2:42 PM on April 8, 2002

Schlyer, what about suing the USA govt. who should not have let the terrorists in? The airplane company that taught them to fly? The company that produced the box cutters used to hijack the flight? The company who does security at the airport? I mean, come ON. Where does it stop?

I think we all know that the real culprits here are the crack addicts.

"TV said that?" - Homer Simpson
posted by rorycberger at 2:42 PM on April 8, 2002

"how do we know what the flight officers did or did not do? Second, pre-9/11 standard practice was not to resist hijackers. No negligence."

Are you saying that we do not know that an American Airlines jet took off under the pilot's command and subsequently was flown into the World Trade Center? I think it is rather obvious that somewhere, American Airlines and its officers onboard lost control of their airplane.

As to your second point, that standard practice was American Airlines's policy as I recall and was not decreed by the federal government. If corporate policy results in deaths, that IS negligence.

Finally, these unprecedented tragedies are exactly the type of lawsuits that should be taken to court, if for no other reason than to establish a precedent.
posted by mischief at 3:07 PM on April 8, 2002

Osama bin Laden seems to have a lot of money. Wouldn't it be more appropriate to sue him, and the estates of the hijackers, since they are directly responsible for this pain and suffering?
posted by theora55 at 3:25 PM on April 8, 2002

You know, statistically speaking, a certain number of those people did deserve to die.
posted by Settle at 3:31 PM on April 8, 2002

Whatever the whys and wherefores, the lawsuit is plainly in bad taste and not necessary. I'm sure it is born out of anger and wanting a precedent set so that the AA suffer such financial loss this will incentivise them making sure this never happens again. But pooling blame on AA is clearly wrong, and the value of the lawsuit is preposterous. If I was this person, I'd be afraid of the public reaction to the lawsuit, and would never consider bringing it...although they perhaps have greater back up to claim 'it's not about the money, it's the principle'.... Mmmm....50 mil.... ... .. .
posted by boneybaloney at 3:48 PM on April 8, 2002

For years there have been many, including the government, calling for airlines to implement the security measures we see being introduced now. The airlines resisted this, lobbied against it, and ignored the warnings that it was almost certain something like 9/11 would eventually happen. This particular lawsuit aside, I think that not only American Airlines should be sued, but that all airlines should be held accountable for this reason.
posted by troybob at 5:02 PM on April 8, 2002

Holding the airline industry accountable for its collective head-in-the-sand brand of optimism and inertia does not need to be equivalent to bankrupting a single airline because of criminal acts which it may have been able to foresee only in the broad "something may happen" sense.

I have no doubt that this man feels a sense of impotent rage, but the airline is not a legitimate target of that rage, nor should it be targetted for destruction because sociopathic extremists used it as a vessel to carry out their maniacal schemes.
posted by Dreama at 7:47 PM on April 8, 2002

mischief said: If corporate policy results in deaths, that IS negligence.

This looks sane at first glance, but in fact it's a bit crazy. I don't think the airlines had a corporate policy that said, "If a hijacker takes over the plane with the intention of crashing it into a building rather than making demands, go ahead and let them." I'm assuming that all their hijacking scenarios were based on hijackers who would release the plane when their demands were met. It's a bit akin to saying that if a pilot is possessed by a demon and crashes the plane, the airline is liable because they didn't have a policy to deal with demonic possession. Well, no, they don't, because people don't normally get possessed by demons and it isn't reasonable to think they would. What other unreasonable behaviors should they plan for? Without looking like idiots, anyway.

I'm not saying that airport security was perfect before, or even adequate. All I'm saying is that it's real easy to criticize with the benefit of hindsight. If you had asked someone seven months ago, "Do you think airlines should search luggage for boxcutters?", they'd have thought you were crazy. You can only prepare so much without seeming paranoid and alarmist, or submitting passengers to indignities that they won't put up with.

And no matter what measures you use, if someone is sufficiently determined to hijack a plane, they'll find a way. How's this for a scenario: one of the passengers gives a flight attendant a cell phone. The person on the other end is holding one of the pilot's children at gunpoint, and if the pilot doesn't surrender the plane the kid's dead. How do you protect against that?
posted by RylandDotNet at 8:10 PM on April 8, 2002

What is disgusting here is that American law allows stupid lawsuits like this to be filed.. not the fact that the guy filed it. If you can hack some money out of the system, you should! He has the money to pay the lawyers, so he might as well try. Good luck to him.

Perhaps if people like him win cases, US law will have to be changed, and stupid lawsuits can be thrown out instantly.
posted by wackybrit at 9:00 PM on April 8, 2002

I disagree, wackybrit. If you can get money out of the system, it doesn't mean you should do it. People have a responsibility to do the right thing. And I wouldn't want to get rid of the ability to sue a large company for negligence. Every once in a while, it's good to be able to have an "out" like a lawsuit because frequently nothing else gets the attention of big companies.
However, I think that most people agree that this slimeball crosses the line and is just trying to live high off the hog on the backs of the people/company who simply could not have forseen 9/11 happening nor prevented it.
posted by aacheson at 8:59 AM on April 9, 2002

So, if I visit your home and while there, some asshole blows us all up, I can sue you for not preventing it?
posted by HTuttle at 12:21 PM on April 9, 2002

Schlyer, what about suing the USA govt. who should not have let the terrorists in?
He could try, but he'd lose.

The airplane company that taught them to fly?
Why? it was the government's fault for letting them in - the flying company asked for and received proper ID's and VISAs.

The company that produced the box cutters used to hijack the flight?
Thats just silly. You can't sue a manufacturer for the misuse or abuse of their product - as the cities who sued gun manufacturers are finding out.

The company who does security at the airport?
This one sounds fine, but is likely already covered by suing the airlines. Afterall, the airline is the one responsible for hiring the security company.

I mean, come ON. Where does it stop?
Right here.
posted by schlyer at 12:53 PM on April 9, 2002

Another story about the same case at Newsday.com.

Only in this one the numbers reported are much higher:

- $50 mil for pain and suffering
- $50 mil for wrongful death
- plus an "undisclosed amount" for punitive damages.
posted by theRegent at 10:44 AM on April 10, 2002

« Older   |   U.S. Foreign Policy: Attention! Right Face!... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments