If You Get Sick While Traveling, You Don't Get To Sue Yahoo, US Air Or Sabre

from the just-saying... dept

Yes, we live in quite the litigation-happy world, but sometimes you see the type of lawsuits that just blow you away. Unfortunately, I have no link on this one, but Eric Goldman sent over the details on a recently decided case that's too fantastic not to share. Apparently, a guy named Sol Jaffe (who appears to have a history of being on the losing end of pro se lawsuits) booked a round trip from Phoenix to London via Yahoo and Travelocity. While in London, Jaffe apparently caught a cold. He also received an email from Yahoo that suggested his return flight had been canceled. After calling Yahoo and US Air, he found out that was not the case. He flew from London to Philly, where he then found out that his reservation on the connecting flight back to Phoenix was, in fact, canceled -- but US Air let him board anyway, fixing the problem.

The next day, Jaffe went to a doctor, who diagnosed him with a respiratory infection, a sinus infection and hypertension. Jaffee chose to blame and sue Yahoo, US Air and Sabre for the ailments -- saying they caused him so much stress that it turned the cold into those infections and hypertension (there's some confusion -- by pretty much everyone other than Jaffe -- why Sabre is included). Apparently, around the same time, he also (separately) sued Best Buy -- claiming that its failure to return a computer to him in a timely manner caused hypertension and cardiac problems... but that's a different case for a different time. A lower court quickly dismissed this case. Jaffe filed an amended lawsuit and eventually the court granted summary judgment to US Air and dismissed the complaints to Yahoo and Sabre -- and dismissed the whole lawsuit, with prejudice, and (eventually) told Jaffe to pay the attorneys' fees of the three companies.

Jaffe, apparently not seeing the legal writing on the wall, appealed (though, he screwed up the appeal quite a bit, as well). Defending himself, he tried to ask the court to take a more lenient view on him, since he wasn't a lawyer or a big corporation, though the court pretty quickly slapped that concept down, pointing out that you get equal treatment under the law, pro se or as a big corporate lawyer. The court then pointed out that Jaffe failed in the most basic part of his case: showing that the defendants' actions somehow caused his ailments. He did include letters from friends and doctors that he was sick, but never showed why that sickness came as a result of these actions. Furthermore, the court found it rather silly to think that the actions were in any way negligent:
He did not allege any facts that show there was an unreasonable risk of bodily harm. Moreover, without a factual predicate, it is unreasonable to claim that changing a flight reservation or requiring passengers to go to several different airline counters creates a risk of bodily harm, much less a high probability that substantial bodily harm will result.
The court then goes on to walk through all of the other claims that Jaffe made, pointing out how he failed to substantiate any of them -- including, by the way, quoting Jaffe's claim that an offer made by US Air earlier in the case had "all the merit of a rotten fritter." Believe it or not, the court did not find that argument compelling. In the end, the appeals court concurred with the lower court, trashing every argument Jaffe made, and upholding the ruling that he owes the legal fees to the three companies he sued.

So... the next time you get sick on a flight, and part of the travel experience is just slightly less satisfactory than expected, you probably shouldn't try suing everyone. You may just end up having to pay those companies' attorneys' fees, which is probably quite a bit more unpleasant than a rotten fritter.

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  • identicon
    dianne, 6 Feb 2009 @ 9:45pm

    Very Interesting

    very nice and informative site.. i had a great time reading some of your post.. keep it up and hope to read more great stories ahead.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    karl, 6 Feb 2009 @ 9:56pm

    Look Mike you have a fan

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Feb 2009 @ 4:32am

    If his hypertension got worse during the trial can he try and sue the US court system?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Feb 2009 @ 4:51am

    This guy is a loser, if everyone sued when they had stress, Everyone would be BROKE millionaires!

    What a moron!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pope Ratzo, 7 Feb 2009 @ 5:46am

    First of all, the "world" is not litigation-happy. Large corporations have become so hostile to their customers that people feel as though they are fighting an on-going war against them. In fact, they are, but that's another story.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Feb 2009 @ 6:40am

    "the "world" is not litigation-happy"

    Sure seems that way.
    I suppose there is a remote location somewhere .....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Feb 2009 @ 6:52am

    Whiners

    What a whiner, but this is not much different that some of the large corp whiners running around litigating anything that they do not like.

    Also, when has a big corp actually paid the court ordered legal fees of their victim(s)?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ima Fish, 7 Feb 2009 @ 6:58am

    This "story" is beneath the site. There are plenty of wackos out there filing wacky pro per lawsuits. That's really no reflection on the actual legal system.

    For example a lady filed a lawsuit in the Court where I work claiming to be Marie Antoinette. She filed a lawsuit against numerous large corporations, e.g., Mobile Oil, claiming she was owed trillions of dollars.

    This woman was serious but seriously crazy. She filed similar lawsuits in our circuit numerous times. She honestly believes she's Marie Antoinette. During the hearing where the judge dismissed the case he spoke to her in French. Of course she could not speak French, and complained that she could not understand the judge's dialect.

    And I should note that case was dismissed about a month after it was filed without any attorney fees being wasted from the Defendants. So you cannot claim that such lawsuits are always costly despite being dismissed.

    We had another guy attempt sue the New York Yankees due to rain delayed game. That case was dismissed quickly.

    I think you should concentrate on legitimate but still ridiculous lawsuits. There are enough of those that you shouldn't have to resort publicizing the cases brought by wackos.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      ima seakitten, 8 Feb 2009 @ 12:53pm

      Re:

      i have absolutely no education or training in law, but it seems if you work in a circuit, there would be some disclosure or confidentiality problems with forum posts like this, but im also sure im wrong, just wondering where the line is if there is one. also, what were the damages "marie antoinette" was claiming that entitled her to so much money?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Harry, 7 Feb 2009 @ 7:44am

    Fees

    Not only should people with ridiculous lawsuits need to pay the defendant's legal fees, but they should be forced to pay for the cost of the trial itself between the judge, jury, court assistants, stenographers, security, etc. They should be fined a flat fee per day of court time. Why should only the defendant get their money back? Tax payers should too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Feb 2009 @ 12:47pm

    Mike: "there's some confusion -- by pretty much everyone other than Jaffe -- why Sabre is included"

    Um, three seconds of research online shows that Sabre owns Travelocity, which you even stated he used when booking his trip. So they're just as responsible as Yahoo, right?

    @pope ratzo: "First of all, the "world" is not litigation-happy. Large corporations have become so hostile to their customers that people feel as though they are fighting an on-going war against them. In fact, they are, but that's another story."

    Maybe that's because of the idiots who refuse to take personal responsibility. Like, I don't know, not driving with hot coffee between your legs, or standing on the shelf on a step ladder. It must be the big corporations fault that people are getting stupider by the minute.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Lonnie E. Holder, 7 Feb 2009 @ 1:06pm

      Re:

      AC:

      I agree with you regarding personal responsibility. If you do something stupid and get hurt, it must be someone's fault, right? How about your own? When you fail to drive with headlights on and it is overcast, maybe you go smacked because the other driver could not see you.

      Maybe you slipped and fell on your own sidewalk because you did not take the time to shovel it off.

      If you sliced your hand with a knife, perhaps it is because you are uncoordinated.

      If a piece of paper ends up on your windshield that someone else threw out of their car and you wreck, did you ever consider that it might have been a piece of paper that you threw out the window earlier in the day?

      If people behaved ethically and morally, we would have far fewer laws than we currently have.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Feb 2009 @ 1:19pm

      Re:

      "Maybe that's because of the idiots who refuse to take personal responsibility. Like, I don't know, not driving with hot coffee between your legs, or standing on the shelf on a step ladder. It must be the big corporations fault that people are getting stupider by the minute."

      ...you forgot not testing medicine properly or lying about the results. Importing unsafe product from 3rd world slave labor pools, like tainted meat and caustic toys. Knowingly polluting drinking water supplies. Lying about the nutritional content of food. Producing popcorn that can ruin your lungs or peanut butter that kills people.

      I can go onto other specific companies, like Enron, WalMart or Citigroup, but I'm assuming you just forgot about them...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Feb 2009 @ 1:36pm

        Re: Re:

        You missed the point entirely - I had an entire paragraph written, but then realized it just wasn't worth it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        also a coward, 8 Feb 2009 @ 1:02pm

        Re: Re:

        AC:
        you generalize this system too much, there are legitimate lawsuits, like carcinogens in popcorn oil(workplace safety), deliberately lying about nutritional information, and extorting your employees out of benefits and well-being, they are real concerns that our system is designed to help bring truth and honesty out of those involved, but to say that hot coffee, and improper ladder use are as legitimate as those is insane, McDonalds woman would have probably sued if her coffee was too hot, or too cold(just happened to be hot). people that use hair dryers while sleeping/in the shower, and put stepladders on shelves are simply ignoring common sense.
        no if you'll excuse me, im going to take a bath while i make some toast.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 7 Feb 2009 @ 3:28pm

      Re:

      Um, three seconds of research online shows that Sabre owns Travelocity, which you even stated he used when booking his trip. So they're just as responsible as Yahoo, right?

      The actual case notes why Sabre had nothing to do with this:


      Sabre argued that the complaint should be dismissed because its only
      connection to the case was its ownership interest in Travelocity. Sabre argued
      that Travelocity was not served or properly named as a defendant, and Jaffe had
      not presented any evidence that would permit piercing the corporate veil.


      Just because Sabre has an ownership interest in Travelocity does not make them liable for Travelocity actions.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Feb 2009 @ 6:16pm

        Re: Re:

        It seems pretty blatantly obvious that since he used Yahoo, Travelocity, and USAir for his trip, in his badly broken mind they were all three responsible. You really didn't catch the sarcasm in the question about Sabre being responsible?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Feb 2009 @ 3:13pm

    No, I got your point and thought it was pretty feeble. Silly lawsuits by people who do stupid things are far outnumbered by the people that have been crushed or damaged by corporations.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Feb 2009 @ 6:11pm

      Re:

      No, you still do not get my point. I was talking about personal responsibility, and responding to the posts about whether or not the "world has become litigation-happy". I was talking about people who injured themselves due to their own, usually accidental, acts and decided to blame others for failing to tell them not to be stupid. You responded with descriptions of intentional criminal activity, which was completely irrelevant.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    zcat, 7 Feb 2009 @ 8:56pm

    "the whole world"

    From where I'm sitting these stupid lawsuits by stupid people mostly seem to be confined to one country who collectively represent only 4% of the world's population, although they consume a hugely disproportionate amount of the world's resources and clearly hold delusions that they're the greatest and most important country in the world.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sue, 8 Feb 2009 @ 8:24am

    The problem with number of lawsuits in this country is the lack of any serious consumer laws and a governmental agency to enforce them, like they have in most other civilized countries. This puts consumers at a huge disadvantage, often a lawsuit is the only mean of defense and most don't have money or time to sue. Who can afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars to sue over a sub-$1000 issue ? Nevertheless, this is the only way to get things right, in most cases. Of course the system gets abused by lawyers and sometimes clearly disturbed individuals, but to fix the problem first we need to fix the government (or rather the lack of real government).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    anonymous coward, 8 Feb 2009 @ 12:48pm

    a lawsuit for a lawsuit and the whole world goes broke
    except the lawyers

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    XpTo, 8 Feb 2009 @ 3:24pm

    this only happens in America...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kulgan, 8 Feb 2009 @ 3:53pm

    I wish we didn't "live in quite the litigation-happy world" - hang on I don't, I live in Australia and litigation like this is considerably less - although on the rise.

    Clearly Jaffe needs a holiday.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michial, 9 Feb 2009 @ 3:28am

    I Wish it were possible

    I have seen studies that show that flying on a commercial airliner exposes you to higher concentrations of germs and bacterias than you would ordinarily be exposed to.

    I agree that this guy is just out looking for a big payoff, but I would like to see the airlines forced to put better air purifiers on the planes.

    I used to fly 2 maybe 3 times a year, and by the time I was back home I would almost always have some form of cold or sinus problems.

    Now that I fly 1-2 times a month and have built up an immunity to most of the common stuff it's rare that I get sick anymore.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 9 Feb 2009 @ 11:40am

      Re: I Wish it were possible

      I used to fly 2 maybe 3 times a year, and by the time I was back home I would almost always have some form of cold or sinus problems.

      Now that I fly 1-2 times a month and have built up an immunity to most of the common stuff it's rare that I get sick anymore.


      There were some studies done on this recently, and it showed that the problem is actually not the air quality, but the lack of humidity. That makes any germs more likely to stick -- and it's not an easy problem to deal with. Effectively, there's no easy to way to inject humidity into the air without causing significant other problems.

      So if you want to avoid getting sick, just bring along a saline nasal spray for yourself. It adds humidity within your own system, and flushes out the germs before they can do much damage.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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