Woman sues airline over emergency landing

by Walter Olson on September 22, 2010

No physical injuries were reported at the time, but “passenger Jewel Thomas said she has suffered severe mental and emotional problems because of the incident on Sept. 22, 2008″ in which an American Airlines plane skidded off the runway onto grass. [AP/WFAA]

{ 14 comments }

1 Anonymous Attorney 09.22.10 at 12:54 pm

And since it’s difficult to refute a claim of “mental stress”, it should be fun for the plaintiff’s attorney to pursue. I trust they’ll “physicalize” the “injury” by adding things like sleeplessness, nervousness, inability to eat, need for medications, need for therapy, lack of concentration, inability to live life to the fullest, inability to work necessitating future wages for life, and on and on.

The point I’m only semi-sarcastically trying to make is that a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney can turn just about any event into something that “changed my client’s life forever.” People always claim to be skeptical, but inside the courtroom, the ridiculous becomes rational, the absurd becomes plausible. The same gruff juror who agrees vigorously that there are “too many frivolous lawsuits” breaks down and weeps at the show put on by the plaintiff’s attorney. And then hands over huge damages. The plaintiff’s bar knows this, and that’s why their business continues apace in spite of outrages like the McDonald’s coffee case.

2 Jack Wilson 09.22.10 at 1:20 pm

I’m traumatized by this lawsuit. A few hundred millions bucks will never erase the memory but will help ease the pain.

3 mojo 09.22.10 at 1:25 pm

I’m severely traumatized by your comment, Jack. But I’ll get better for a 50% cut.

4 Tom T. 09.22.10 at 1:39 pm

Presumably the defendant will get to take discovery into her prior mental and emotional state. She may end up regretting having brought this case.

5 Joe 09.22.10 at 8:03 pm

Wow. Accidents happen lady. Everything in life can be stressful. That’s why you learn to cope somehow.

6 Scott 09.23.10 at 10:04 am

Has I known this was possible I would have sued over the no flaps high speed landing I participated in some years ago. It may have been worth more than a fun story to tell at parties.

7 DensityDuck 09.23.10 at 10:49 am

@Anonymous: Please stop using The McDonald’s Coffee Case as an example of frivolous lawsuits, because that one was a geniune problem that McDonald’s refused to solve, and involved genuine harm that McDonald’s refused to redress.

That’s not to say that this scared-of-planes lawsuit isn’t silly. But that’s up to the defense attorney to handle.

8 peter 09.23.10 at 11:31 am

@DaffyDuck

And in other news it has been proven that knives can cut and are STILL sold sharp even though retailers have know about this very real problem for simply ages.

9 GregS 09.23.10 at 11:33 am

‘… a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney can turn just about any event into something that “changed my client’s life forever.” ‘

I’ve never understood why this argument has any weight in court. Almost *everything* that happens to you every day “changes your life forever”, even if only in a small way. If you get a divorce, or get married, or lose your job, or get a new job, or make a friend or lose one, or buy or sell a car, or learn something new, your life has changed forever. Life *is* change, and all changes change your life forever, since you can’t un-experience something after you’ve experienced it.

10 Richard Nieporent 09.23.10 at 1:23 pm

@Anonymous: Please stop using The McDonald’s Coffee Case as an example of frivolous lawsuits, because that one was a geniune problem that McDonald’s refused to solve, and involved genuine harm that McDonald’s refused to redress.

DensityDuck, if you believe that to be true, you are are the wrong website!

11 Jack Wilson 09.23.10 at 2:26 pm

Seems like you should be able to sue an airline for getting you safely to a place where something bad happened later.

12 Jason T 09.23.10 at 11:02 pm

This is absurd. I fly all the time. I have flown 70 segments this year already. When I first started with my company I had to fly to the corporate offices for orientation. My flight was delayed for three hours due to a nor’easter. My flight ended up being the last flight to fly through while all others ended up canceled. I had never had a fear of flying but the flight was so turbulent that I had nightmares for two weeks and started having panic attacks whenever I sat down in a plane or felt the smallest bump of turbulence. I had to start taking Xanax to deal with the panic attacks because they were so bad. I forced myself off of the Xanax because I didn’t want to rely on a crutch to do my job. I had a stretch of 15 flights in three weeks in which I purposely left the Xanax at home. That cured me of my fear of flying to where now I not only enjoy the turbulence but look forward to it. Not once did I even dream of suing the airline.

Based on some of the comments I have read I can say that my situation altered my life for at least a year. It caused me to lose sleep, spend money on medication, spend more time driving to avoid flying due to fear, etc. If the plaintiff is awarded damages could this case set precedence for people who experience a situation like mine to sue an airline because of the mental anguish resulting from severe turbulent flights? I understand that this specific case deals with a bad landing so they may be viewed differently.

13 J.T. Wenting 09.24.10 at 10:40 am

“The same gruff juror who agrees vigorously that there are “too many frivolous lawsuits” breaks down and weeps at the show put on by the plaintiff’s attorney. And then hands over huge damages.”

Of course he does. The moment he hears the multimillion dollar claim he sees the dollar signs in his own eyes and doesn’t want the prospect of himself cashing in reduced.

That’s why jury trials are such a bad idea for tort cases, the jurors are extremely unlikely to be unbiassed as their own greed will get the better of them.
That’s just human nature.

“Seems like you should be able to sue an airline for getting you safely to a place where something bad happened later.”

What about sueing them for denying you the opportunity to sue them for damages because of an accident that didn’t almost happen?

14 Bob Lipton 09.24.10 at 4:24 pm

I like that, Wenting. Clearly all the people mentioned in the wills of the that flight’s passengers has cause of action.

Bob

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