AirTran Airways Sued for Cockroaches and Indifference

Sort of like the composition of hot dogs, some thing things are better left unknown and we really do not want know what is creeping about behind air vents, walls, and floors on the aircraft we fly. But once in a while the critters find a way out, like on a recent AirTran flight that was allegedly invaded by (ugh) cockroaches. For a cunning lawyer, that may be a golden opportunity for a little cash:

Attorney Harry Marsh and his fiancee, Kaitlin Rush, allege negligence and recklessness, intentional infliction of emotional distress, nuisance, fraud, false imprisonment and unfair and deceptive trade practices in connection with their Sept. 15 flight from Charlotte to Houston, WCNC-TV, Charlotte, reported Friday...Marsh and Rush say cockroaches were climbing out of air vents and overhead storage compartments shortly after takeoff.

I wonder if Mr. Marsh is a recent law school grad trying to pay of debt or running a practice without clients? It sounds like he has a lot of time on his hands:

The lawsuit also claims flight attendants were too busy to look into the problem or didn't believe the problem existed. Marsh said he told a flight attendant about the cockroaches and she put her finger to her mouth, which Marsh said he interpreted as her telling him to be quiet.

The couple is suing for more than $100,000 plus the price of their tickets for emotional and mental distress caused by Air Tran's negligence and failure to provide a clean and pest-free environment.

I will not dispute that Mr. Marsh is due some compensation from AirTran for the alleged flight attendant indifference and for the very fact that the cockroaches disturbed his flight, but $100,000 for intentional infliction of emotional distress? Come on.

Intentional infliction of emotional distress is a tort with the following elements:

  1. Defendant acted intentionally or recklessly; and
  2. Defendant’s conduct was extreme and outrageous; and
  3. Defendant’s act is the cause of the distress; and
  4. Plaintiff suffers severe emotional distress as a result of defendant’s conduct.

The key is element one--intentionally or recklessly. How will Mr. Marsh prove that AirTrain acted intentionally or recklessly? Certainly intentionally is out and recklessly also has a specific legal meaning:

Conduct whereby the actor does not desire harmful consequence but...foresees the possibility and consciously takes the risk

I think that will be impossible to prove as well.

This is an interesting case that I will be following it closely, but it sounds like just another example of a sue-happy lawyer who gives all American lawyers a bad name.


mike November 16, 2011 at 06:45 pm

I think he will argue that once he informed the flight attendant of the bugs then the airline (and she gave the be quit sign over her mouth) and the airline did turn around, land, deboard the plane, and book people on another flight without bugs in the vents then the airline was intentionally inflicting emotional distress by an extreme and outrageous conduct of forcing the plaintiff to sit on a plane with bugs coming out of the vent and also this is the basis of the false imprisonment cliam because the plaintiff alleges that the plane should have landed and let him off since it had bugs on it.

Reid November 19, 2011 at 12:41 pm

I can see Airtran being scared of discovery in this lawsuit. Who KNOWS whats in their records...and they may be gambling on Southwest just paying up to get this off the news...

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