Passenger Sues United for $5 Million Over Non Functioning In-Flight Entertainment

by Adam

Forget the $50-$200 voucher for non functioning in-flight entertainment…how about a $5 million lawsuit! On a flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU) to Newark (EWR), passenger Cary David paid $7.99 for DirecTV seat-back access but claims it only worked during the final few moments of the flight.

According to Yahoo (thanks Mark for sharing), United is claiming that they make it very clear that their live tv service only works over the continental US:

“On our DirecTV-equipped planes, we clearly inform our passengers in writing on the screen before they confirm their purchase that Live DirecTV programming is not available while the aircraft is outside of the continental United States,” said a spokesperson from United Airlines. “And that Wi-Fi service is available over the continental U.S.” Since they were not flying over the U.S., United is asking that the suit be thrown out.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of “any person who used the DirectTV system since January 1, 2012 during a flight that flew outside of the continental United States or over water”.

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ALCO May 11, 2015 - 6:00 pm

The lawsuit is a class action, filed on behalf of all people similarly situated. The lead plaintiff is not actually suing for $5 million for herself. The $5 million is likely an estimate of what all similarly situated putative class members (plaintiffs) spent for service not delivered during the putative class period. No idea how the plaintiffs’ attorneys arrived at that estimate, but it’s not what a single plaintiff is seeking.

Assuming the case ever makes it past the motion to dismiss stage, class certification stage, summary judgment stage, and trial/appeals, the most any one plaintiff will ever recover is his/her provable economic losses. Assuming the case ever gets that far, such losses will be determined pursuant to a formula that can be applied uniformly across the entire class (e.g., $X for each provable instance of not receiving the charged service). For the plaintiff named in the article, that sounds like some percentage of $7.99 (what she spent for the service she claims not to have fully received).

Class actions allow cases to be brought that wouldn’t otherwise be economical on an individual basis. No attorney would ever file a lawsuit to recover $7.99. Filing fees alone, which are miniscule in relation to other expenses in cases like these, run to substantial multiples of that.

AlohaDaveKennedy May 11, 2015 - 6:09 pm

Sounds like:

I want my, I want my DTV
I want my, I want my DTV

Now look at them yo-yo’s, that’s the way you do it
You sue the airline over DTV
That ain’t workin’, that’s the way you do it
Money for nothin’ and your lawyers work to fleece
Now that ain’t workin’, that’s the way you do it
Lemme tell ya, them guys ain’t dumb
Maybe get a blister on your little finger
Maybe get a blister on your thumb…

Marc May 12, 2015 - 7:01 am

I had a non-functionning TV from YUL to LGA and got a 5 % discount voucher for my next flight… Maybe I should have asked for more! 😉


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