Southwest Passengers Sue Over Missed Inspections

The AP is reporting that four Southwest passengers have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Southwest broke its contract with passengers by skipping important safety inspections… over a period of six years.

The lawsuit is seeking class action status, and will include passengers who traveled on Southwest’s planes from 2002 until this month– though presumably one would have to have flown on an MD-80?

Lew Garrison, a Birmingham lawyer who represents the passengers, said Tuesday the class could include hundreds of thousands of people who traveled on Southwest planes from January 2002 through last month.

Garrison, in a telephone interview, said the lawsuit primarily seeks reimbursement for tickets for those flights on the grounds that the Dallas-based airline did not comply with government regulations and did not honor its contract with its customers.

It’s an interesting argument. Do you think Southwest violated its contract with you by not properly inspecting its planes?

Passengers sue Southwest Airlines over missed inspections Passengers file federal lawsuit against Southwest Airlines citing missed inspections
[Charleston Gazette]


Edit Your Comment

  1. sleze69 says:

    Southwest (and its buddies in the FAA) should definately be held accountable. Although this is kind of a shady way of punishing them, if it is the ONLY way, I am for it.

    Someone needs to come up with a way to get their FAA cronies to pay up as well.

  2. JustAGuy2 says:

    Oh for crying out loud. If ever there was a need for sanctions against an attorney for bringing a frivolous case, this is it.

    It’s like sueing a carmaker for delaying a recall on a vehicle that you owned and sold long before the problem came to light.

    They have zero damages.

  3. alice_bunnie says:

    What damages? Lawyers trying to get a buck. I hate class action.

  4. alice_bunnie says:

    Wait, I hate class action LIKE THIS.

  5. ChrisC1234 says:

    I DO agree that Southwest should be punished somehow, but this isn’t the way to do it. This is just a sleazy lawyer wanting to make a buck, while the real plaintiffs get nothing.

    Southwest is one of the best airlines when it comes to satisfaction surveys, and part of me says that they shouldn’t be messed with for that reason alone. I LIKE to fly Southwest. I’m worried that if this lawsuit progresses and they get hit with a massive fine, then it could push them into things that would be bad for everyone (bankruptcy, merger, etc).

  6. IndyJaws says:


  7. heavylee-again says:

    I think this lawsuit is stupidly frivolous, unless people were injured or died from a mechanical failure that should have been caught during these inspections. Or possibly if travelers missed connecting flights or had to rearrange travel plans because of delays caused by a mechanical failure that should have been caught during these inspections.

  8. heavylee-again says:

    Oh, I forgot to add:
    I have no problem with lawsuits when they are appropriate. Sometimes, money IS the only way to get a company’s attention. But this suit (based on what’s stated above) is ridiculous.

  9. ThunderRoad says:

    I guess it could be argued they did violate their contract. However, what is the damage? You really have to show you were harmed in some way, and unless the planes were falling out of the sky like hovering bricks, I don’t see it.

    ie, it’s a money-grab by the lawyers. They’ll get $50 million and the customers will get $25 vouchers. Yes, SWA screwed up, but nobody was injured.

  10. BigElectricCat says:

    I thought WN only flew B737s.

  11. qwickone says:

    @JustAGuy2: exactly. If those people didn’t have a loss in some way (theyre flights werent canceled because of the missed inspections), why the EF is there a lawsuit??

  12. bsalamon says:

    not going to happen. too many possible plaintiffs. FAA will probably give them an enormous fine, and that’ll be it

  13. APFPilot says:

    @BigElectricCat:Bingo, No MD-80’s here.

  14. Crrusherr says:

    so if they win do i get money?

  15. noi56u says:

    Perhaps these passengers (and their smarmy lawyer) can’t stand the idea of an airline being both a.) profitable and b.) customer-friendly, so they are hitting them with a nuisance suit.

    An airline that makes money and pleases its customers is un-American!

    (pun intended)

  16. GearheadGeek says:

    Is the MD-80 line a (failed) attempt at humor? Or did you think the MD-80 inspections were the only ones that the new Corporate-Cozy FAA let slide in the interest of laissez-faire?

  17. Black Bellamy says:

    What were the damages?

    Man, the first thing we do, the first thing we do, is to kill all the lawyers.

  18. jtlight says:

    I fly Southwest as much as possible, and if this ever came up, I would not take part. The was no damage of any kind. Not monetary, emotional, or physical damage. If people are worried about flying Southwest, don’t fly them. Out court system is screwed up.

  19. Concerned_Citizen says:

    How do you justify a refund when you took the flight and nothing went wrong. Failing to inspect doesn’t mean the planes weren’t safe.

  20. chrisgeleven says:

    I could see a lawsuit if someone actually got hurt, but that wasn’t the case. Yes Southwest and the FAA screwed up big time, but they figured out their mistake in time and reinspected every plane to determine they are safe.

    I would have much rather they got it right the first time (especially since I fly them frequently), but they admitted their mistake and fixed it. Knowing Southwest’s reputation, they are probably leaving no stone unturned to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

  21. enm4r says:

    The logic in here is somewhat ridiculous. I can think of 50 examples of “you didn’t get hurt, nothing to complain about” that would immediately be shot down by the populous at large here.

    The point isn’t that they were damaged. The point is that it could be a breach of contract. For that, there need not be damages that incurred. It’s not a difficult concept to grasp.

    That said, this lawsuit is completely ridiculous and I hope it’s thrown out in lieu of FAA throwing a fine at Southwest. And this coming from someone who can’t stand Southwest. If I wanted to be forced to sit in between to kids who sit window/aisle and have already thrown all their crap in the middle seat, I’d ride a school bus. Is it really that hard to assign a seat?

  22. God, the litigious American public rears its ugly head again. We wonder why the courts are backed up, this is the type of crap that does it!

  23. Blech!!

    A Lawyer found 4 former Southwest Passengers that are dumb enough to make a stink and put there names on a lawsuit from the Lawyer who will take home 33% of whatever the Class Action ends up getting.

    Everyone else will need to send in proof of flying on one of these DANGEROUS planes, and then wait 6-8 weeks for a check totally $25.67


  24. Also

    I’m not sure of the exact particulars that forced American Airlines to ground so many planes … but will we see something similar from that quarter down the road you think?

  25. vladthepaler says:

    Lawyers get $10,000,000; class members get $25 bucks off a flight. Woopee.

  26. STrRedWolf says:

    Okay, I’m not a lawyer, but if they go to trial on it, they got a messy situation to untangle.

    Of course, I refer to the Southwest Contract of Carriage. There’s two sections: section 125 (Compliance w/Law and Government Regulations) and section 85 (Failure to Operate as Specified).

    85, subsection B, says that Southwest isn’t liable for “failure or delay in operating any flight due to causes beyond (Southwest’s) control, including… governmental actions.” I don’t know the extent of how this clause is involved, but it’s a mighty big hammer against the class action lawyers if Southwest is allowed to use it.

    125 itself reminds people that the Feds get their say in what can be done too, so laws and regulations come into play. I bet the lawyers think they could get Southwest on this clause.

    A judge can sort it out. I’m nether. Consult your own lawyer first.

  27. Peeved Guy says:

    I, for one, think this is a fantastic idea.
    I don’t think that the ticket prices are nearly expensive enough. A few more frivolous lawsuits like this and maybe only the fabulously wealthy, like me, can afford to fly, thereby reducing the wait I have at security.

    /sarcasm off

    Seriously? A lawsuit? I think someone needs a hug…or a kick in the crotch… I can’t decide which.

  28. Froggmann says:

    Oh geeze, another American Idiot looking for another moneygrab. Lew Garrison go get a job and earn your money the right way. @rainmkr: You are exactly right!

  29. kepler11 says:

    I would like to correct the notion that just because there was no actual harm done, that there is no grounds to sue, or advance a claim of injury. The whole notion of air safety, and safety in general, is that steps taken before an accident or preventative procedures that may not be apparent until an accident, have value, and are equally important as if someone had been injured or killed. You do not need to have a catastrophe to hold someone liable for not performing their duty.

    An analogy would be if you could ask your car insurance company for your money back because “nothing happened”. Even though the obvious value of the policy only becomes apparent when there is an accident, it has value even when it is not invoked, and you can be held liable for not having a policy even without an accident.

    As for the question of whether individuals, even as a class, can sue the airline, I don’t think they can, or should have this ability by statute. It is clearly within the responsibility of the FAA, and I bet it is pre-empted by their duty of oversight in the federal code.

  30. bloodhound96 says:

    Southwest doesn’t fly MD-80s, only Boeing 737’s. The missed inspections on the 737s have to do with stress fractures in the fuselage of the aircraft. That inspection is part of the airworthiness directive issued after the Aloha Airlines Flight 243, where the top part of the aircraft peeled back and a flight attendant was killed. Southwest had not inspected its aircraft for these stress fractures. They found several airplanes had these and needed repairs after they did eventually inspect them.

    That being said, Southwest was punished, hit with a 10 million dollar fine, the largest in FAA history. The FAA also was supposed to discipline the inspector who let this happen, but I don’t know what happened with that.

    I hope the judge does throw this out. The FAA has already levied a fine. No passengers were hurt. This is just a money chase.

  31. taylorich says:

    Yes, Southwest only has 737s, no MD-80s.

  32. Tzepish says:

    “Do you think Southwest violated its contract with you by not properly inspecting its planes?”

    I’m not sure if anywhere in the contract is there a clause that says Southwest won’t try to kill you, so I guess the answer would be “no”.

  33. whydidnt says:

    @kepler11: If there is no harm done, then there are no damages and nothing to sue for. Civil court is not about punishing people or corporations for wrong doing. It’s about being compensated for damages caused by someone else.

    In this case, unless the plaintiffs can prove that they suffered some sort of harm as a result of the missed inspections, I can’t see what they are suing for.

    The insurance company analogy doesn’t make sense to me, what does that have to do with this case? The better question is this — What if I bought an auto insurance policy because the company told me they had the most reserves and best claims service. At the end of my policy period, I found out that wasn’t true. Since I had no claims during the period, the lie has no impact on me correct? I was insured the whole time, I just thought I was safer than I really was. Can I sue them for misrepresentation and receive a refund of my payment? I don’t think so, since I didn’t suffer any actual damages. Of course, I can report them to the appropriate regulatory agency and they can take action for the misrepresentation.

    In the airline case here, I also received the promised service, it just wasn’t as safe as I was lead to believe. Again, up to the appropriate regulatory agency to deal with any penalties for misrepresenting themselves.

    I think the ONLY possible claim the plaintiffs could make is that they can no longer fly because they don’t trust the airlines to provide a safe environment, and because of that they lost their job, etc. and had monetary loss as a result of that. Under these circumstances, I think that would be pretty difficult to prove.