So sue me

No word sums up America quite as well as ‘litigious’. So conscious am I of the propensity of my fellow citizens to engage the services of a lawyer that I can barely bring myself to go to the toilet at work, for fear that the sound of me relieving myself will cause untold emotional trauma to some unwitting bystander who subsequently sues for $25m.

Of course, most Americans go through their lives without even knowing the name of a good attorney, let alone leafing through the pages of Money Grabbing Bastard Monthly in order to find one to employ. But there’s definitely a group of people who are prepared to sue at the drop of a hat. Especially if the hat is dropped on their big toe, bringing a tragically early end to their once promising tap-dancing career.

Now a New York resident Gokhan Mutlu is suing JetBlue Airways for $2m after being forced to sit in a toilet for three hours on a flight to California. Apparently he was turfed out of his seat by a flight attendant who originally agreed to sit in the jumpseat so that Mutlu could board, but then actually found it too uncomfortable for the flight.

Being honest, it’s difficult to find much sympathy for any of the parties involved.

Certainly there’s no sympathy for the pilot, who allegedly told the passenger that “he was the pilot, that this was his plane, under his command that (Mutlu) should be grateful for being on board.” I mean, I will barely say a rude word to the world’s worst waiter in New York in case they decide to sue for discrimination against serving staff, so it’s difficult to understand why the pilot thought that he could get away with attacking a passenger.

Nor for the flight attendant, whose poor little bottom got a bit more uncomfortable than she thought it would to get in the jump seat, and so had to persuade the pilot to make the nasty passenger sit in the toilet so that she could give her derriere the cushioned home it so richly deserved.

And don’t even get me started on the passenger. Sure, it’s possibly dangerous to sit with no safety belts in the bathroom. And it’s probably pretty humiliating too. But how humiliating does something have to be before you deserve $2m for your troubles? Frankly if I was paraded naked infront of a crowd of people that included my mother, all my ex-girlfriends and the entirety of The Special One’s extended family, maybe I’d think that I’d deserve a million or so.

But sitting on a toilet and missing the chance to pay two dollars to get the chance to watch yet another movie featuring Jennifer Aniston, doth not a couple of million dollars make.

Frankly, if it meant avoiding the sorry excuse for food that most American airlines serve, he should have shaken the pilot by the hand and thanked him for the best flight he’d ever had.

18 thoughts on “So sue me

  1. GrahameD

    If the choices were:

    a) sit in a toilet for three hours on the plane, or

    b) sit in the airport for three hours waiting for the next flight, then another three hours in an economy seat on the plane

    I’d pick a) every time. At least you get some legroom in the toilet.

  2. Justin

    Awesome site! I appreciate your critical thinking. (Although from my experience traveling, it is almost impossible not to think critically when you are in some place foreign).

    I agree…Americans will sue for anything. I hope you are aware of the man/women (I forgot) who sued McDonald’s for making him/her fat! UNBELIEVABLE. But people always look for an easy way out. But not all Americans are like that, I’m not. But sueing is as American as anything!

    Oh yeah, thanks for the add on blogcatalog.

    Predictions for the friendly May 28? GO USA!

  3. Simon

    I recall seeing quite a few television commercials of lawyers/solicitors advertising last time I was in the UK

    It’s quite prevalent there as well. It’s not just an “american” thing

  4. Dylan

    You’re right that the ambulance-chasing culture has started to pervade Britain, Simon. Not to the same extent, but it’s definitely there. And it’s to be regretted in the UK too.

  5. Expatmum

    In defence of Americans (for once) in many situations where they are injured, they end up out of pocket even if they have a decent health package. When my son broke his wrist at school a few years ago (with some negligence on the part of the supervising staff member) I had to pay quite a lot because of our deductible. I asked about claiming that amount from the school’s liability insurance, which was possible. This was termed suing as it involved making a claim against them!
    In your instance though – you just have to scratch your head and wonder. I have to say though that it should have been the flight attendant sitting on the loo!

  6. Laura Thomas

    Seriously, what’s so bad about the loo? . . . I agree with GrahameD – at least there’s some legroom there.

    Since I have spent 25 long years of my life working in the legal field, I won’t debate the litigious nature of Americans. Look, there are some who want to amp up that quality – I think they’re called Libertarians. They’d prefer litigation over legislation, that’s for sure.

    We have an odd system of laws here – we take a lot from the British Common Law (as you know) and then we have these full-time legislators. Here in California there have been some folks who’ve proposed that we have a part-time legislature and I think there’s some merit to the idea. Let’s face it – if you are only part-time you’ll probably only get to the most important legislation. (At least one would hope so).

    But thank god for lawsuits – it was a series of those that CHANGED the stupid anti-Gay Marriage Law here in California. I was watching a bunch of Fox News types on the telly last night and they were railing against, as they put it, “activist judges” – and I was saying, “well, duh, without activist judges we’d have all sorts of stupid, inhumane laws on the books still” (and yes, we still do in lots of places).

    Anyway – great blog! Thanks for adding me as a friend – a West Coast friend, but one nonetheless.

    ~Laura

    P.S. – I miss London even though I was a victim of minor crime the first time I was there. Although as every Brit told me afterwards, “must have been an immigrant!”

  7. Marjie

    What an insightful observation of American culture. I was once a “fresh out of water” immigrant at age 14, and all the observations I’ve had back then were mostly ignorance of American high schoolers. Although, I must admit, after 10 years of living here with nothing else to see, I kinda got used to the US surroundings flashing at me everyday. I think I may have been a part of them at times.

    Anyway, very wonderful site. I was wondering if you have a room for link exchange. Please let me know, and visit my blog when you get a chance.

    Cheers always…
    ~M

  8. Jonathan Jones

    “No word sums up America quite as well as ‘litigious’.”

    Oh come on now, isn’t that a little over-the-top? One word to describe 300 million people, and you choose ‘litigious’?

    Surely there are other blatant stereotypes that are cited at least as often by morally superior and oh-so-cultured Europeans: fat; stupid; venal; hypocritical; warmongering; anti-environment; anti-poor; over-religious …

  9. Jonathan Jones

    You ingrate! We saved your socialist, tree-hugging asses in two World Wars, and this is how you repay us?!

    Ahem…

    Forgive me if I grow weary of the neverending flux of the same tired, old stereotypes as proof of America’s cultural nihilism. Unfortunately, when people hear the same thing over and over again, it has a brainwashing effect, as Goebbels knew: “A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth.” And when people start to believe that America is the root of all evil, it has a real and damaging effect on the world. What service do you imagine you are offering the world by reinforcing degrading stereotypes that you, yourself don’t believe? [End slippery-slope argument.]

    Now that you are here, your words have the added credibility of the “man on the scene”. Your flippant remarks give comfort to those whose smug sense of superiority is based on a caricature of reality.

    Dylan, you are astute, witty, and eloquent. You can provide a fresh, amusing take based on your powers of observation and unique perspective. Please use your eyes and ears. Your readers can go to the editorial pages for a sterotypes refresher.

  10. Expat Mum

    I wasn’t going to comment as this tirade is unbelievable and funny at the same time (and reinforces another stereotype of Americans), but as usual, I couldn’t resist.
    Whenever I hear about our “sorry asses” being saved, I immediately know that there’s no merit in whatever is coming next.
    It was a funny story, and there’s not another country in the world where the immediate response would be to sue for $2million. Lighten up dude.

  11. Brooklyn

    Before we get too carried away here, let me explain something about that $2 million.

    I think we all agree the guy in the toilet is entitled to some compensation, but it is the $2 million that seems outrageous. Whether it is or isn’t, anyone who has contact with real life ligitation in the US knows that the $2 million is meaningless.

    The number in a formal Complaint is essentially meaningless. No lawyer expects to get anything close to what is in the demand part of a Complaint. It is intended to be wildly overstated to avoid the possibility that a jury awards more than is in the Complaint and the client is limited to what is in the Complaint. For this reason, some states require only that a Complaint demand “reasonable compensation” because the public latches on to the big numbers without knowing how meaningless they really are.

  12. Marjie

    Hey you…..thanks for the visit.
    You are officially in my “must read blogs” link list. The exchange is well appreciated 🙂

    Cheers always,
    ~M

  13. k jones

    when was it the americans joined the war? and didn’t we go to war to free france etc
    I think that johnathan jones has been watching too many american war films

  14. Alasdair

    Be fair ! Yes, the US did save our sorry British “asses” – cuz it was the *only* way that the US could avoid being a German-speaking extension of the Third Reich – which is what would have happened if Hitler and the Nazis had been able to consolidate the industrial might and resources of the entirety of Europe …

    So – yes, we should be appropriately thankful for the US saving both our and their own “sorry asses” …

    Sadly, very few people, so far, in the US, realise that part of why the US spends so much more on Health Care per capita of the population is a direct result of the sorry state of affairs legally … modern industrialised countries seem to spend 5-7% of their GDP on Health Care … in the US, it is somewhere around 12-14% …

    Some simple Tort Reform like “Loser Pays” would free up a bunch of GDP to be used to actually cover the uninsured US resident … and would free up a bunch of less-than-reputable lawyers to change their soliciting to regularly saying “Would you like fries with that ?” …

    k jones – I wonder if Jonathan Jones is is familiar with the term “projecting” ? Since he does seem to be quite good at *doing* it …

    (innocent smile)

  15. Alasdair

    In one of Life’s many ongoing little ironies, I just encountered this

    SIGH ! And some people wonder why the current Congress has positive approval ratings below 19% ! (And active disapproval ratings over 74%)

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