From time to time I arbitrate disputes in court-annexed arbitration. My schedule has been sparse for the past 2 years, what with the various personal and professional matters demanding my attention (though, I do get the distinct impression that I will be doing at least one arbitration session in the coming two months). Many of the cases that come up involve parties who are the antithesis of all my personal values, but who do have legal rights which I am duty-bound to uphold. And in many of the cases that come up, the litigants rightly deserve one another.
Though I will not be hearing the following case, it seems to fall into such a category.
Weighing in at 425 pounds (and that was without one of her legs), Vilma Soltesz was, by all accounts, a fatso. So fat, that the airlines could not accommodate her on a return trip from Hungary -- even the local fire brigade was unsuccessful in removing her from her wheelchair and placing her into the airplane cabin seats (plural). Unable to return home to the Bronx to obtain the medical care for her conditions (plural) -- she didn't trust the doctors in Hungary where she was born and where she was vacationing -- she died and was buried over there. And now, her husband Janos is looking to sue the airlines for heavy amount of money.
I, for one, would be concerned (as the airline stewardesses and/or captain apparently were) that the seat belts might be insufficient to restrain her, and, in the event of a major acceleration (which, as my high school physics teacher taught me, is change in velocity multiplied by change in direction), she would become a ballistic projectile in motion, posing a danger to the passengers. Never mind the damage she could do to the aircraft.
Having stated this, I would have taken the case if Janos had walked into my office with it. The travel agents were specifically informed that Vilma was a fatso, and assured Vilma and Janos that they could be accommodated. And the fact that Vilma got tickets for not two, but three seats on the aircraft indicates that they were candid with the travel agent as to the extent of Vilma's obesity.
Vilma had rights which were violated. Janos wants vindication of those rights (in the form of money). And while Vilma was antithetical to all of my values (and Janos doesn't seem to be much to write home about either), I would prefer by far to have a few Vilmas fly on a few flights from time to time than to give the airlines carte blanche to run roughshod over their contracted obligations to their passengers.