I'm going to post on a different topic than usual this morning, because I just read a report in the New York Times that ticked me off, quite frankly.
You may recall that earlier this year, a US Airways jet landed in the Hudson river after a birdstrike. The pilot was (rightly) hailed a hero, as he managed to land the plane without the loss of a single life, and most passengers escaped serious injuries.
I'm reading about how people are now unsatisfied because they feel they are owed compensation either for loss of possessions or emotional trauma. You can read the whole article here, but here are some of the bits that irritated me:
"Everything went downhill," said Mr. (Paul) Jorgenson, a software executive in Charlotte, N.C., whose laptop and keys have not been recovered.
A spokesman for US Airways, Morgan Durrant, said the airline issued each passenger a check for $5,000 shortly after the accident to cover their immediate needs; it had no legal obligation to do so. He declined to discuss the airline's liability insurance policy or claims processes, saying the matter was pending and he did not want to jeopardize it.
He (Mr. Jorgenson) recently got some of his clothing back from the airline but the shoes were ruined, he said. One suit was missing its jacket, and his cufflinks and sunglasses are still gone. He got his wallet back but not the cash it held, he said.
Because he could document losses of more than $5,000, A.I.G. sent him a second $5,000, with a letter saying he could get an additional $10,000 if he signed a statement releasing it from any further claims. Other passengers are also being asked to sign the release in exchange for $10,000.
Mr. Jorgenson said he thought this was disingenuous, because some degree of liability might eventually be established. Then A.I.G.'s policy would be in play, but the passengers would have signed away their claims.
"I wish I had a hammer to get them to do the right thing," said Andrew J. Maloney, a partner in the New York firm of Kreindler & Kreindler, which specializes in aviation litigation. He is representing some of the US Airways passengers but has not filed any lawsuits. "They're riding a wave of feel-good opinion about how well the flight crew handled the bird strike."
Ms. Sosa said (her daughter) Sophia "remembers everything. I just want her to walk away from this knowing that we did everything we could to make it make sense." A.I.G. agents have told her that for therapy she should use her own health insurance, but it has a $3,000 deductible for mental health care.
"Why should we be paying out of pocket?" she said. "That's why they're there. They're the insurer."
A.I.G. has told Ms. Sosa and other passengers that it would pay for therapy, but only for three sessions. "It's like telling me, 'We aren't responsible for this. This is your trauma. You deal with it,' " Ms. Sosa said. In one exasperated conversation with an A.I.G. claims official, she invoked the taxpayer bailout, saying she doubted Congress and the Obama administration would approve of the stonewalling. The official "told me their division didn't get a cent from the bailout," she said.
So let me see if I can get this straight. We have one guy, an executive, that was given $10,000 for lost items and still thinks the airline and the insurer are "disingenuous". And on the other hand we have a woman who thinks that because the airline's insurer received government money, the President should somehow think it appropriate to pay for an endless supply of coddling sessions to make her daughter feel better.
Now, I have no doubt that the flight crash was traumatic. I have flown across the Atlantic many times, across the English Channel even more, and spent three years flying all over the country as part of my job. My wife is terrified of flying. I can't image exactly what these people went through. What I can do is imagine if I lost the possessions I was traveling with, and I do have some experience with emotional trauma.
People may disagree, but I'm going to side with the airline here. Whenever you get on a plane, you understand the dangers. You listen to the safety instructions ("in the unlikely event of a water landing...") and go on reading your magazine. The bird strike was not due to any negligence by the pilot or crew (an event usually termed an accident) and I think everyone involved can look back and realize how fortunate they were to be shivering and cold, but alive. Compared, let's say, to the 227 Air France passengers who disappeared in the Atlantic.
In my opinion, if you travel on a plane with more than $10,000 worth of possessions you are either very rich or a bit stupid. How much money was in this guy's wallet for him to be complaining about it? Maybe he should just go buy a new pair of shoes. I can't believe he's complaining about losing his sunglasses in an air crash. I lose my sunglasses visiting the grocery store.
As far as emotional trauma goes, let me say this. Some of you know my stepson received a traumatic brain injury in a vehicle accident when he was not the driver. That was three years ago. My wife has had to pay for some therapy sessions out of her own pocket. I'm sure we are not an unusual case, either. People suffer losses and traumas all the time. Probably everyone could sue somebody else if they really wanted to. But where do you draw the line?
There is an apocryphal story that says that if the Good Samaritan helped the mugging victim today, the guy would probably sue him for aggravating his injuries and leaving him at an inn he didn't like.
The American Dream used to be this: work hard, love your family and friends, respect your country and it's moral values, be thankful for what you have, and one day you will have achieved everything that you desire in life.
Now, the American Dream is this: go on a reality show, burn the flag, sue everyone, play the lottery, complain about everything you can, and one day you will get what you deserve.
Maybe they are both correct, if you think about it.