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Jul 8, 2007

Only in America

There is a common type of posting that elicits excitement and interest among readers. That woudl be the "Only in Israel" post. Today I offer you the "Only in America" post. Actually, it is not really "only in America" but is more like "not in Israel".

Ever fly El Al (or probably most other airlines)? Ever get stuck sitting in a bad seat?

You know the type:
  • the seat near the bathrooms.. that seat sitter has to suffer much of the flight with bad odors, crowds of people waiting for the bathroom, if it is a flight with a lot of religious people maybe the davening is happening right next to him, etc.
  • the seat near a bunch of kids - they make a lot of noise, get antsy, fight at any of numerous times during the flight, spill their food, etc.
  • seat near the front of each section called the bulkhead. This might be the worst of all the bad seats as you have to contend with nursing mothers, babies crying in the middle of the night waking everyone around them up, baby toys all over the place, dirty and smelly diapers, and lots of other disturbances as harried parents try to find ways to keep the little ones occupied and entertained for, what seems to them to be, the longest day in the history of the world.
Ever consider suing the airline if you were assigned a seat in one of those "danger zones"?

Well, somebody did. Somebody sued El Al for exactly that.

A guy flying to Berlin on El Al checked in requesting a window seat, far from the bathrooms and from the noisy areas.

He ended up being seated right in the bulkhead section - yep, next to all those screaming babies. He had a very uncomfortable flight, and decided to sue.

The airline responded that they guarantee no specific seats and seating is based on the ticket purchased.

The courts ruled that the airline is not at fault. The judge said that the defendant has no right to claim that the airline should not fly the children or to place them only in a designated area far away from other adults. The judge also said that not every discomfort or dissatisfaction with a service is worthy of a day in court, while every person has a right to seek compensation in court, others have a right not to be disturbed by unnecessary and frivolous lawsuits.

The judge rejected his claim against El Al and required him to pay the airline 750 NIS for court costs.

Had this person sued in the US, there is a better chance he might have gotten some sort of compensation. In the US there is a culture of suing for the slightest discomfort, and what the Israeli judge called a frivolous lawsuit, may very well be a winner in the US. Think back to the person who spilled a hot cup of coffee on herself while driving and sued because the coffee was too hot. And won.

I wonder though, had he won the case in Israel, would I have been able to sue after traveling with my kids and being seated near them?

So the courts said that these types of lawsuits are still not going to be happening in Israel anytime soon, despite people trying to bring that culture to Israel.


  1. Rafi,

    Ever heard of john strosel? from ABC's 20/20 youd love his book "give me a break" if you want i'll lend you it..

    He goes on to chop and dice all the problems..be it lawyers and tort law suitys and how it kills the free market and junk science etc..

  2. I am happy that frivolous law suits are not going to be popular in Israel anytime soon. My biggest beef with the American system is the Fear of Malpractice Syndrome: it has hampered many doctors from practicing obstetrics or other surgery part-time because the costs of their malpractice insurance are so high they can't afford to do any other kind of medicine. And it makes hospitals unnecessarily rigid about who can visit patients. The litigious culture causes problems even more serious than flight discomfort.

  3. hopefully that culture will stay out of Israel

  4. You can't practice obstetrics properly in Israel anymore. The policy of the Health Ministry is that all breech babies must be born by c-section. My friend with twins was told by one hospital that she must have a c/s, but was able to escape it at another hospital (one baby was breech).

  5. moi - is that also because of the malpractice insurance?

  6. Kudos to that judge. Maybe I should move to Israel! It really is over the top in the US.

    Yesterday, my husband and I were watching a news piece about a man who won a judgment against a railroad line because he got drunk, passed out with his legs across the tracks and the inevitable happened.

    My husband was dumbfounded. He turned to me and said "Wow. In my country, they would just laugh at you for being so stupid!"

  7. The tradeoff is that in Israel, wince there are no frivolous court cases, the Supreme Court has time to issue stupid decisions.


  8. Mizellie,

    Actually a woman had her legs cut off on the nyc subway system and then sued.. the only catch was she laid down on the tracks to commit suicide!!!

    The jury awarded her several million dollars which thankfully was commuted to just a few hundred grand... not bad for a botvhed suicide attempt eh ?

    I would never sue my doctors for medical malpractice, firstly my surgeons are the best in the world.. they give me the sober data and if something goes wrong its not their fault. I'm sure some loudmouth docter can claim he could have done better, but thats not the point.

    I had 14 operations with various side effects, and anyone who can sue a surgeon who was removing a tumor needs to be put back to sleepl.

  9. I know people in Israel who are being sued for yelling at someone. The people being sued are mentches through and through. Go figure.

  10. RAFI:

    i agree that american society is way too litigious, but i think a small dose of this would be helpful for israel. in my few experiences Israeli government and business is marred by horrible customer service and bureaucracy. maybe a few good lawsuits could alleviate these problems.

  11. elchohnon - Wow. Just wow. It is one thing to have compassion and feel bad for this woman. It's another to say that the subway system was at fault in any way. I don't get these types of judgments at all.


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