The Law: The $50,000 Bump

The Allegheny Airlines flight from Washington to Hartford had been overbooked, and the agent at the gate told the ticket holder: Sorry, confirmed reservation or no, all the seats are taken. Considering who the grounded passenger was, it might have been better to roll out another plane. For litigious Consumer Advocate Ralph Nader, unlike most travelers who are left at the gate, filed a lawsuit. He gathered evidence showing that Allegheny regularly overbooks (as do most airlines). Last week Federal Judge Charles Richey ruled that Allegheny bumps "wantonly" and "with malice." He tagged the airline for $50,000 in punitive damages, half...

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