Last June his client, Norma Steiner, was on her way home to California from Jacksonville Florida on Southwest Airlines with a plane change in Nashville. She wasn't planning on staying overnight there, but that's what happened after she got into a dispute with a male flight attendant as the plane sat on the tarmac.
"She was doing like everybody else, she sent a text message to tell people who were picking her up that the plane was leaving," says Hatton. "The door wasn't closed, people were still putting their bags into the overhead compartment and a male flight attendant zeroed in on her and told her to turn her phone off."
According to the suit, Steiner pressed 'send' then immediately turned the phone off. "As she buckled herself in and got settled the flight attendant returned and asked her again to turn the phone off," says attorney Hatton.
Although Steiner showed him the phone, the attendant refused to look at it. Hatton says, "He just kept telling her there were laser beams that could tell him when a phone was still on. He just kept harassing her, and finally said 'You know I can have you thrown off this plane if I wanted to'."
Within minutes, the plane had taxied back to the terminal and Steiner was arrested for disorderly conduct. "She spent about three hours in a cell until she could get someone to wire her money and post a bond. She took another Southwest flight to Burbank the next morning without incident," says Hatton.
The lawsuit filed against Southwest alleges that she suffered severe emotional distress, false arrest and malicious prosecution as a result of the incident and asks for $2 million in damages.
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Hatton subsequently asked if the airline had spoken to any of the other passengers. "They didn't even talk to any other passengers," says Hatton. "Basically their investigation was to talk to the flight attendant and then agree with him."
Hatton has requested the names of the other passengers around Steiner and expects the information will be critical to the suit as it goes forward.
Southwest Airlines has made no official comment on the case.
Tim Hatton is a graduate of the University of Dayton J.D. (1984). Hatton is a General Practice attorney and handles a wide variety of cases of all types, both criminal and civil. He is committed to providing clients with affordable representation.