A National Symphony Orchestra bassoonist who is suing two airlines for failing to make the ‘necessary accommodation’ for his instruments has been attacked by a coalition of businesses determined to protect themselves against such lawsuits. There is plenty of vexatious litigation going on, to be sure, in many walks of American life, but in this case an honest musician appears to be acting on a principle that affects the entire profession.(See, most recently, here.)
Before you read the press release, here’s Lewis talking about his instrument.
ATRA Condemns NSO Musicians’s Lawsuit against Airlines
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT:
Darren McKinney (202) 682-0084
ATRA CONDEMNS NSO MUSICIAN’S LAWSUIT AGAINST AIRLINES
Plaintiff’s Interview with Washington Post Undermines His Claim
WASHINGTON, D.C., August 2, 2012 – Citing a report yesterday by the Blog of
LegalTimes (BLT), the American Tort Reform Association today condemned the
“shameless” slip-and-fall lawsuit that a National Symphony Orchestra
musician has filed against two airlines.
According to the BLT, “Lewis Lipnick, a celebrated bassoon and contrabassoon
player with the [NSO], is suing United Air Lines, Inc., and Lufthansa,
claiming he suffered a bad fall after the airlines failed to make necessary
accommodations for him and his instrument.”
Filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Lipnick’s
lawsuit alleges he was on his way home from Germany in September 2010 after
traveling there to buy a new instrument similar to a contrabassoon. Though
he’d gone to the expense of buying a separate ticket for the 70-pound
instrument, he apparently was unwilling to check two additional bags he also
sought to carry on the plane.
When a ticket agent allegedly told him he couldn’t use an elevator to access
the boarding area, Lipnick claims he was forced to struggle with his
carry-on bags and the bulky instrument on an escalator, and that’s when he
says he “sustained serious injuries, including injuries to his neck, back,
and left arm, and severe mental and emotional injuries” [emphasis added].
“Yet within a few weeks of his alleged escalator fall and ‘severe’
injuries,” observed ATRA director of communications Darren McKinney, “Mr.
Lipnick had recovered sufficiently to perform superbly with the orchestra
and provide the Washington Post with an altogether upbeat interview about
his trip to Germany to purchase his instrument, never breathing a word of
his heroic suffering for the sake of his art.”
McKinney noted particularly the following text from The Post story on
Lipnick by staff writer Anne Midgette: “Even with the expense of traveling
to Germany, renting a car and buying two business-class tickets for the
return flight so his new instrument could travel in its own seat, [Lipnick]
considers it money well spent.”
“Surely if Mr. Lipnick had been suffering severe injuries when Ms. Midgette
interviewed him, her story would have made at least a passing reference to
those injuries and the commitment to his craft that such injuries would
imply,” McKinney continued. ”But there was no mention of injuries, severe
or otherwise, and that leads reasonable people to believe that, like his
double-reed instrument, Mr. Lipnick’s lawsuit is full of hot air.
“At the time of Mr. Lipnick’s alleged fall, he was nearing 64-years of age.
But knowing that he’d be carrying his new 70-pound instrument, he
nonetheless opted not to check his additional luggage. And now he
shamelessly seeks to blame the airlines for his poor judgment. Talk about
blowing a sour note.”
The American Tort Reform Association, based in Washington, D.C., is the only
national organization dedicated exclusively to tort and liability reform
through public education and the enactment of legislation. Its members
include nonprofit organizations and small and large companies, as well as
trade, business and professional associations from the state and national
Here is a response from Mr Lipnick’s legal team.