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Thu, Dec 18, 2008

Couple Sues UAL For Overserving Abusive Husband

Man Beat Wife After Drinking Wine To Excess

A bizarre lawsuit has been filed by a Japanese man against United Airlines, charging that it's the airline's fault he beat and injured his wife after getting off a flight from Osaka, Japan, to San Francisco.

Yoichi Shimamoto tells the Chicago Tribune he was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and battery after he struck his wife, Ayisha, six times, injuring her face and upper lip as they were heading through US Customs in San Francisco. The couple claims the attack is the fault of the airline... which they say served the husband wine every 20 minutes on the long flight, leaving him drunk and "unable to manage himself."

The suit was filed December 5th in US District Court in Tampa. It seeks $100,000 related to bail expenses, payment of other legal costs, damages for pain and suffering, and, "...any other relief that is just and proper."

The suit was filed in the spirit -- so to speak -- of the Dram Shop Act, which assigns liability to commercial suppliers of alcohol for injuries caused by their intoxicated patrons. The law is why, in most US states, bars and other commercial outlets won't sell alcohol to anyone who is visibly impaired.

Legal experts say the airline could certainly be held responsible if the alcohol had been served in California... but at 40,000 feet over the international waters of the Pacific, it's not so clear.

James Speta, a professor at Northwestern University Law School, suggests common sense may eventually make its way into this case.

"The idea that the server should have stopped serving is often accepted when the injury is to a third person, such as in a drunk-driving situation," Speta says. "Generally, the courts have not been receptive to people saying, 'I asked for the drink and you gave it to me.'"

FMI: www.united.com

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