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Passenger sues airline for breach of contract after gun arrest

When you fly to another city, the airline pilot who takes you there may tell you the local time and weather conditions in your destination city. Is he also obligated to tell you whether you risk being arrested? That appears to be the contention of a passenger who’s suing an airline for breach of contract.

The passenger, president of a small Midwestern university, flew to New York last fall with an unloaded firearm locked in a case in his checked luggage. He has a permit to carry a concealed firearm in his home state, and he complied with requirements of the airline and the Transportation Security Administration by declaring he had the gun. It wasn’t until he was traveling home that he ran into trouble.

At the airport for his return flight, he declared again that he had the weapon to a ticket agent with Delta Air Lines. That agent contacted local authorities about the gun, and soon police arrived to take him to the Queens Boulevard Precinct and cite him with unlawful possession of a firearm. Even with the permit from his own state, it’s illegal to possess a firearm in New York unless the owner is a New York resident with a state and local concealed-carry permit.

He ended up spending a night in a cell with “horrendous conditions,” according to his resulting lawsuit. Although the charges were eventually dropped and his record was expunged, he’s suing Delta for breach of contract, negligence, breach of good faith and fair dealing, claiming that “Delta breached its duty to him as a customer by failing to inform him of the city’s restrictive gun laws,” according to a news report. His lawsuit says that even in the absence of charges against him, the incident was damaging and life-changing for him, and never should have happened.

Just how far do a business’s obligations go when it comes to informing customers of the risks associated with a product or service? And how close does the association have to be? That may determined in this litigation, which is still pending. Until then, it pays for travelers to do their homework before venturing to a city where the laws may be different from where they live.

Source: USA Today, “University president runs afoul of gun laws, sues Delta,” Ben Mutzabaugh, June 12, 2012

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