Northwest Passengers Unite in Suit
DETROIT (AP) _ Thousands of passengers who were stuck on stationary Northwest Airlines flights during a snowstorm can be included in four lawsuits filed against the airline.
A judge on Friday granted class-action status to the lawsuits, filed after a January snowstorm stranded passengers at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
Todd Nemecek, who said he was trapped on the tarmac for 9 1/2 hours while trying to return to his home in Kansas City, Mo., called the ruling ``great news.″
``In the class action, we don’t really expect to ever see anything, but at least the airlines know they can’t do whatever they please,″ said Nemecek. ``They lost me as a paying customer.″
More than a dozen planes were left stranded on runways during the Jan. 3 storm that dumped nearly 2 feet of snow because Wayne County plows couldn’t clear the airfield.
Northwest attorneys argued that there were so many different situations among the passengers that the lawsuits didn’t warrant class-action status.
But Wayne County Circuit Judge Daphne Means Curtis ruled that each passenger’s situation was similar enough to warrant a class-action suit.
``I don’t think it matters that on some flights toilets may have overflowed or some stock of food and beverage were low on different flights,″ she said. Even though ``there may be differences in terms of injuries or allegations of some class members in this case, there are common questions that predominate.″
The plaintiffs also wanted to sue the county, but Curtis ruled Friday that it be dropped as a defendant because passengers were not a party to the county’s contract with Northwest.
Northwest spokesman Jon Austin said by phone from Minneapolis that the class-action ruling was expected.
``This is a procedural type of motion,″ he said. ``Certainly, it doesn’t go to the merits of the case. It doesn’t change our expectations at all.″
The court determined as many as 8,000 passengers will be eligible to join the lawsuit based on the number of apology letters and free flight coupons that Northwest sent out after the storm.
A U.S. Department of Transportation report released earlier this month found that Northwest did not violate any federal regulations but that conditions were ``severe enough to have jeopardized passengers’ well-being.″
The airline reviewed its operations after the incident and said it made changes to emergency procedures.