With summer around the corner, daydreams of vacation fill our minds. And nothing puts a wet blanket on a planned trip like losing your luggage.
In this week’s case, we meet Canella Gomez, from Brooklyn. Canella booked a flight with Southwest Airlines for a 2-day stay in sunny Orlando, Florida. Unfortunately, when Canella arrived at Orlando, it was discovered that his luggage was…lost. Canella filed a claim with Southwest’s package services. Canella was provided with a check in the amount of $2,504.67.
Unhappy with the settlement, Canella sued Southwest Airlines, claiming that the value of the contents was more than $2,504.67, and that he was still owed $8,000. Southwest, however, did some investigating and came up with very interesting information. Southwest counterclaimed against Canella to recover the $2,504.67, alleging that Canella had filed a false claim.
Here is what they had: At trial, Southwest’s package services manager testified that Canella had provided receipts in the sum of $9,077.83 for multiple items of clothing -- eight pairs of pants, eight hats, four jackets, five pairs of sneakers, four pairs of boots, among other items – even though Canella’s stay in Florida was for less than two full days. The manager also provided evidence showing that some of the same receipts had been used by another person who had flown to Las Vegas with Canella's son in order to substantiate a claim for lost property against United Airlines. Also, it was shown that Canella had filed other lost property claims with other airlines and with United Parcel Service.
Here is what the court did: Usually, it is improper to prove that a person did an act on a particular occasion by showing that they did a similar act on a different, unrelated occasion. Another way to say that is that you cannot use similar bad acts from the past to prove that someone did something bad today. But….sometimes those similar bad acts committed in the past may be relevant to prove a common scheme or the absence of mistake. Here, because Southwest had a claim against Canella for fraud, the evidence of Canella's submission of prior lost property claims was relevant on the issue of his motive or intent.
The Court found in favor of Southwest and stated that the evidence supported a finding that Canella had engaged in "a pattern of asserting fraudulent claims and filing frivolous lawsuits."
Here is the case: Gomez v. Southwest Airlines http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2017/2017_50928.htm?fbclid=IwAR1oX-5utQmI0TQVNOPFrnWjWn5mAGiD72ZETm2IMgmYvI8mMX7okRMW0_g