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ATRA Questions 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 questioned 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 . . . , 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 the 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 level.

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