Airline Passenger Rights Group Reports
Court stops airline from plastering passengers information on Internet
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Kate Hanni, executive director of FlyersRights.org, reported today that, "Airline passengers, stranded on the tarmac by Jetblue Airways at JFK Airport on Valentines Day 2007 for up to 11 hours, had a small victory Friday January 20th. The NYS Supreme Court Appellate Division per Justice Cheryl Chambers issued a temporary restraining order preventing Jetblue from posting on the internet in e-filing or otherwise releasing the plaintiff's medical, tax returns and personal information as it had threatened to do."
The court will hear the Plaintiff passenger's motion for an injunction pending decision on her appeal of a shocking decision by the trial court in Queens. Pre-trial court Judge Valerie Brathwaite-Nelson had denied any confidential protective order for plaintiff and proposed class representative Katharine Biscone and agreed with the airline that by filing a personal injury lawsuit, she had waived all privileges relating to the confidentiality of her medical and tax records. The plaintiff, who is a New York City based actor and writer had been a victim of a stalker and identity theft in the past, and so informed the appeal court in an affidavit.
The appeal court decision could have far reaching effects on the privacy rights of plaintiffs in NY personal injury cases where electronically filed court documents can now easily be viewed online anonymously for free and downloaded for free by anyone with internet access.
Plaintiff attorney Paul Hudson, noted in papers filed with the appeal court that if the lower court decision is upheld, there will be "an undeniable risk of irreparable harm and abuse to plaintiffs personal safety, mental health, financial, personal and business relationships ... thereby allowing unrestricted public dissemination on the internet of medical and tax records... [and giving] a new and powerful deterrent and disincentive to filing such cases...forc[ing] plaintiffs to choose between gross invasions of privacy with serious risks to their health, safety, reputational, financial and personal relationship interests or the pursuit of civil justice against a tort feasor."
The appeal court will also decide whether the case can proceed as a class action to seek compensation for all 1,300 JetBlue passengers stranded on Feb. 14, 2007 for up to 11 hours on the tarmac, or will be confined to one plaintiff with physical injuries as ruled by the lower court. Briefs have been filed and oral argument will be heard before a panel of appellate judges on February 7th starting at 10 am at the courthouse at 45 Monroe Place, Brooklyn, NY 11201.
The oral argument is open to the public and passengers who have an interest in this matter may attend and get further information. All lower court paper filings are available to the public at the WebCivil Supreme web site under Queens County index no. 700140/2010 and unlike federal cases, there are no charges or fees to view or download any document.