By Amy E. Feldman
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – At what point does telling others of your suspicions about a person’s stability cross the line from cautious to defamatory? The Supreme Court is going to tell us.
A pilot for Air Wisconsin who failed a flight simulator for the fourth time and was therefore due to be fired was furious and cursing loudly when he left the simulation to board a flight (as a passenger) home. Air Wisconsin called the Transportation Security Administration on him, telling them they feared he was unstable and possibly armed. The TSA dragged him off the flight.
He turned out not to be armed. He sued the airline for defamation and won a $1.4 million verdict. The airline appealed, and the case was recently heard by the Supreme Court which must decide whether the airline made the right call by erring on the side of caution, which would be legal even if, as here, their suspicions turned out to be wrong, or whether they made statements they knew were false or were made with reckless disregard to the truth, which would be defamatory.
As a worker, you probably don’t like the thought that your boss can just call authorities on you without any evidence. As a passenger, you’re probably ok with the airline’s decision.
We’ll see what the Supreme Court has to say about the not-so-friendly dispute in the skies.