Supreme Court Says “Genug” to Kvetching Rabbi

Friday, April 04, 2014
S. Binyomin Ginsberg, Champion Kvetch

A rabbi who frequently complained about service on his favorite airline has lost his case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which said enough-is-enough to the kvetching plaintiff.


Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg—who, with his wife, took 75 flights a year on Northwest Airlines to give lectures and attend conferences—brought suit against Northwest after it kicked him out of its WorldPerks frequent flyer program in 2008.


The airline, now owned by Delta, said it was justified in booting Ginsberg for his “abuse” of the programs’ rewards. In one six-month stretch, the rabbi filed 24 complaints over travel problems. Nine of them were related to his luggage arriving late at the pickup carousel.


In a letter to Ginsberg, the airline wrote: “Since December 3, 2007, you have continually asked for compensation over and above our guidelines. We have awarded you $1,925.00 in travel credit vouchers, 78,500 WorldPerks bonus miles, a voucher extension for your son, and $491.00 in cash reimbursements. ... Due to our past generosity, we must respectfully advise that we will no longer be awarding you compensation each time you contact us.”


Claiming the cancelation of his membership amounted to breach of contract, bad faith and misrepresentation, Ginsberg sued Northwest for $5 million in damages in a San Diego federal court. There, District Judge Janis Sammartino threw out the case, saying the Airline Deregulation Act (pdf) pre-empted most of the rabbi's claims.


Ginsberg turned to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for help, and got his case reinstated.


That forced the airline to petition the Supreme Court, which reviewed the lawsuit and determined (pdf) Sammartino was right to dismiss it.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Justices Unsympathetic to Kvetching Rabbi (by Barbara Leonard, Courthouse News Service)

Rabbi Loses Court Case Over Frequent Flier Miles (by Mark Sherman, Associated Press)

Northwest Inc. v. Ginsberg (U.S. Supreme Court) (pdf)

Rabbi Goes to Court Because Airline Kicked Him out of Frequent Flyer Program for Complaining Too Much (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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