Hear the One About a Texas Lawyer Who Walks Into An Airport…and Sues?
By Jeremy Potter
First, there was the judge from Washington D.C. who sued his drycleaner for losing his pants, and now a Houston personal injury lawyer is threatening to sue several Houston entities over a missing leather jacket. Frivolous lawsuits and the lawyers who file them do nothing to curb negative public sentiment toward lawyers.
William Ogletree left his Polo leather jacket at a pizza restaurant in the Houston Intercontinental Airport’s food court before a Continental Airlines flight to Las Vegas. According to The Smoking Gun, as of March 4, 2010, Ogletree had not yet filed suit but he did send a letter to the city of Houston, Continental Airlines and the food management company of the food court, threatening to sue unless he was sent an $800 reimbursement for his lost coat. Media accounts took for granted that Ogletree has a baseless claim…and it turns out they’re right. But they didn’t explain why.
To win his claim, Ogletree would have to prove that he has a bailor-bailee relationship with one of the parties mentioned in his letter. New York Law School’s Professor Chused, a property law expert, described this relationship using the example of a coat check service at many restaurants and theaters, where there is an agreement established between the staff and coat owner. The staff accepts responsibility for your coat until you can return and claim it; a mutual agreement exists between the coat owner and coat check staff.
Ogletree would have to establish a bailment relationship with the city, the airline, or the restaurant’s management company (the three entities he threatened with a lawsuit).
The City of Houston and Continental Airlines do not have any connection to Ogletree’s jacket so they are easily off the hook for any liability. The food management company did serve Ogletree and operate the food court area, but this is not enough to establish the special relationship needed for a bailment. To establish this relationship according to Texas law, Ogletree and the food management company would have had to agree to delivery (by Ogletree) and acceptance (by the food court) of personal property (the jacket) for a specific purpose (absent here) with the understanding that the property would ultimately be returned to the owner. Since there was no such understanding, there was no bailment.
Since his letter only threatened a lawsuit, we cannot be sure what Ogletree really intended. He may have hoped that he’d receive $800 just because he was a nuisance, or for public relations reasons.
Mr. Ogletree is a lawyer. In fact, he’s a partner in the firm of Ogletree Abbott. You’d think he’d know better. In his attempt to try to negotiate his way into an unwarranted payment, he has confirmed his place on the media’s list of ridiculous lawyers’ lawsuits.