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Don't get between a lawyer and his free drinks. That doesn't fly, as Southwest Airlines seems to have learned in a class-action lawsuit brought by thirsty attorney Adam Levitt over drink coupons.
The Chicago lawyer sued Southwest over unused drink coupons that Southwest allegedly failed to honor. Levitt's suit has landed in an out-of-court settlement worth between $29 million and $58 million, the ABA Journal reports.
Given that the unused drink coupons are valued at $5 apiece, as many as 12 million drinks have been awarded to Levitt and other plaintiffs in the class.
Levitt brought the lawsuit in 2010 claiming breach of contract, consumer fraud, and other claims. All the claims were eventually dropped except for the breach of contract claim.
The drink coupon vouchers had been given to passengers who paid extra for Southwest's Business Select seats, reports the Journal. The problem is that the vouchers apparently did not bear expiration dates; passengers kept their unused vouchers and tried to use them on different flights. They were denied.
Southwest says the vouchers were meant to be used only when customers purchased a Business Select ticket, and were supposed to be used on that same flight, reports the Journal. In other words, they were not transferable and you could not keep them and save them for when you really needed a drink on another flight.
The problem was that it was not clear where this policy was printed, and Levitt didn't see why his coupon could not be used at a later time.
Southwest maintains that it could have won the lawsuit had it made its way through court. However, the airline's lawyers apparently felt that it was easier to simply settle the issue instead. The company may have considered things like bad publicity, the time sink of litigation, and attorney's fees in deciding to settle.