A jury panel at the Civil Law Court in Monrovia Thursday held Brussels Airlines liable for US$6.5m, following a weeklong trial at the Temple of Justice in an action of damages for wrong, filed by a passenger, London Elton Oliver. Presiding Civil Law Court Judge, Boima Kontoe, is expected to hand final ruling in the case within four days.
During final argument Thursday, plaintiff lawyer Counsellor Sayma Syrenius Cephus, pleaded with the court and jury to hold Brussels Airlines liable for US$3.5m as special damages; $2.5m as general damages for mental anguish; $1,749.39 and $1,244 Euros representing the cost of tickets bought by plaintiff in 2010.
Oliver’s lawyer had filed a complaint before the Civil Law Court that on 28 August 2010 that his client purchased a plane ticket from Brussels Airlines for one of its flights scheduled to have departed Liberia for Brussels, Belgium on August 29, 2010.
Upon arrival at the Roberts International Airport or RIA on scheduled date, the complainant claimed he was strangely and wildly prevented by one of Brussels Airlines’ agents or representatives on grounds that the exercise of booking-in had ended and the plane was allegedly filled.
In his persistence to make the trip to the United States, Oliver said he later made a call at Brussels’ head office in Monrovia to inquire for the next flight, after which he said his ticket was swapped for the next flight scheduled for 30 August 2010.
The plaintiff said upon arrival at the RIA on August 30, he again presented his documents to the defendant’s agent; but again, the agent adopted a rather unfriendly posture, apparently upon seeing the expected expiration date on his special permit given him by the U.S. Government with expiry date of August 31, 2010.
Oliver contended that the defendant knew or had reason to know that his special permit would have expired at midnight on August 31, 2010; yet, the defendant allowed him to board the flight and wished him “bon voyage”, and assured him that he would be in transit in Brussels and would have arrived safely and timely in the U.S.
However, upon arrival in Brussels, Belgium in transit under the full control of the airline company, awaiting the connecting flight, Oliver said he was informed that he could not board the plane on grounds that the duration of his special ticket would have expired before arrival in the U.S.
According to him, he was denied from getting on board the connecting Air Brussels flight, and the company told him that, as a matter of policy, it had to take him to a third country, something he rejected and pleaded with Brussels Airlines to put him on the next flight back to Liberia.
While in handcuff, Oliver alleged that police unleashed a group of sniffer dogs upon him and the dogs terrorized him, licked his body and left saliva or spit all over him.
He claimed that while in detention, he was subjected to all forms of racial prejudices, profiling and at one point handcuffed and allegedly drugged and treated as a psychiatric patient with all kinds of strange drugs, labeled and prescribed in Dutch.
Due to the alleged treatment, including alleged illegal imprisonment for two consecutive months, Oliver said he lost his U.S. Green Card, job, mortgage, properties, and business contacts worth US$3.5m.
He said the defendant’s action against him caused him to lose his job which he said yields an earning of US$2,000 per week. But in a counter argument, lawyers representing Brussels Airlines here, including Cllr. Denese Sokan, blamed victim Oliver’s situation on his alleged carelessness.
The defense team said in a popular Liberian adage that “Airplane don’t blow horn,” arguing that Oliver failed to arrive at the airport in time to await the initial flight he had booked, something they said caused his delays.
Regarding the connecting flight he was denied to board in Brussels, Belgium, the counsels said Oliver was being held under the custody of the immigration and police of the Belgium Government, having discovered that his permit was expired.