Mom frustrated over damaged snowboard ordeal

September 13, 2010 7:22:35 PM PDT
If an airline loses your luggage, you have rights under federal regulations. But what happens if they damage your luggage? The experience of a family in Marin County is bringing that question to light.

Snow country adventures have been a Moneta family favorite over the years, so Lisa Moneta decided to get her son Alex a snowboard for Christmas and he looked forward to taking the board out for the first time.

"He was very excited to go back to school and use his brand new snowboard," Lisa said.

He took a united flight from San Francisco to Maine and that evening, he noticed a big rip in his snowboard carrier.

"He had never used it, never used it and here's the other part of the bag that was damaged as well. It's just torn open," Lisa said.

A short time later, her son noticed damage to the snowboard itself.

"It's bent and then there's a bubble right underneath it. And when we took it to the place where we purchased it, they said it would be better if it was replaced and not repaired because its the integrity of the board is damaged," Lisa said.

Her son filed a claim with United Airlines, but was told united didn't cover damage to sports equipment.

"Certainly the airline would have the right to give themselves that sort of exemption, but there's a legal question of notice. How is the consumer supposed to know this so they can assume the risk in checking the luggage," attorney Randy Warren said.

Airlines set their official policies in their contract of carriage. That contract posted on United's website specifically states: "it will accept sporting equipment as checked baggage subject to certain conditions and limitations."

Alex told his mom that never happened.

"I would put the burden on the airline to prove that they had given adequate notice to the person there and are now saying, assume the risk," Warren said.

Lisa continued to push her son's claim, writing letters, talking to people on the phone and being transferred from one department to another. The ordeal lasted 15 months.

"Before giving up, I decided one last shot to contact 7 On Your Side," she said.

We contacted united airlines and Lisa told us they became much more pleasant to work with after that. Three months later, United sent her a check for $500, enough to replace the snowboard.

"I was thrilled to finally get that check after a year and a half. It's a great feeling to finally get that check," she said.

Lisa will be buying Alex a new snow board soon.


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