Airlines Sued for Their Role in Parental Child Abduction

The loss of a child is a tragedy too great to bear. Yet some separated or divorced parents are prepared to inflict the ultimate revenge of child abduction on their former spouses or partners.

Left behind parents are desperate to find their missing children and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on location efforts. Despite the benefits of the Hague Convention on Child Abduction and the parental protections it offers in countries that are signatories to the treaty, the Hague law cannot be invoked if a child cannot be located or will not be returned by a country who ignores the law.

Recently, parents whose children have been abducted are attempting to seek compensation from airline companies who transport children from their home state to a foreign country, without requiring proof from the travelling parent that the child’s other parent has consented to the child’s removal from his or her home country.

Success in these cases has been mixed. Lawyer Barry Pollock successfully sued an American charter airline who accepted payment of $160,000.00 to transport a father and his three children to Egypt and then to Cuba. In 2005 a Connecticut jury awarded $27 million to the children’s mother on the basis the airline negligently failed to provide adequate safeguards against child abduction. The children were rescued in Cuba and returned to their American mother.

In October 2010 father Patrick Braden sued All Nippon Airways after his Japanese wife Ryoko Uchiyama fled California for Japan after her court action to obtain permission to move with her daughter Melissa to Japan was denied by the presiding judge. Ms. Uchiyama was ordered to relinquish Melissa’s passport to her father’s lawyer, but instead she beat a hasty retreat to the Los Angeles airport and left the country.

Mr. Braden argued the airline had an obligation to ask his wife to produce a notarized letter of authorization permitting Melissa to leave the country with her mother or alternatively, provide proof she had sole custody of her daughter.

Melissa’s father lost his lawsuit.The Court relied on the 1998 decision of Pittman v. Grayson, involving a child abducted from the United States to Iceland, where it was held that an airline had no duty of care to a parent in the absence of a special relationship between the airline and the parent.

Mr. Braden will probably never see the return of his daughter given Japan’s reputation as a country who will not sign the Hague Convention or return children to their home countries under any circumstances.

Other parents are taking even more desperate action such as Christopher Savoie who is suing his former lawyer, Virginia Lee Story and Tennessee Judge James G. Martin. Judge Martin mediated a parenting plan for Mr. Savoie and his wife Noriko Savoie and later made an order permitting Ms. Savoie to travel to Japan for a week for a vacation with the children, which overturned a previous judge’s order. Mr. Savoie travelled to Japan to bring the children home, but ended up in a Japanese jail for 18 days before he was released to return to America without his children.

Mr. Savoie alleges that Judge Martin should never have been both mediator and judge in the same case and his lawyer, Ms. Story, was negligent in failing to object to the Judge’s dual role.

Lawsuits to extract financial compensation are perhaps the only way parents fighting to have their children returned can afford to continue their efforts. Along the way, unwitting participants in parental child abduction may become educated and sensitized to these tragedies.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

9 thoughts on “Airlines Sued for Their Role in Parental Child Abduction

  1. FYI — by order dated December 2, 2010, Judge Trauger dismissed Mr. Savoie’s case on the merits, except as to state law claims against Stites & Harbison where it declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. He lost largely by way of a wide application of the doctrine of judicial immunity.

    The same doctrine works against many parents of children living legally abroad because it permits U.S. judges carte blanche in issuing warrants for those parents’ arrest on trumped up charges of kidnapping, even where no jurisdiction exists over child custody issues in U.S. courts, and without probable cause of a crime having been committed. Such warrants have as their sole objective to influence the outcomes of private child custody disputes. Although they are illegal, the most that one can do is have them quashed. Recompense from the issuing judges for the damage they do to innocent people, however, is nearly impossible.

  2. Thank you for the update on this story. I am not surprised by the outcome given the breadth of judicial immunity. What I am surprised about is the speediness of the hearing and the decision in this case. In my jurisdiction this case would have taken many months to be heard and decided.

    Was a summary procedure utilized to dispose of the case so quickly?

    Again, thanks for your contribution. Best regards, Georgialee Lang

  3. It was on motion to dismiss. The case would have been dismissed even more quickly but for a series of procedural manoeuvres by the plaintiff that took some time to play out.

    What intrigues me most about this and other cases that get widely reported on when they are first filed is how little attention is given to them when they fail. Perhaps these kinds of cases are filed just for show?

  4. I’m sorry you’ve had the misfortune of having Emmanuel Lazaridis threadcrap on your blog.

    Here’s who he is:

    googling Emmanuel Lazaridis and abduction shows lots of other info on this shady character.

    Great article btw. It’s sad that the airlines are being used as a line of defense in preventing child abductions for the simple fact that the US Government will not do so. Our countries lack of exit controls at our borders and ports of entry is shameful.

  5. If we look at history most would say Mr. Braden and Mr. Savoie will not be able to see their kids until the children turn 18 and come looking for them. But, I am a gambling man and I think these 2 men will see their kids within the next year or 2. They might get the meaningful relationship that all parents are hoping for but progress is being made with the Japanese government in large part due to both of these men.

  6. RE: what Kevin Brown wrote.

    As you can see it is already past the 2 years Kevin, and as expected nothing has changed. You may say “Japan signed the hague”, but that in itself means nothing. We all know the japanese government has trouble telling the truth – just look at Fukushima. I anticipate those 2 men will never have meaningful relationships with their children, not in 2 years and not in 20. The world needs to hold Japan accountable for their crimes…oh wait we still havent done that for the crimes they commited in WWII…why would anything change?

  7. “The games people play” or should I paraphrase “The games government play”. Japan is a disgrace, but most of the world has no idea. Thanks for your continuing contributions!

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