Man Testifies Dildo Prank Ruined His Life

     HOUSTON (CN) – A gay man who claims homophobic United Airlines workers took a dildo from his bag and taped it to the outside, testified Wednesday the incident turned him into a shut-in who installed 16 security cameras at his house and fears his new neighbors are working for the airline.
     Returning from a vacation to Costa Rica, Christopher Bridgeman and Martin Borger arrived at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport on May 21, 2011, went through customs and rechecked their undisturbed luggage before flying home to Virginia.
     Upon arrival in Norfolk the couple went to baggage claim and “discovered, to their horror, that a private sex toy had been removed from one of their bags, covered in a greasy foul-smelling substance and taped prominently to the top of their bag,” they claim in their August 2012 lawsuit.
     The men filed the complaint in a state court in Houston, the home of Continental Airlines before it merged with United in 2010 to form the world’s largest airline.
     They seek punitive damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy and negligence, claiming United’s baggage handlers knew the large purple dildo belonged to a male because they read the name tag on the bag.
     U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt dismissed the case after it was moved to Federal Court, concluding the Montreal Convention, which governs airline liability for passenger injuries and damaged luggage, pre-empted their claims.
     The couple appealed to the 5th Circuit, which sided with them and remanded the case to Hoyt for a trial that started this week.
     Bridgeman took the stand on Wednesday and testified that he and Borger felt they had no choice but to file a lawsuit and talk to the media about the incident because they were angry at the airline’s refusal to take responsibility for it.
     “We couldn’t garner any information from United about what happened and we were hurting,” Bridgeman told his attorney Dax Faubus, citing the emotional toll he says the incident has taken on him and Borger.
     “The largest airline in the world was giving us no customer service. We felt we had no choice but to go to the media. We needed it to get out there because our main goal was to make sure nothing like this happens to anyone else,” Bridgeman testified.
     Bridgeman and Borger even posted a website called “Plight 2171,” a play on the flight number that took them to Virginia.
     “Picture this: When removing the clear tape (with the airlines’ logo stamp visible) we discovered the sex-toy had been smeared with some sort of grease or lubricating substance with fragments of brown particles (fecal-matter) clearly visible with the most vile smell you can imagine, insinuating the sex-toy had just been used. Traumatizing and absolutely vomitous,” the site states.
     Their lawsuit doesn’t say anything about fecal matter.
     Bridgeman told the jury of three men and four women that he also contacted the Transportation Security Administration and was satisfied that its agents were not responsible, satisfied with its response that the agency puts a notice in all bags it inspects. Bridgeman found no note in the bag.
     Dressed in a black suit with a black, gray and red argyle tie, the balding Bridgeman seemed on the verge of tears as he described how the prank has affected his life.
     Bridgeman said he and Borger were once involved in many organizations and were regulars at charitable events, but since the incident that is no longer the case.
     “It’s gotten to the point that we stay on the second floor of our house,” Bridgeman said. “It’s hard to leave the house because the egregious act has consumed us. We no longer feel safe.”
     The prank led them to install 16 security cameras at their house and made Bridgeman start to question his sanity, he testified.
     “We had new neighbors move in next door and I’m wondering if they’re working for United to try to unearth something that they may find and it’s nuts. It’s lunacy,” Bridgeman said.
     Faubus pressed Bridgeman to further describe how the incident has changed him.
     Bridgeman said it’s now hard for him to do simple tasks. The difficulty of finishing a job that involved moving photos from one computer folder to another made him start sobbing and set off a panic attack that landed him in the hospital, he testified.
     “It takes me an hour to make a sandwich,” he added.
     After a break in the proceedings, United attorney Edward Adams, with Norton Rose Fulbright, cross-examined Bridgeman and showed the jury letters from a doctor who interviewed Bridgeman in 2010 and determined he showed signs of depression then, despite his claims that he was diagnosed with depression because of the dildo prank.
     With the tension between lawyer and witness tangible in their terse exchanges, Adams seized on the fact that Bridgeman and Borger sought out the media to publicize the prank and their lawsuit.
     “Did you provide information to media outlets about the bag, the sex toy and Flight 2171?” Adams asked.
     “I did,” Bridgeman answered.
     “Did you give an interview to a TV station in Norfolk about your lawsuit?” Adams continued.
     “Absolutely. United ignored us so we had to do it,” Bridgeman said.
     The trial is expected to continue until Friday and possibly into next week.

%d bloggers like this: