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No Travel Costs for Man’s Failed Inauguration Trip

(CN) - The government has no duty to reimburse the recipient of free tickets to President Obama's 2009 inauguration for his travel expenses after he was denied entry to the ceremony, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled.

Michael A. Steinberg received two free general admission tickets to the inauguration from his congressman. Legislators issued about 240,000 of these free tickets through the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

Steinberg said he would have thought twice about attending the event had he known there was a possibility he and his guest would be turned away at the door.

According to his pro se complaint, the government had a "contractual duty" to warn him that he might not get into the event. He claimed the government must reimburse his travel expenses, because it didn't uphold its end of the bargain.

Steinberg further claimed that the government directly benefited from the free tickets, because the ticket holders became an important part of the event. He equated his experience to that of someone recruited to help promote a casino.

But the claims court in Washington, D.C., rejected the comparison "of a presidential inauguration to a casino's business efforts."

"The United States did not receive a bargained-for benefit from the spectators who attended the inauguration ceremonies," Chief Judge Emily Hewitt wrote.

The court was similarly unmoved by Steinberg's breach-of-contract claim, saying he failed to establish a valid contract with the government.

Though Steinberg physically picked up the tickets, Judge Hewitt said, his complaint failed to "assert that there was an objective manifestation of mutual assent on the part of the (congressional committee) or of any individual member of Congress sufficient to establish" an actual contract.

The court granted the government's motion to dismiss and tossed as moot Steinberg's demands for reimbursement.

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