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Cab company responsible for failed ride to airport, appeals court says

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A Verona couple whose travel plans were derailed were properly awarded nearly $6,000 from a Madison cab company that failed to pick them up from home and take them to the airport in time for their flight, a state appeals court judge ruled Thursday.

The decision by Judge Gary Sherman, affirming a small-claims ruling in Dane County Circuit Court, said that by failing to pick up Larry and Donna Peters for their flight in June 2011, the couple sustained damages that “were a natural and direct consequence of Union Cab’s breach,” and that the damages were foreseeable by the company.

The Peters had sought damages of $5,225 for airline tickets, which had to be re-booked in a short time frame; $300 in ticket exchange fees; and $615 for hotel fees for the days they missed because of their late departure.

After a trial in March, Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi awarded the Peters $5,933. Sumi rejected Union Cab’s defense that the mistake was mutual between Union and the Peterses, instead finding the mistake was Union’s alone.

Sherman agreed, finding that a transcript of a phone call between Donna Peters and Union on June 7, 2011, four days before the Peters were to depart, indicated that at no point did Donna Peters say she wanted to be picked up on Sunday, June 12, rather than Saturday, June 11.

Union also argued that the damages were too “remote, unforeseeable” and disproportionate to the price of a cab ride to be upheld.

“However,” Sherman wrote, “it is that uncertainty, as well as the knowledge that flights are expensive, especially when purchased on short notice, that makes the Peters’ damages foreseeable.”

The Peterses’ lawyer, Lauri Morris, was traveling and not available for comment.

Union’s lawyer, Scott Herrick, said Union sought a review by the Court of Appeals in part because there is no case law directly on the issue as it pertains to cabs. He said it was also hoped that the case would provide greater clarity as to what the upper limit of liability in a case like this might be.

Herrick said he had not yet spoken to Union about whether to ask the state Supreme Court to review the case.

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