I read in this article that a woman is suing Southwest airlines for $10 million because she was forced to wear a mask.

This sounds absurd to me. Can someone just arbitrarily demand millions of dollars? If not, how do lawsuits work?

  • 1
    I believe this is the case in question
    – user40839
    Jan 21, 2022 at 12:08
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    Tis is IMO a perfectly valid general question: what are the broad limits on what a person can sue for and hoe much a plaintiff can demand. No additional details are needed to give a general answer to this general question, and I would like to do so. I have voted to reopen this, and I urge others to do the same. Jan 21, 2022 at 16:35
  • The article says "...ejected here from a flight..". I trust that they weren't actually in flight at the time. Feb 12, 2022 at 20:27

3 Answers 3


Can you just sue anyone for anything?


But being able to sue falls nowhere near being able to win.

To sue literally means to deliver properly formatted papers to the court, pay the fees, and deliver copies to the other party. Bingo! You are already suing!

Then what? That's the real question.

  • 4
    Note that some people are forbidden to be sued (for certain things or because of the offices they hold) and some people are forbidden from suing other people (typically because they've repeatedly misused the procedure)
    – Richard
    Jan 22, 2022 at 15:55
  • @Richard Correct, though those filters are usually executed when presenting the papers for filing. No fee will be taken unless those checks pass.
    – Greendrake
    Jan 23, 2022 at 8:29
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    What most people really mean when they say "can I sue for X" is whether they can prevail in a lawsuit seeking particular relief, of course. And the answer then, is sometimes yes, and sometimes no.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 2, 2022 at 22:52
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    @ohwilleke Correct, but here the OP is surprised by the ability to sue for arbitrary amounts; question of prevailing does not arise.
    – Greendrake
    Feb 3, 2022 at 0:24
  • Also, there may be some limits due to Sovereign Immunity if you are suing the Federal Government in the US.
    – JohnFx
    Feb 5, 2022 at 16:09

Since you didn’t mention the country: In Germany, you can sue anyone for a large amount if you wish to. However, the court will set court fees and lawyer fees as a percentage of the amount that is in dispute (here: $10 million, court fees and lawyer fees will be in the ten thousands).

The loser pays. But should you actually win $10,000 (unlikely), you lost 99.9% because you asked for $10 million, so you have to pay 99.9% of all the fees. So this is a very bad and costly plan.

  • Country has been mentioned in the tags.
    – Greendrake
    Feb 4, 2022 at 23:55
  • Not when I read it. People add tags.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 6, 2022 at 0:50

Yes, it is true that in the US, anybody can sue anybody for anything.

However, it is worth noting that there are also recourses when cases are filed without any merit. For example, a defendant can countersue for frivolous lawsuit or abuse of process if a lawsuit is simply ridiculous or pure harassment. It is also possible that the lawyer could face penalties from the bar association (potentially up to and including disbarment).

Furthermore, many US jurisdictions have laws regarding vexatious litigation. For example, in California, someone who chronically files frivolous legal actions can be added to a list of vexatious litigants, in which case they are barred from filing any further actions without permission from a judge.


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