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A Little Gadget Called the Knee Defender Caused a Flight to Make an Emergency Landing

United Airlines David McNew/Getty Images

On Sunday, a United Airlines fight had to make an emergency landing because two passengers got into a very heated argument. This situation is not out of the ordinary because, let's face it, when you cram hundreds of people into a fart-filled tube that serves booze, you're bound to get some fights.

What's weird about this particular confrontation is that the whole dispute was over a little device called the Knee Defender, which is not just a name for the lamest super hero ever.

The Knee Defender is a gadget invented in 2003 by Ira Goldman, a Washington D.C. man who is over six feet tall and who was tired of people reclining into his lap and having no leg room during flights.

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Knee Defender

This tiny device attaches to your tray table and prevents the person in front of you from reclining. Pretty ingenious, right? Until it causes two people to get so pissed off at each other a flight has to make an emergency landing, which is exactly what happened this past weekend.

It all started when one passenger on a flight from New Jersey to Denver used the Knee Defender to keep the woman in front of him from reclining back while he was on his laptop. According to ABC News, the woman complained and a flight attendant asked him to remove the Knee Defender. He refused, and that's when the woman turned around and threw a cup of water on him. After the altercation, the flight team decided to land the plane in Chicago and have the passengers, who were both sitting in the Economy Plus section, escorted off.

The Knee Defender has not been banned by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (yet) because it doesn't affect passenger safety (again, yet). But airlines have the right to ban it themselves, and most of them do, including United Airlines.

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According to the website for the Knee Defender, it is a crucial purchase for "airline passengers with small children, 'road warriors' who need to work while flying, and any traveler who simply does not like being hit by a reclining airplane seat."

On one hand, we do hate when people recline into our lap when we are on our computers trying to catch up on all the latest episode of Chopped, but on the other hand, it's not really fair to take away someone's right to recline back.

What do you guys think? Is the Knee Defender a terrible invention or should people be free to use it? 

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