Justia Aviation Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiffs filed a class action against defendants alleging antitrust violations in connection with three categories of defendants' charged rates: unfiled fares, fuel surcharges, and special "discount" fares. Plaintiffs claimed that defendants colluded to fix the prices of certain passenger tickets and fuel surcharges on flights in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. 1. On appeal, defendants challenged the district court's holding that the filed rate doctrine does not preclude plaintiffs' suit. The court explained that the filed rate doctrine is a judicially created rule that prohibits individuals from asserting civil antitrust challenges to an entity’s agency-approved rates. The court concluded that there are genuine issues of fact as to whether the DOT has effectively abdicated the exercise of its authority to regulate unfiled fares. Therefore, the district court did not not err in denying summary judgment to defendants as to those fares based on the filed rate doctrine. The court also concluded that the district court did not err by finding that genuine issues of material fact regarding the DOT's exercise of regulatory authority over fuel surcharges precluded entry of summary judgment for defendants. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not err in declining to apply the doctrine to discount fares given the questions of fact regarding whether the discount fares constitute the same product as the fares actually filed. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's partial denial of defendants' motions for summary judgment. View "Wortman v. All Nippon Airways" on Justia Law

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Air Evac filed suit against state defendants, claiming that, as applied to air-ambulance entities, Texas' workers'-compensation system was federally preempted. Air Evac argued that, because the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA), 49 U.S.C. 4173(b)(1), expressly preempted all state laws related to a price, route, or service of an air carrier, Texas may not use state laws to regulate air-ambulance services. The district court granted state defendants' motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1). The court concluded that Air Evac had Article III standing because it had a pecuniary injury that could be redressed with injunctive and declaratory relief; Shaw v. Delta Air Lines, Inc. conferred federal-question jurisdiction because Air Evac's complaint sought injunctive relief on the basis that the ADA preempted Texas law; the Ex parte Young exception applied to this case where, to the extent Ex parte Young required that the state actor "threaten" or "commence" proceedings to enforce the unconstitutional act, state defendants' pervasive enforcement satisfied that test; and the court declined to exercise abstention under Colorado River Water Conservation District v. United States. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Air Evac EMS, Inc. v. State of Texas, Department of Insurance" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Mexican nationals, filed suit against defendants, international air transportation companies that transport passengers to and from the United States and Mexico, under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1961-68, alleging that defendants defrauded them by collecting a Mexican tourism tax in which they were exempt. Mexico imposed a tax on certain travelers who arrive in Mexico on flights that originated outside of Mexico, but exempted Mexican nationals and children under the age of two. The district court dismissed the case with prejudice. The court concluded that, although defendants' conduct regarding the tax was very troubling, plaintiffs failed to allege the existence of an express agreement, let alone an "enterprise" under section 1962. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Almanza v. United Airlines" on Justia Law

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In 1996 Brown Field Aviation Ventures leased space at Brown Field Airport from the City of San Diego under a long-term, master lease agreement. Brown Field Aviation Ventures subleased the space to Bearden Aviation, Inc. (Bearden), and Bearden subleased it to Finch Aerospace Corporation (Finch). Finch occupied the space with three airplane hangars. Lancair Corporation (Lancair) later purchased Bearden's leasehold. In 2005 the City amended and restated the master lease. Finch attempted to enter a new lease directly with the City and remove its hangars from Lancair's leasehold; however, Lancair claimed to own and control the hangars. Finch subsequently filed a complaint against Lancair alleging causes of action for quiet title, declaratory relief, intentional interference with economic advantage, conversion, and retaliatory eviction. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal’s review was whether the immunities in Government Code sections 818.8 and 822.2 applied to a slander of title cause of action and, if not, whether Finch otherwise adequately alleged a slander of title cause of action against the City. The Court concluded the immunities in sections 818.8 and 822.2 did not apply to a slander of title cause of action. Furthermore, the Court concluded Finch did not otherwise adequately allege a slander of title cause of action nor did Finch demonstrate it could cure the pleading deficiencies by amendment. Therefore, the trial court did not err in sustaining the City's demurrer to Finch's complaint without leave to amend. View "Finch Aerospace Corp. v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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Love Field airport is owned by the City and leased in part to Southwest Airlines. The City sought a declaration determining whether it must order Southwest to accommodate Delta at Love Field under the Lease Agreement or otherwise. Delta, Southwest, and the City filed competing motions for preliminary injunctions. The district court denied Southwest's motion and entered a preliminary injunction in favor of Delta essentially permitting Delta to continue operating five flights daily until a final decision on the merits. On appeal, Southwest argues that Delta is not a third party beneficiary and that the Lease Agreement does not require the accommodation Delta seeks. The court agreed with the district court that Delta and the City have shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits on the claim that the Lease Agreement requires Delta to be accommodated. In this case, the Lease Agreement plainly establishes a duty to accommodate by both Southwest and the City, and the scope of that duty is determined largely through the interpretation of language which the Lease Agreement itself leaves undefined. Interpreting such language, the district court found - and the court found persuasive - that Southwest owed the duty to accommodate Delta under these circumstances. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's order terminating the City's motion as moot; rendered judgment granting the City's motion for a preliminary injunction and ordering the accommodation of Delta; and affirmed the district court's denial of a preliminary injunction for Southwest. View "City of Dallas v. Delta Air Lines" on Justia Law

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Petitioner seeks review of the NTSB's decision affirming the FAA's order revoking his aircraft registration certificate. After petitioner admitted to the FAA that he used his aircraft to transport marijuana, the FAA revoked his registration certificate because “the aircraft was used to carry out, or facilitate, an activity that is punishable” as a drug-related felony. 49 U.S.C. 44106(b)(1)(A). Separate, state court criminal proceedings against defendant were dismissed after the trial court suppressed the drug evidence found on his plane. The court concluded that, under the statute’s plain language, the proper inquiry is whether the “activity” is “punishable,” not whether the certificate holder is at risk of being punished. In this case, because the activity—transporting marijuana—was punishable as a felony, the court concluded that defendant's certificate was properly revoked even though he may no longer be subject to punishment under state law. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Connors v. NTSB" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, diagnosed with Insulin Treated Diabetes Mellitus (ITDM), seeks the first class medical certificate necessary to serve as a commercial airline pilot. Plaintiff holds a third class medical certificate authorizing him to pilot non-commercial flights in the United States. The FAA contends it did not issue a final order regarding plaintiff's first class medical certificate application; it purportedly ruled solely on his independent request for a third class medical certificate and specifically indicated the first class certificate remained under review. The court concluded, however, that the specific facts presented here establish a constructive denial of plaintiff's application for a first class certificate. The court held that where, as here, an agency has clearly communicated it will not reach a determination on a petitioner’s submission due to petitioner’s recalcitrance but simultaneously refuses to deny the petitioner’s submission on those grounds, it has engaged in final agency action subject to the court’s review. Although plaintiff's case is subject to judicial review, the court noted that there is a complete absence of a relevant administrative record to review. Accordingly, the court remanded to the FAA to offer reasons for its denial of plaintiff's application for a first class medical certificate. View "Friedman v. FAA" on Justia Law

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Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust (TAIT) sought reimbursement for amounts it paid to a third-party contractor in furtherance of a noise abatement program funded primarily by grants from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Because its petition for review of agency action was not timely filed, The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the action. View "Tulsa Airports Improv. Trust v. FAA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, seeking to represent a class of customers, filed a civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1961-68, case claiming that Spirit engaged in an elaborate criminal enterprise involving the use of mail and wire fraud. The complaint specifically alleged that Spirit portrayed its Passenger Usage Fee as a government-imposed or authorized fee when, in fact, it was merely a portion of the base fare price of an airline ticket charged by the airline. On remand, the district court dismissed plaintiffs’ second amended complaint for failure to state a claim. The court affirmed, concluding that plaintiffs failed to adequately allege proximate cause; and they also failed to properly plead the existence of a RICO enterprise. View "Ray v. Spirit Airlines" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his former employer, Air Methods, in state court for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. Air Methods removed to federal court and the district court, relying on this court's decision in Botz v. Omni Air International, dismissed the complaint. In Botz, the court construed the effect of the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA), 49 U.S.C. 4173(b)(1), pre-emption clause on state whistleblower-protection laws. Although three circuits have disagreed with Botz in relevant part, the court concluded that plaintiff's claim cannot be distinguished from the second claim dismissed in Botz. Botz ruled that the plain language of section 41713(b)(1), bolstered by enactment of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (WPP), 49 U.S.C. 42121, pre-empted a whistleblower-retaliation claim based on reporting an alleged safety violation to an employer. Plaintiff argued that if Botz cannot be distinguished, then it should be overruled in relevant part. But one three-judge panel cannot overrule another. Plaintiff may raise this contention in a petition for rehearing en banc. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Watson v. Air Methods Corp." on Justia Law