Justia Aviation Opinion Summaries
Milton, MA v. FAA
In this case, the Town of Milton, Massachusetts, petitioned for a judicial review of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) final order authorizing a new flight procedure at Boston's Logan International Airport. The new procedure, aimed at increasing safety and efficiency, covers a narrower swath of airspace over the Town of Milton. The Town argued that the FAA's environmental analysis of the noise impacts failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). However, the United States Court of Appeals For the First Circuit dismissed the Town's petition, ruling that the Town does not have standing to challenge the FAA's final order. The court concluded that the harms the Town asserted, including the impact of noise on its residents and the time and money spent addressing these issues, were not legally cognizable harms to the Town itself. The court agreed with other courts of appeals that have dismissed municipal NEPA challenges to FAA orders for lack of Article III standing because those challenges failed to show cognizable injury to the municipalities themselves. View "Milton, MA v. FAA" on Justia Law
SANDERS v. THE BOEING COMPANY (U.S. Fifth Circuit 22-20317)
The Supreme Court of Texas, in this case, addressed two questions relating to the interpretation of Section 16.064(a) of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code certified by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The questions pertained to the application of this statute when a case is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, but the court could have had jurisdiction had the claimants properly pleaded the jurisdictional facts and when the subsequent action is to be filed within 60 days after the dismissal becomes final.The first question was whether Section 16.064(a) applies when the prior court dismissed the action because of lack of jurisdiction, but the court would have had jurisdiction if the claimants had properly pleaded the jurisdictional facts. The Supreme Court of Texas answered in the affirmative, concluding that the statute applies even if the prior court could have had jurisdiction, as long as it dismissed the action due to a perceived lack of jurisdiction.The second question was whether the subsequent action was filed within sixty days after the dismissal became final. The Supreme Court of Texas also answered this question in the affirmative, holding that a dismissal or other disposition becomes final under Section 16.064(a)(2) when the parties have exhausted their appellate remedies and the courts' power to alter the dismissal has ended.The factual background of the case involved two flight attendants who alleged that they were injured when a smoke detector on a flight malfunctioned. They initially filed a suit against The Boeing Company in a federal district court in Houston, then refiled their claims in a federal district court in Dallas. After the Dallas district court dismissed the case due to a lack of jurisdiction (based on inadequate pleading of diversity jurisdiction), the flight attendants appealed. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal, and the flight attendants subsequently refiled their claims in state court. Boeing then moved to dismiss the action based on the two-year statute of limitations. The Houston district court granted the motion and dismissed the suit, leading to the certified questions. View "SANDERS v. THE BOEING COMPANY (U.S. Fifth Circuit 22-20317)" on Justia Law
Jones et al. v. Goodrich Pump & Engine Control Systems, Inc. et al.
After two United States Army pilots tragically perished in a helicopter crash, their surviving family members sued various companies responsible for the making of the helicopter. The family members alleged that manufacturing and/or defective operating instructions and warnings caused the pilots’ deaths. The companies countered that the family members’ asserted state law claims were barred by a number of preemption doctrines. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the companies, finding that there was implied field preemption under the Federal Aviation Act (the “FAAct” or “Act”). The Second Circuit vacated. The court explained that it believes that field preemption is always a matter of congressional intent, and Congress’s removal of military aircraft from the FAAct’s reach indicates that it did not wish to include them in the FAAct’s preempted field. Rather, Congress intended for the Department of Defense (“DoD”) to have autonomy over its own aircraft. While it is possible that the family members’ claims may be barred by the military contractor defense, another preemption doctrine, see generally Boyle v. United Techs. Corp., 487 U.S. 500 (1988)—this determination requires a fact-intensive analysis to be handled by the district court in the first instance. Further, the court wrote that aside from any issues of preemption by the military contractor defense, the family members offered sufficient evidence under Georgia law for their strict liability manufacturing defect claim to survive summary judgment. View "Jones et al. v. Goodrich Pump & Engine Control Systems, Inc. et al." on Justia Law
Abdallah v. Mesa Air Group
On a Mesa Airlines flight, a flight attendant grew concerned about two passengers. She alerted the pilot, who, despite the reassurance of security officers, delayed takeoff until the flight was canceled. The passengers were told the delay was for maintenance issues, and all passengers, including the two in question, were rebooked onto a new flight. After learning the real reason behind the cancellation, Passenger Plaintiffs sued Mesa under 42 U.S.C. Section 1981. The airline countered that it had immunity under 49 U.S.C. Section 44902(b). The district court granted Mesa’s motion for summary judgment. At issue is whether such conduct constitutes disparate treatment under Section 1981, whether a Section 1981 claim can exist without a “breach” of contract, and whether Section 44902(b) grants immunity to airlines for allegedly discriminatory decisions. The Fifth Circuit reversed. The court explained that the right to be free from discrimination in “the enjoyment of all benefits, privileges, terms and conditions” means that one has the right to be free from discrimination in the discretionary “benefits, privileges, terms and conditions” of a contract, too. Defendants cannot claim that flying at the originally scheduled time is not a “benefit” of the contract at all. Further, the court explained that a hand wave, refusing to leave one’s assigned seat, boarding late, sleeping, and using the restroom are far from occurrences so obviously suspicious that no one could conclude that race was not a but-for factor for the airline’s actions. The court wrote that because “a reasonable jury could return a verdict for” Plaintiffs, the dispute is genuine. View "Abdallah v. Mesa Air Group" on Justia Law
John S. Lowman, IV, et al v. Federal Aviation Administration, et al
Petitioners, a group of five individuals, filed this petition for review, claiming that the FAA violated the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) during its Phase II approval process. Petitioners assert that the FAA violated NEPA by (1) segmenting its review of a single Airport development project into multiple, smaller projects to make the project’s environmental effect appear less significant, (2) failing to consider the project’s cumulative effects, and (3) failing to analyze all air quality impacts. The FAA responds that, as an initial matter, Petitioners cannot bring this petition for review because they lack standing and did not exhaust their administrative remedies. Alternatively, the FAA contends that it did not violate NEPA, and the petition for review should be denied. The Eleventh Circuit denied the petition. The court held that Petitioners have standing and did not fail to exhaust their administrative remedies. Petitioners, however, fall short on the merits because it is clear that the FAA satisfied NEPA’s requirements. The court explained that Petitioners are unhappy that the FAA greenlighted Phase II (as well as the Airport developments preceding Phase II). However, the court does not vacate agency decisions over mere policy disagreements. Accordingly, the court held that the FAA did what it was supposed to do, and its review processes were not arbitrary and capricious. View "John S. Lowman, IV, et al v. Federal Aviation Administration, et al" on Justia Law
AIRLINES FOR AMERICA V. CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO
The City and County of San Francisco (the City) owns and operates San Francisco International Airport (SFO or the Airport). Airlines for America (A4A) represents airlines that contract with the City to use SFO. In 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City enacted the Healthy Airport Ordinance (HAO), requiring the airlines that use SFO to provide employees with certain health insurance benefits. A4A filed this action in the Northern District of California, alleging that the City, in enacting the HAO, acted as a government regulator and not a market participant, and therefore the HAO is preempted by multiple federal statutes. The district court agreed to the parties’ suggestion to bifurcate the case to first address the City’s market participation defense. The district court held that the City was a market participant and granted its motion for summary judgment. A4A appealed. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment. The court concluded that two civil penalty provisions of the HAO carry the force of law and thus render the City a regulator rather than a market participant. The court wrote that because these civil penalty provisions result in the City acting as a regulator, it need not determine whether the City otherwise would be a regulator under the Cardinal Towing two-part test set forth in LAX, 873 F.3d at 1080 View "AIRLINES FOR AMERICA V. CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO" on Justia Law
Meitav Dash Provident Funds and Pension Ltd., et al. v. Spirit AeroSystems Holdings, et al.
This appeal centered on claims for securities fraud against Spirit AeroSystems, Inc., and four of its executives. Spirit produced components for jetliners, including Boeing’s 737 MAX. But Boeing stopped producing the 737 MAX, and Spirit’s sales tumbled. At about the same time, Spirit acknowledged an unexpected loss from inadequate accounting controls. After learning about Spirit’s downturn in sales and the inadequacies in accounting controls, some investors sued Spirit and four executives for securities fraud. The district court dismissed the suit, and the investors appealed. "For claims involving securities fraud, pleaders bear a stiff burden when alleging scienter." In the Tenth Circuit's view, the investors did not satisfy that burden, so it affirmed the dismissal. View "Meitav Dash Provident Funds and Pension Ltd., et al. v. Spirit AeroSystems Holdings, et al." on Justia Law
Perry Hodges, et al. v. USA
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling entering judgment in favor of the US in a negligence suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”). The Seneca was piloted by Nisha Sejwal, with Ralph Knight accompanying her. The Cessna was piloted by Jorge Sanchez, with Carlo Scarpati, a student pilot, also on board. Both planes were “VFR” aircraft operating under standard visual flight rules. The Seneca was departing from, and the Cessna was arriving at, the Tamiami Airport (now known as the Miami Executive Airport) when the collision occurred. The representatives of the pilots’ estates filed suit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), alleging negligence on the part of Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) air traffic controllers at the Tamiami Airport. Following a bench trial, the district court entered judgment in favor of the United States, and the Plaintiffs appealed. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. Plaintiffs contend that language in the district court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law “suggests” that it improperly considered evidence of comparative negligence—an affirmative defense under Florida law—in making its ultimate finding that the controllers were not negligent. In particular, they point to the district court’s statements that there was (1) conflicting evidence about how the planes approached each other prior to the collision and (2) evidence that both planes were equipped with TIS devices and that the Seneca’s TIS device was functioning earlier in the day prior to the collision. The court concluded that the district court did not improperly consider evidence of comparative negligence but rather based its decision on Plaintiffs’ failure to prove the elements of their negligence claim. View "Perry Hodges, et al. v. USA" on Justia Law
Jadair International, Inc. v. American National Property & Casualty Co.
Schmutzler, the owner and president of Jadair, was a pilot with decades of experience. Schmutzler applied to American National for an insurance policy on its Cessna airplane in 2019. The application listed Schmutzler as the Cessna’s only authorized pilot; Schmutzler indicated that he was a licensed pilot with an FAA medical certificate. The application included “Minimum Pilot Requirements,” which stated that “there is no coverage in flight unless the aircraft is being operated by the pilot(s) designated on this document who has/have at least the certificates, ratings, and pilot experience indicated, and who … is/are properly qualified for the flight involved.” Schmutzler initialed this provision. The Cessna crashed in May 2020, killing Schmutzler, who was piloting the plane. The crash was caused by a mechanical failure.American National denied coverage because Schmutzler did not have a current and valid FAA medical certificate at the time of the accident; his previous certificate had expired. The district court granted American National summary and declaratory judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The policy unambiguously excludes coverage for any accident involving the Cessna where the pilot lacks a current FAA medical certificate. That requirement is an exclusion of coverage, not a failed condition of coverage. View "Jadair International, Inc. v. American National Property & Casualty Co." on Justia Law
Amy McNaught v. Billy Nolen
Petitioner is a pilot and flight instructor. After she failed to produce her pilot logbooks and training records upon request by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the FAA suspended Petitioner’s pilot certificate. Petitioner appealed the suspension to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) but, days later, complied with the records request. The FAA then terminated her suspension, which lasted 14 days in total and reinstated her certificate. Nonetheless, an NTSB administrative law judge held a hearing on Petitioner’s appeal and concluded that the suspension was reasonable. Petitioner appealed the decision to the full NTSB, but it dismissed the matter as moot. Petitioner petitioned for a review of the NTSB’s final order under 49 U.S.C. Sections 44709(f) and 46110. The Eighth Circuit concluded that Petitioner lacked Article III standing and dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction. The court explained that the first problem with Petitioner’s theory of future injury is that she has not shown with particularity how her brief suspension for noncompliance with a records request would harm her job prospects. Further, the court wrote that even assuming the 14-day suspension would be damaging to her job prospects, Petitioner’s claims are not y “real and immediate.” Moreover, the court explained that the record here lacks any facts showing that Petitioner’s suspension would harm her reputation in the estimation of the pilot community. Instead, Petitioner relied on vague, blanket statements of reputational harm. View "Amy McNaught v. Billy Nolen" on Justia Law