Justia Aviation Opinion Summaries

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In this case, a woman was severely injured while moving an inoperable airplane owned by her husband. She sought recovery from her husband's homeowner's insurance policy. The insurance policy, however, excluded injuries "arising out of" the ownership, maintenance, use, loading or unloading of an aircraft. The woman argued that the policy should cover her injury because, in her view, the aircraft had become mere "parts" after her husband removed the wings, elevators, and tail rudder. The lower court disagreed and concluded that her injuries were not covered by the policy. The woman appealed this decision.The Supreme Court of the State of Alaska agreed with the lower court’s interpretation of the homeowner's insurance policy exclusion. The court maintained that regardless of whether the airplane was considered an aircraft or a collection of airplane “parts” when it injured the woman, the injury arose out of the husband’s ownership of the airplane. This interpretation was supported by the clear language of the policy which excluded coverage for bodily injury arising out of ownership or maintenance of an aircraft. As a result, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision. View "Thompson v. United Services Automobile Association" on Justia Law

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A group of petitioners, including several municipalities, private individuals, and organizations, challenged the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) approval of a new terminal for the Trenton-Mercer Airport. The petitioners alleged that the FAA’s decision violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to fully consider the environmental impact of the new terminal, among other things. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit found that the FAA had adequately considered the environmental impact of the new terminal and had not violated NEPA. The court found that the FAA reasonably concluded that the new terminal would not induce additional air traffic, and therefore, would not result in increased noise or air pollution. The court also found that the FAA had conducted a reasonable environmental justice analysis and did not need to perform a health risk assessment. The Court of Appeals denied the petitioners' request to review the FAA's decision. View "Trenton Threatened Skies Inc v. FAA" on Justia Law

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In a case brought before the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Bruce McWhorter, a mechanic, had his certification revoked by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) after it was discovered that he had not replaced certain components of an aircraft's engine despite claiming to have performed a major overhaul. McWhorter appealed the decision to an administrative law judge who affirmed the FAA's decision. McWhorter then sought to appeal this decision to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), but failed to serve the FAA with his notice of appeal in a timely manner. The NTSB dismissed McWhorter's appeal on these grounds. McWhorter subsequently petitioned for a review of the NTSB’s dismissal, but did so 111 days after the NTSB issued its final order, exceeding the 60-day limit prescribed by law.The court clarified that the 60-day limit for seeking appellate review stipulated in 49 U.S.C. § 1153(b)(1) is not a jurisdictional requirement, but rather a claim-processing rule. This means that a petitioner’s failure to comply with this time limit does not affect the court’s jurisdiction to hear the appeal. However, the court found that McWhorter had not established reasonable grounds for the delay in filing his petition for review, as required by the same statute for petitions filed after the 60-day limit. The court determined that the primary blame for the delay was on McWhorter, not on any confusion created by the FAA or the NTSB. Therefore, the court denied McWhorter's petition as untimely. View "McWhorter v. FAA" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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