Justia Aviation Opinion Summaries
Ilczyszyn v. Southwest Airlines Co.
Southwest Airlines passenger Ilczyszyn suffered a massive pulmonary embolism while locked inside an airplane lavatory during the final stages of a flight from Oakland to Orange County. Rather than treating Ilczyszyn’s circumstances as a medical emergency, the flight crew perceived him to be a security threat; he did not receive medical care until after the flight had landed and the other passengers had disembarked. By then, he had gone into cardiac arrest. Although he was resuscitated, he later died in a hospital.A jury found that Southwest was negligent but found against the plaintiffs on the issue of causation. The court of appeal affirmed. The trial court properly found that Southwest was immune from liability under both 49 U.S.C. 44941 (Aviation and Transportation Security Act), and Civil Code section 47(b) for any act or omission occurring after the flight crew decided to treat Ilczyszyn’s medical emergency as a security threat. The court rejected arguments that these statutory immunities apply only to the actual disclosure of a security threat, not to conduct associated with such disclosures, and that the immunity is inapplicable here because the gravamen of their case was based solely on the flight crew’s negligent failure to identify the medical emergency. View "Ilczyszyn v. Southwest Airlines Co." on Justia Law
City of Scottsdale, Arizona v. FAA
The city of Scottsdale, Arizona filed a petition challenging the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval of certain east-bound flight paths out of the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, claiming the flights resulted in injury to the city because planes flying along those routes produce noise and pollution on property that the city owns.The D.C. Circuit denied Scottsdale's petition, holding that, while this is the type of harm that could confer standing, Scottsdale was unable to identify evidence proving the city suffered actual harm. The City presented no evidence of increased noise or pollution. View "City of Scottsdale, Arizona v. FAA" on Justia Law
Ydil Pham v. NTSB
Petitioner is an experienced airline pilot. When he was interviewing for a new position, he was asked to take a urine test. Unable to provide an adequate sample, Petitioner left the site. Under FAA guidelines, walking out before providing a drug test sample is considered a refusal. The potential employer reported Petitioner's refusal to the FAA. The FAA sought to revoke Petitioner's pilot and medical certifications. However, at a hearing in front of the National Safety Transportation Board, the Board agreed with the FAA in sustaining the refusal, but reduced Petitioner's sanction to a 180-suspension.The D.C. Circuit denied Petitioner's petition for review, finding that by walking out before providing a sufficient urine sample, Petitioner's conduct was properly considered a refusal. In so holding, the court noted that the trial court credited the FAA witnesses while questioning the veracity of Petitioner's testimony.The D.C. Circuit also granted the FAA's cross-petition, finding that the Board was required to defer to the FAA under these circumstances. View "Ydil Pham v. NTSB" on Justia Law
Fleming v. Cirrus Design Corp.
Cirrus petitioned for inter partes review of a patent that describes ballistic parachute systems that use a rocket to deploy a parachute, slowing the fall of a crashing aircraft. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board determined that the challenged claims are unpatentable as obvious over a combination of Cirrus Design’s Pilot Operation Handbook (POH) and the James patent. The POH describes the operation of a ballistic parachute system installed on the Cirrus SR22 airplane. The James patent, titled “Semiautonomous Flight Director,” describes a “device for programming industry-standard autopilots” to allow “for the safe operation of any aircraft by an unskilled pilot. The Board determined that proposed amended claims lacked written description.The Federal Circuit affirmed. The determination that the ordinarily skilled artisan would program James’s autonomous system to perform the claimed flight maneuvers suggested by POH is the result of a faithful application of precedent on obviousness, including a directive to consider the creativity of the ordinarily skilled artisan. That the prior art cautioned pilots not to use autopilot in some emergency situations on some aircraft does not mean that the skilled artisan would have been dissuaded from doing so in all emergency situations on all aircraft. Substantial evidence supports the finding of lack of written description. View "Fleming v. Cirrus Design Corp." on Justia Law
Cavalieri v. Avior Airlines C.A.
Plaintiffs purchased tickets for Defendant’s commercial flights from Miami to Venezuela. Plaintiffs allege that their ticket prices reflected the “fully-paid contract” and that Defendant failed to sufficiently disclose any other fees required for passage. When checking in for their flights at the airport, however, Defendant informed Plaintiffs that they had to pay an additional $80 “Exit Fee” before being allowed to board their flights. Plaintiffs filed a breach of contract putative class action.The district court dismissed the suit, concluding that the Airline Deregulation Act preempted Plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim because it related to the price of the airline ticket and the Act’s preemption provision identifies actions relating to price as preempted. The Eleventh Circuit reversed, first holding that the Plaintiffs plausibly alleged facts that would establish diversity jurisdiction. Plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim seeks merely to enforce the parties’ private agreements regarding the cost of passage and does not invoke state laws or regulations to alter the agreed-upon price. The statute, 49 U.S.C. 41713(b)(1), provides: “[A] State . . . may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of an air carrier..” The suit falls within the category of cases protected from preemption by Supreme Court precedent. View "Cavalieri v. Avior Airlines C.A." on Justia Law
Erwin v. Federal Aviation Administration
The DC Circuit remanded to the FAA for it to consider the evidence petitioner provided and to make the explicit "why and wherefore" of its action. In this case, after petitioner, a commercial airline pilot with a diagnosed alcohol dependence, tested positive for alcohol, the FAA withdrew his medical certification required for flight. Petitioner requested reconsideration of the FAA's decision with documentation to demonstrate that the positive test was due to unknowing exposure to alcohol. View "Erwin v. Federal Aviation Administration" on Justia Law
Earl v. Boeing Company
The Fifth Circuit granted defendants' motion for a stay of discovery in this class action lawsuit while the court reviews their appeal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(f). Boeing and Southwest were sued for allegedly conspiring to conceal design defects in Boeing's 737 MAX 8 aircraft and thus defrauding airline ticket purchasers. After considering the Nken factors, the court concluded that Boeing and Southwest have made a strong showing that the court is likely to reverse the class-certification decision because they raised substantial predominance questions regarding damages. Furthermore, defendants have also made a strong showing regarding irreparable harm; plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged that they or any other parties will be irreparably injured by delaying further discovery until the conclusion of the Rule 23(f) appeal; and the public interest supports staying district court proceedings to avoid potentially wasteful and unnecessary litigation costs where, as here, defendants have shown a substantial likelihood of success on appeal. View "Earl v. Boeing Company" on Justia Law
Jibril v. Mayorkas
Plaintiffs filed suit against the Government, alleging violations of their Fourth and Fifth Amendments and the Administrative Procedure Act, and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. Plaintiffs' action stemmed from extensive and intrusive security screenings at domestic and international airports, and their belief that they were on a terrorist watchlist maintained by the U.S. Government. The district court granted the Government's motion to dismiss with prejudice on the ground that plaintiffs lacked Article III standing.The DC Circuit concluded that because plaintiffs plausibly allege that they will travel again soon and that they will again endure the alleged illegalities, they have established an imminent threat of future injury and have standing to pursue most of their claims for prospective relief. The court could easily infer from the family's travel history that they will soon fly again, particularly if they secure the relief they now seek. Furthermore, plaintiffs' uncontested factual allegations, combined with the reasonable inferences the court drew from them, plausibly indicate that the family likely appeared on a terrorist watchlist in 2018. The court also concluded that plaintiffs plausibly allege that the treatment they endured went well beyond what typical travelers reasonably expect during airport screenings. Finally, plaintiffs' factual allegations lead to the reasonable inference that the family's watchlist status remains the same today.However, the court held that plaintiffs lack standing to pursue prospective relief relating to certain actions taken by Government agents who detained them during their travel in 2018. In this case, plaintiffs claim that these actions violated established federal policies, but they lack standing because they have not plausibly alleged any impending or substantial risk of future harm. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part, remanding for further proceedings. View "Jibril v. Mayorkas" on Justia Law
United Airlines, Inc. v. Transportation Security Administration
United sought refunds, pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 44940(g), from the TSA for payments it made to the TSA related to fees charged to airline passengers, and collected by airlines, that fund aviation security measures and are to be remitted monthly to the TSA. United contends that it erroneously remitted the security fees in two circumstances: (1) tickets associated with passengers who purchased their tickets from other airlines but who were later involuntarily transferred to United flights and (2) tickets for which, because of currency exchange rate fluctuations, the recorded and remitted fee amount deviated from the fee amount statutorily required.The DC Circuit upheld the TSA's decision denying United's refund request regarding the second set of tickets, but found that the TSA's denial of a refund for the first set arbitrary and capricious. The court concluded that the TSA's denial was arbitrary and capricious with respect to the involuntary transfer tickets where the court is confronted with a factual dispute with important implications for United's refund. On the one hand, United claims that it never transfers security fees—a practice that appears correct in view of the allocation of liability under 49 U.S.C. 44940—but failed to raise or support this assertion until oral argument. On the other hand, the TSA maintains that airlines might transfer security fees but does little to support this assertion in its denial letter, at least beyond bare conclusions and unsupported hypotheticals. The court vacated the TSA's decision with respect to the IT tickets and remanded to the TSA for reconsideration of the denial. The court otherwise affirmed the TSA's decision. View "United Airlines, Inc. v. Transportation Security Administration" on Justia Law
Corbett v. Transportation Security Administration
Petitioner sought review of the TSA's Mask Directives, issued in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, claiming that the TSA has no authority to issue the directives. Petitioner argued that TSA's authority under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act does not empower TSA to require face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.The DC Circuit found no merit in petitioner's claim and denied the petition for review. The court concluded that the COVID-19 global pandemic poses one of the greatest threats to the operational viability of the transportation system and the lives of those on it seen in decades. TSA, which is tasked with maintaining transportation safety and security, plainly has the authority to address such threats under both sections 114(f) and (g) of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. The court stated that the Mask Directives are reasonable and permissible regulations adopted by TSA to promote safety and security in the transportation system against threats posed by COVID-19. The Mask Directives are not ultra vires, and the court deferred to the agency's interpretation of the Act. View "Corbett v. Transportation Security Administration" on Justia Law