Justia Aviation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Williams International Company LLC designed, manufactured, and serviced small jet engines. Dodson International Parts, Inc., sold new and used aircraft and aircraft parts. After purchasing two used jet engines that had been manufactured by Williams, Dodson contracted with Williams to inspect the engines and prepare an estimate of repair costs, intending to resell the repaired engines. Williams determined that the engines were so badly damaged that they could not be rendered fit for flying, but it refused to return one of the engines because Dodson had not paid its bill in full. Dodson sued Williams in federal court alleging federal antitrust and state-law tort claims. Williams moved to compel arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), relying on an arbitration clause on the original invoices. The district court granted the motion, and the arbitrator resolved all of Dodson’s claims in favor of Williams. Dodson then moved to reconsider the order compelling arbitration and to vacate the arbitrator’s award. The court denied both motions and, construing Williams’s opposition to the motion for vacatur as a request to confirm the award, confirmed the award. Dodson appealed, challenging the district court’s order compelling arbitration and its order confirming the award and denying the motions for reconsideration and vacatur. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed, holding: (1) the claims in Dodson’s federal-court complaint were encompassed by the arbitration clause; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Dodson’s untimely motion to reconsider; and (3) that Dodson failed to establish any grounds for vacatur of the arbitrator’s award or for denial of confirmation of the award. View "Dodson International Parts v. Williams International Company" on Justia Law

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Horry County, South Carolina filed an action in magistrates court to eject Skydive Myrtle Beach, Inc., from a hangar at the Grand Strand Airport in North Myrtle Beach. The magistrates court found Skydive did not have any right to occupy the hangar, and ejected Skydive. The circuit court affirmed. Skydive appealed to the court of appeals, which dismissed the appeal on the ground it was moot. The South Carolina Supreme Court granted Skydive's petition for a writ of certiorari and reversed the court of appeals because the Court held the appeal was not moot. On the merits, it agreed with the magistrates court and the circuit court that Skydive had no right to occupy the hangar. Thus, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court. View "Skydive Myrtle Beach v. Horry County" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an action alleging that the FAA wrongfully terminated plaintiff. Plaintiff filed her action in the district court within the 30-day statutory limitations period, but she mistakenly named only the FAA and her former supervisor as defendants. Because plaintiff's action alleged claims of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, she should have named the head of the executive agency to which the FAA belonged, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. After the statute of limitations had expired, the FAA moved to dismiss and Secretary Chao then filed her own motion to dismiss.The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiff was entitled to relation back under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(2). The panel held that the district court adopted an overly technical interpretation of the term "process" as used in Rule 15(c)(2). Rather, the panel held that the notice-giving function of "process" under Rule 15(c)(2) was accomplished whether or not the summons accompanying the complaint was signed by the clerk of court. Furthermore, the requirements for relation back were met here where both the United States Attorney and the Attorney General were sufficiently notified of the action within Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m)'s 90-day period. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Silbaugh v. Chao" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting motions to remand to state court. AHI contended that it properly removed this case to federal court under 28 U.S.C. 1442(a)(1). Plaintiffs had filed suit in state court against the helicopter owners, the Hecker Defendants, and the manufacturer, AHI, after John Udall died in a helicopter crash while touring the Grand Canyon.The panel held that the district court committed no error in finding that AHI was not "acting under" a federal officer by virtue of becoming an FAA-certified Designation holder with authority to issue Supplemental Certificates. In this case, AHI inspected and certified its aircraft pursuant to FAA regulations and federal law and could not make any structural or design changes without the consent of the FAA. The panel joined the Seventh Circuit in concluding that an aircraft manufacturer does not act under a federal officer when it exercises designated authority to certify compliance with governing federal regulations. View "Riggs v. Airbus Helicopters, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Jackson Municipal Airport Authority (JMAA) currently manages the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport, but control would transfer to a new board under Senate Bill 2162, which was recently passed by the Mississippi Legislature. The new board would be structured differently with nine commissioners, rather than the current five. Although Governor Bryant signed the Bill into law in 2016, it has only nominally taken effect. The FAA does not consider disputed airport transfers if there is pending litigation. JMAA and others sued, challenging S.B. 2162 under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses, alleging discriminatory purposes. In discovery, Governor Bryant identified Chief of Staff Songy as a person having discoverable knowledge that would tend to support or refute any claim, defense, or element of damages in the case. JMAA moved to compel Songy’s deposition. Governor Bryant sought a protective order, claiming official privilege, which limits depositions. The Fifth Circuit declined to issue a writ of mandamus requested by the Governor. Involuntary depositions of highly-ranked government officials are only allowed in “exceptional circumstances.” A court must consider the status of the deponents, the potential burden on them, and the substantive reasons for taking the depositions; it rare that exceptional circumstances can be shown where the testimony is available from an alternate witness. The court nonetheless noted important aspects of this analysis that the lower court failed to fully consider, including parallel litigation regarding the deposition of legislators. View "In Re: Bryant" on Justia Law

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Mokdad, a naturalized U.S. citizen, sought injunctive relief against the Attorney General, the FBI, and the Director of the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) based on alleged instances where he was denied boarding on commercial airline flights between the U.S. and his native country, Lebanon. Claiming that his application for redress under the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP) was not adequately resolved, he requested that the court order his removal from the No Fly List and any other such list. The Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s conclusion that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction On remand, TSC re-examined Mokdad’s DHS TRIP request, notified him that he was not on the No Fly List, and issued a declaration that Mokdad is not on the No Fly List and will not be placed back on the list based on the currently available information. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Mokdad’s case is moot in light TSC’s declaration. Even if Mokdad has been placed on another watch list, or is experiencing delays as he alleged, Mokdad did not identify any other lists or defendants, precluding effectual relief. If Mokdad believes that he is on another government list, the remedy is to file a new action. View "Mokdad v. Sessions" 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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At the heart of this appeal were The Boeing Company’s alleged violations of FAA regulations arising from aircraft Boeing sold or leased to the government. Three former employees of Boeing (referred to as relators) in this qui tam action, brought suit under the False Claims Act (FCA) against Boeing and one of its suppliers, Ducommun, Inc. The relators claimed Boeing falsely certified that several aircraft it sold to the government complied with all applicable Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, even though it knew parts manufactured by Ducommun and incorporated into the aircraft didn’t conform to FAA-approved designs. The district court granted Boeing’s and Ducommun’s respective motions for summary judgment on the relators’ FCA claims, finding no genuine dispute of material fact as to the falsity, scienter, and materiality elements of those claims. The district court also denied the relators’ motion to strike two FAA investigative reports, which the court then relied on in granting the motions for summary judgment. The relators then appealed. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded the district court properly admitted the FAA reports under the Federal Rules of Evidence and the relators failed to establish the scienter element of their FCA claims. View "Smith v. Boeing Company" on Justia Law

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The Kanawha County Commission is a member of the Central West Virginia Regional Airport Authority, which owns and operates Yeager Airport. At the behest of the FAA, they began a project to remove a hill in Charleston's Coal Branch Heights neighborhood. The Commission wanted to acquire the 10-acre “Nutter Farm” to deposit material removed from the hill and purchased a two-thirds interest, paying $58,333.33 for each one-third interest, then filed a condemnation petition against the third owner, Gomez. The court determined that the Commission’s stated purposes were a proper public use and appointed condemnation commissioners, who valued Gomez’s share at $33,335. The court permitted the Commission to deposit $33,335 and granted immediate possession. Following discovery, the court struck the testimony of Gomez’s expert, struck Gomez’s claims, and granted the Commission summary judgment. The Supreme Court of Appeals reversed in part. The court upheld the determination of public use; the holding that any enhancement or depreciation in value caused by the project for which the land was taken must be disregarded in determining market value; and striking Gomez’s expert. The court erred in striking Gomez’s “claims” as a sanction for her failure to appear at her deposition; in taking judicial notice of the commissioners’ report on the value of the land; and in entering summary judgment. Gomez has a right to testify to the value of her interest in the property on the date of the taking by the Commission. View "Gomez v. Kanawha County Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a pilot, filed a complaint alleging that Potomac Highlands Airport Authority (“PHAA”) wrongfully banned him from the Greater Cumberland Regional Airport. Petitioner’s complaint alleged a loss of income as a result of his inability to access the airport premises and sought injunctive relief. The circuit court granted PHAA’s motion to dismiss pursuant to W. Va. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s dismissal of Petitioner’s complaint, holding that Petitioner failed sufficiently to identify and plead the legal basis of his cause of action and failed adequately to state a claim sufficient to survive dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). View "Malone v. Potomac Highlands Airport Auth." on Justia Law