Justia Aviation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
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
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
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
Longobardo v. Avco Corporation
Defendant Avco Corporation, a manufacturer of airplane components, appealed the denial of its summary judgment motion, which was based on the statute of repose enacted by Congress as part of the General Aviation Revitalization Act (GARA). Defendant contended a denial of summary judgment in this context constituted an appealable collateral order under California’s collateral order doctrine. To this, the Court of Appeal concluded it did not and dismissed the appeal. View "Longobardo v. Avco Corporation" on Justia Law
Harold Rutila, IV v. TRAN
Plaintiff attended a Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) air traffic controller training program at the FAA Academy. Because he failed the final performance assessment, Plaintiff was not retained as a permanent air traffic controller. Several months later, Plaintiff submitted ten requests under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) to the FAA seeking various categories of records. Dissatisfied with the FAA’s responses to his requests, Plaintiff brought two suits against the FAA and its parent agency, the Department of Transportation (“DOT”; collectively with the FAA, “Appellees”), seeking injunctive relief compelling the release and disclosure of the requested agency records. The district court later consolidated the two lawsuits. Appellees moved to dismiss most of Plaintiff’s claims, and the district court dismissed seven of Plaintiff’s requests for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff appealed the district court’s judgment with respect to three of his requests. The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that it is undisputed that the FAA does not maintain screenshots of individuals’ Active Directory Account profiles, NextGen Toolbox profiles, or Windows Explorer directories and folder structures. Therefore, for the FAA to produce the requested records, it would have to open the relevant software, display the requested data, and take a screenshot of the displayed information. The court explained that his inquiry would not merely require Appellees to produce information they retain and use, albeit in a slightly altered format; it would instead require Appellees to produce a new record— a screenshot—of information it does not store. FOIA imposes no such obligations on agencies. View "Harold Rutila, IV v. TRAN" on Justia Law
Jackson Muni Airport v. Harkins
The Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport is a major airport located in Jackson, Mississippi. Since 1960, the airport has been operated by the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority, whose five commissioners are selected by the city government. In 2016, the Mississippi legislature passed, and the governor signed into law SB 2162, which abolishes the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority and replaces it with a regional authority composed of nine commissioners, only two of whom are selected by Jackson city government. A Jackson citizen filed a suit seeking to enjoin the law. The mayor, the city council, the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority, its board of commissioners, and the commissioners in their individual capacities intervened in that lawsuit. The intervenors contend that SB 2162 violates the Equal Protection rights of the citizens of Jackson by eliminating the locally controlled Jackson Municipal Airport Authority for racially discriminatory reasons. The intervenors served subpoenas on eight nonparty state legislators who participated in SB 2162’s drafting and passage. The Legislators refused to comply with Request #3 in the subpoena, which sought documents and communications related to SB 2162, asserting that any responsive discovery would either be irrelevant or protected by legislative privilege. The magistrate judge, and later the district court, rejected this position. The Fifth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in ordering the Legislators to produce a privilege log. But the district court erred in broadly holding that legislative privilege was automatically waived for any documents that have been shared with third parties. View "Jackson Muni Airport v. Harkins" on Justia Law
Erin Osmon v. US
Plaintiff sued the federal government under the FTCA, alleging one count of battery. A magistrate judge recommended dismissing Plaintiff’s suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction in a detailed memorandum devoted solely to whether the FTCA waives sovereign immunity for the type of claim Plaintiff brought. The district court adopted the magistrate judge’s recommendation. The district court concluded it need not review the recommendation de novo because Plaintiff failed to object with sufficient specificity and, in any event, “the Magistrate Judge’s proposed conclusions of law are correct and are consistent with current case law. The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court’s judgment and remanded for further proceedings. The court held that the district court erred in concluding Plaintiff did not adequately preserve her claim for review. The court explained that a party wishing to avail itself of its right to de novo review must be “sufficiently specific to focus the district court’s attention on the factual and legal issues that are truly in dispute.” The court concluded that Plaintiff cleared that bar. Further, the court concluded that the district court erred in dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court held that the FTCA permits people who allege they were assaulted by TSA screeners to sue the federal government. View "Erin Osmon v. US" on Justia Law
Air Excursions LLC v. Janet Yellen
Air Excursions, LLC provides air transportation services in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. It claims that the United States Department of Treasury (Treasury) erroneously disbursed pandemic relief funds to a competitor airline and challenges that disbursement as unlawful under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The DC Circuit vacated the district court’s order dismissing the complaint on the merits and remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. The court reasoned that the competitor standing doctrine supplies the link between increased competition and tangible injury but does not, by itself, supply the link between the challenged conduct and increased competition. The latter must be apparent from the nature of the challenged action itself—as in U.S. Telecom Association—or from the well-pleaded allegations of Plaintiff’s complaint. The court concluded that the complaint failed to establish that Air Excursions has suffered a competitive injury satisfying Article III’s injury in fact requirement. View "Air Excursions LLC v. Janet Yellen" on Justia Law
Professional Airline Flight Control Association v. Spirit Airlines, Inc.
The Professional Airline Flight Control Association complained that Spirit is attempting to change its agreement. Spirit responded that its unilateral decision to open a second operations control center is permitted by the parties’ agreement. The district court agreed with Spirit that this dispute is minor and dismissed the action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. Section 151 et seq., divides labor disputes into two categories: disputes over the interpretation of an existing agreement are “minor” and resolved exclusively through binding arbitration, and disputes over proposed changes to an agreement or over a new agreement are “major” and addressed through bargaining and mediation. During a major dispute, district courts have subject-matter jurisdiction to enjoin violations of the status quo. But district courts ordinarily lack jurisdiction over minor disputes. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s dismissal. View "Professional Airline Flight Control Association v. Spirit Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law