Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of a putative class action seeking refunds of baggage fees based on preemption by the Airline Deregulation Act, 49 U.S.C. 1301 et seq. Plaintiff filed suit, alleging various breach of contract claims, seeking a refund of a $15 baggage claim fee, because her bag did not arrive on time and was consequently delivered to her the next day. American Airlines v. Wolens is controlling as to plaintiff's breach of contract claim. In this case, because plaintiff's claim was for breach of contract of a voluntarily assumed contractual undertaking, and she pleaded breach of contract, the claim was not preempted by the Airline Deregulation Act as construed by Wolens. View "Hickcox-Huffman v. US Airways" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a class action against defendants alleging antitrust violations in connection with three categories of defendants' charged rates: unfiled fares, fuel surcharges, and special "discount" fares. Plaintiffs claimed that defendants colluded to fix the prices of certain passenger tickets and fuel surcharges on flights in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. 1. On appeal, defendants challenged the district court's holding that the filed rate doctrine does not preclude plaintiffs' suit. The court explained that the filed rate doctrine is a judicially created rule that prohibits individuals from asserting civil antitrust challenges to an entity’s agency-approved rates. The court concluded that there are genuine issues of fact as to whether the DOT has effectively abdicated the exercise of its authority to regulate unfiled fares. Therefore, the district court did not not err in denying summary judgment to defendants as to those fares based on the filed rate doctrine. The court also concluded that the district court did not err by finding that genuine issues of material fact regarding the DOT's exercise of regulatory authority over fuel surcharges precluded entry of summary judgment for defendants. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not err in declining to apply the doctrine to discount fares given the questions of fact regarding whether the discount fares constitute the same product as the fares actually filed. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's partial denial of defendants' motions for summary judgment. View "Wortman v. All Nippon Airways" on Justia Law

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Petitioner seeks review of the NTSB's decision affirming the FAA's order revoking his aircraft registration certificate. After petitioner admitted to the FAA that he used his aircraft to transport marijuana, the FAA revoked his registration certificate because “the aircraft was used to carry out, or facilitate, an activity that is punishable” as a drug-related felony. 49 U.S.C. 44106(b)(1)(A). Separate, state court criminal proceedings against defendant were dismissed after the trial court suppressed the drug evidence found on his plane. The court concluded that, under the statute’s plain language, the proper inquiry is whether the “activity” is “punishable,” not whether the certificate holder is at risk of being punished. In this case, because the activity—transporting marijuana—was punishable as a felony, the court concluded that defendant's certificate was properly revoked even though he may no longer be subject to punishment under state law. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Connors v. NTSB" on Justia Law

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Petitioners challenged the FAA's decision that no Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is necessary to commence operating commercial passenger service at Paine Field in Snohomish County. The court held that the scope of the FAA's demand-based projections were not arbitrary and capricious. In this case, the FAA determined that there were no connected actions for this project and petitioners have failed to provide anything more than mere speculation that the FAA’s actions now will lead to more aircraft activity at Paine Field in the future than covered in the Environmental Assessment (EA). Therefore, it was not arbitrary for the FAA to have included no connected actions in the final EA. The court also concluded that the FAA’s Finding of No Significant Impact was not predetermined by the creation of an optimistic schedule for completing the environmental review or statements favoring commercial service at Paine Field. Here, the FAA performed its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321-4370h, obligations in good faith and did not prematurely commit resources to opening the terminal. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "City of Mukilteo v. US DOT" on Justia Law

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The Federation filed a class action against United, alleging that the airline’s policy of using automatic kiosks inaccessible to blind travelers violates California’s antidiscrimination laws. The district court dismissed the suit on the grounds that the Federation’s claims were expressly preempted under the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (ADA), 49 U.S.C. 41713, and impliedly field preempted under the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA), 49 U.S.C. 41705, and its implementing regulations, issued by the DOT. Under its interpretation of section 41713(b)(1) of the ADA, the court concluded that the Federation’s claims do not relate to a “service” provided by United. Moreover, the court's conclusion that United's kiosks fall outside the statutory definition of “services” is consistent with the ADA’s deregulatory purpose. Therefore, the Federation’s claims are not expressly preempted under the ADA. Absent any specific indication that Congress sought to preserve all state-law claims not expressly preempted under the ADA, the court adopted the Geier v. Am. Honda Motor Co. approach and applied ordinary implied field preemption principles to the Federation’s claims. Applying the court's precedent concerning field preemption, the court concluded that the DOT ACAA regulations covering matters other than the use of airline ticketing kiosks are not pertinent to the court's field preemption inquiry; the new regulation is pervasive and intended to occupy the field of kiosk accessibility; and DOT acted within its delegated authority in promulgating the new regulation. Therefore, the Federation’s state-law claims are impliedly field preempted under the ACAA. The court affirmed the judgment. View "Nat'l Fed. of the Blind v. United States" on Justia Law