Justia Aviation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
John S. Lowman, IV, et al v. Federal Aviation Administration, et al
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
Perry Hodges, et al. v. USA
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling entering judgment in favor of the US in a negligence suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”). The Seneca was piloted by Nisha Sejwal, with Ralph Knight accompanying her. The Cessna was piloted by Jorge Sanchez, with Carlo Scarpati, a student pilot, also on board. Both planes were “VFR” aircraft operating under standard visual flight rules. The Seneca was departing from, and the Cessna was arriving at, the Tamiami Airport (now known as the Miami Executive Airport) when the collision occurred. The representatives of the pilots’ estates filed suit against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), alleging negligence on the part of Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) air traffic controllers at the Tamiami Airport. Following a bench trial, the district court entered judgment in favor of the United States, and the Plaintiffs appealed. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. Plaintiffs contend that language in the district court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law “suggests” that it improperly considered evidence of comparative negligence—an affirmative defense under Florida law—in making its ultimate finding that the controllers were not negligent. In particular, they point to the district court’s statements that there was (1) conflicting evidence about how the planes approached each other prior to the collision and (2) evidence that both planes were equipped with TIS devices and that the Seneca’s TIS device was functioning earlier in the day prior to the collision. The court concluded that the district court did not improperly consider evidence of comparative negligence but rather based its decision on Plaintiffs’ failure to prove the elements of their negligence claim. View "Perry Hodges, et al. v. USA" on Justia Law
Aspen American Insurance Company v. Landstar Ranger, Inc.
Tessco Technologies Inc. hired Landstar Ranger, Inc. as a transportation broker to secure a motor carrier to transport an expensive load of Tessco’s cargo to a purchaser across state lines. But Landstar mistakenly turned the shipment over to a thief posing as a Landstar-registered carrier, who ran off with Tessco’s shipment. Tessco’s insurer, Aspen American Insurance Company, sued Landstar, claiming Landstar was negligent under Florida law in its selection of the carrier. The district court dismissed Aspen’s negligence claims against Landstar, concluding those claims were expressly preempted by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (“FAAAA”). The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that just as the phrase “with respect to the transportation of property” “massively limits” the preemption provision, the court reads the phrase “with respect to motor vehicles” to impose a meaningful limit on the exception to the preemption provision. Second, the court found that the phrase “with respect to motor vehicles” has an operative effect only by requiring a direct connection between the state law and motor vehicles. The court reasoned that the specifics of Aspen’s complaint make us even more confident that Aspen’s claims are not “with respect to motor vehicles” within the meaning of the safety exception. Aspen’s complaint says nothing at all about motor vehicles. And Aspen’s negligence and gross negligence counts challenge only Landstar’s “selection of the motor carrier.” The complaint does not purport to enforce any standard or regulation on the ownership, maintenance, or operation of “a vehicle, machine, tractor, trailer, or semitrailer propelled or drawn by mechanical power and used on a highway in transportation.” View "Aspen American Insurance Company v. Landstar Ranger, Inc." 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
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
Corbett v. Transportation Security Administration
Petitioner brought a third challenge to the TSA's airport scanner equipment using advanced imaging technology (AIT). Petitioner challenged the TSA's latest policies and orders that require certain airline passengers to pass through AIT scanners, eliminating for them the option of being screened by a physical pat-down.The Eleventh Circuit held that it was without jurisdiction to entertain petitioner's claims, because petitioner lacked the necessary standing to bring the petition. The court held that petitioner failed to establish that he suffered an injury in fact, that is, the invasion of a judicially cognizable interest that is concrete and particularized and actual and imminent. In this case, petitioner has never said that he was subjected to the mandatory TSA policy, before his petition or since then, even though he has made numerous filings since he lodged his petition for review containing substantial information about his travel patterns and his interactions with TSA. View "Corbett v. Transportation Security Administration" on Justia Law
Clayton County, Georgia v. Federal Aviation Administration
The Eleventh Circuit lacked jurisdiction to consider the merits of petitioners' suit challenging the FAA's interpretation of 49 U.S.C. 47133 as set forth in a 2016 letter because the letter did not constitute final agency action. Section 47133 prohibits local taxes on aviation fuel from being spent on anything but aviation. The court held that petitioners' action came too late to challenge the FAA's policy clarification issued in 2014, and it came too early to challenge an FAA enforcement action that may never happen. View "Clayton County, Georgia v. Federal Aviation Administration" on Justia Law
United States v. St. Amour
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for operating an aircraft with an unapproved fuel system in violation of 49 U.S.C. 46306(b)(9). The court rejected defendant's contention that the term "operates an aircraft" covers actions during or imminent to flight. The court held that both the United States Code and the Code of Federal Regulations — and clarified through the decisions of the Civil Aeronautics Board and the National Transportation Safety Board — that the term "operate" encompasses the refueling of an aircraft for the purpose of flight. In this case, defendant started the engine of the aircraft and taxied to a maintenance hangar where he refueled the aircraft to prepare for a flight the next day. Therefore, defendant operated the aircraft within the meaning of section 46306(b)(9) when he started, taxied, and fueled the aircraft in preparation for the first of his flights on the voyage to Paraguay. View "United States v. St. Amour" on Justia Law