Justia Aviation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Jadair International, Inc. v. American National Property & Casualty Co.
Schmutzler, the owner and president of Jadair, was a pilot with decades of experience. Schmutzler applied to American National for an insurance policy on its Cessna airplane in 2019. The application listed Schmutzler as the Cessna’s only authorized pilot; Schmutzler indicated that he was a licensed pilot with an FAA medical certificate. The application included “Minimum Pilot Requirements,” which stated that “there is no coverage in flight unless the aircraft is being operated by the pilot(s) designated on this document who has/have at least the certificates, ratings, and pilot experience indicated, and who … is/are properly qualified for the flight involved.” Schmutzler initialed this provision. The Cessna crashed in May 2020, killing Schmutzler, who was piloting the plane. The crash was caused by a mechanical failure.American National denied coverage because Schmutzler did not have a current and valid FAA medical certificate at the time of the accident; his previous certificate had expired. The district court granted American National summary and declaratory judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The policy unambiguously excludes coverage for any accident involving the Cessna where the pilot lacks a current FAA medical certificate. That requirement is an exclusion of coverage, not a failed condition of coverage. View "Jadair International, Inc. v. American National Property & Casualty Co." on Justia Law
Yates v. City of Chicago
From 1993-2017, Chicago treated O’Hare Airport aviation security officers as law-enforcement personnel, able to make arrests while employed and carry concealed firearms after retirement. The officers were unarmed and reported to the Commissioner of Aviation rather than the Chief of Police. In 2017 Chicago concluded that they are not law enforcement personnel. The Illinois Labor Relations Board sustained the decision. Neither the union nor any of its members contested that decision in state court. Three aviation security officers filed a federal suit, contending that the reclassification violated the Due Process Clause.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. There is no “fundamental right” to be a law enforcement officer. Although the Chicago Code says that the officers “shall be sworn in as special policemen,” the process due for any violation of state or local law or of a collective-bargaining agreement is the opportunity to sue in state court. The union bypassed that opportunity in 2018. A suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 is not a way to supersede that decision. The collective-bargaining agreement does not promise that aviation security officers will remain law enforcement officials and the correct entity to seek review was the union, not individual members. The court upheld a $40,0000 award of costs. View "Yates v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law
Bishop v. Air Line Pilots Association, International
The plaintiffs, pilot instructors for United Airlines, filed a class action against the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), their recognized agent for the purpose of collective bargaining, alleging that ALPA had violated its duty of fair representation under the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. 151, by adopting a retroactive pay provision that discriminated against pilot instructors.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. To establish a violation of the duty of fair representation, the plaintiffs were required to provide evidence from which a jury could conclude that ALPA’s sole motive in adopting the retroactive pay provision was an illicit one. While the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, could be read to support the proposition that ALPA’s adoption of the formula was motivated in part by animus toward the pilot instructor minority, the question is whether the evidence establishes that ALPA was motivated solely by a desire to discriminate against pilot instructors. There was evidence that some of the motivation for adopting the formula was a desire for a simple formula that could be easily defended. View "Bishop v. Air Line Pilots Association, International" on Justia Law
Brian Hughes v. Southwest Airlines Co.
Hughes bought a ticket from Southwest to fly to Chicago. Just before the flight was to board, Southwest canceled it. Hughes, who chose an alternate flight through Omaha, claims that the cancellation was because Southwest ran out of de-icer and that no other airlines had a similar problem. He claims he incurred additional costs for lodging and similar expenses. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his breach of contract claim. There was no breach; the contract allows the airline to cancel and either reschedule the passenger or refund the fare. There is no implied duty to avoid cancellation. View "Brian Hughes v. Southwest Airlines Co." on Justia Law
Miller v. Southwest Airlines Co.
Under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, before obtaining any fingerprint, a “private entity” must provide the subject or “the subject’s legally authorized representative” with certain written information and obtain the consent of the subject or authorized representative, 740 ILCS 14/15(b). The private entity must make available to the public a protocol for retaining and handling biometric data and follow rules regarding the destruction of the data. Private entities must protect biometric information from disclosure. Both Southwest and United Airlines maintain timekeeping systems that require workers to clock in and out with their fingerprints. Plaintiffs contend that the airlines implemented these systems in violation of the Act. The airlines contend that the plaintiffs’ unions consented. Plaintiffs argued that a judge should resolve their contentions. The airlines claimed that resolution belongs to an adjustment board under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. 151–88, which applies to air carriers. The Seventh Circuit held that dispute about the interpretation or administration of a collective bargaining agreement must be resolved by an adjustment board under the RLA. Unions in the air transportation business are the workers’ exclusive bargaining agents. Illinois cannot and did not remove a topic from the union’s purview. Its statute provides that a worker or an authorized agent may receive necessary notices and provide consent. Whether the unions did consent or grant authority through a management-rights clause, is a question for an adjustment board. View "Miller v. Southwest Airlines Co." on Justia Law
Hirst v. Skywest, Inc.
Current and former flight attendants challenged a SkyWest Airlines compensation policy of paying for their work in the air but not on the ground, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201 (FLSA), and various state and local wage laws. The sought to certify a class of similarly situated SkyWest employees. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the federal claim. The flight attendants plausibly allege they were not paid for certain hours of work but under the FLSA the relevant unit for determining a pay violation is the average hourly wage across a workweek. The flight attendants failed to allege even a single workweek in which one of them received less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The dormant Commerce Clause, however, does not bar the other claims.. States possess authority to regulate the labor of their own citizens and companies; the dormant Commerce Clause does not preclude state regulation of flight attendant wages in this case, particularly when the FLSA itself reserves that authority to states and localities. View "Hirst v. Skywest, Inc." on Justia Law
National Power Corp. v. Federal Aviation Administration
National manufactures battery packs, including the lithium battery packs at issue (Batteries), which were regulated as hazardous materials. A Federal Aviation Administration agent inspected National’s Chicago facility and discovered that National made 11 air shipments of the Batteries to customers in California and Canada that did not comply with multiple hazardous material regulations (HMRs). The FAA filed a complaint. National’s vice president testified that he believed, without supporting evidence, the Batteries were exempt from testing because they were similar to previously tested batteries. The shipping papers indicated that each shipments conformed tp the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods. National’s office manager, certified each shipment, but her hazardous materials training was Department of Transportation specific and did not include training on the ICAO Technical Instructions. Because the Batteries were untested lithium batteries, they should have been packed according to the more stringent standards. An ALJ found that National knowingly violated the HMRs. The FAA assessed a civil penalty of $66,000 based on 49 U.S.C. 5123(c). The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. A reasonable person in National’s position would have been aware of its violations; the penalty was within statutory limits, and rationally related to National’s multiple offenses View "National Power Corp. v. Federal Aviation Administration" on Justia Law
Gary Jet Center, Inc. v. AFCO AvPORTS Management, LLC
Gary Jet began operating as a Fixed Base Operator (FBO) at the Authority's Gary/Chicago International Airport in 1991. The 2006 “Minimum Standards,” regulations governing FBOs, contained a 1.5% charge on gross revenue for commercial FBO services beginning in 2001, “pending the expiration of existing leases which do not incorporate these terms.” Gary Jet’s lease did not contain this provision. During negotiations for a new lease, the parties agreed that Gary Jet would instead pay “supplemental rent” of 10% of certain fees. A January 2007 “First Amended Lease” with a 39-year term, required Gary Jet to pay base rent plus supplemental rent and stated Gary Jet “shall abide by” the Minimum Standards, except when they conflict with the 2007 Lease. The lease stated that the Minimum Standards “shall be … made applicable to” subsequent lease agreements. In 2013, Gary Jet sued for breach of contract. The parties entered settled in 2014. Gary Jet agreed that New Minimum Standards controlled any conflict with its lease. A 2014 revised lease stated that the Minimum Standards controlled any conflicts. The initial draft of new Minimum Standards did not require Gary Jet to pay a percentage of gross revenue. In 2015, the Authority stated that it intended require that each FBO pay a percentage of gross revenues. Gary Jet objected, but the Authority approved the New Minimum Standards with the provision. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of Gary Jet’s suit under the Contracts Clause. Gary Jet cannot plausibly demonstrate that it is without a remedy for any violation of its contractual rights, which is essential to a Contracts-Clause claim. View "Gary Jet Center, Inc. v. AFCO AvPORTS Management, LLC" on Justia Law