Often a lawsuit will involve several claims under both state and federal theories. Below is a list of relevant cases to give you an overview of pertinent Federal Statutes as well as common law claims. This list is far from exhaustive and may be affected by later precedents. You should always research the controlling law in your state and/or talk to an attorney. These cases are only provided as a starting point for your research. Any reliance on these cases is at your own risk.
Plaintiff who was disabled notified Defendant of her “special needs” while making her flight reservations. Her special needs included an aisle seat due to her disability. During the flight, Plaintiff became ill and had to be carried to the restroom by her son. Plaintiff sued Defendant under the ACAA, claiming Defendant engaged in discriminatory practices during the flight by not ensuring that its facilities and services were accessible to disabled persons and not having adequately trained flight personnel. The United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama entered partial summary judgment for defendant, determining that the ACAA implied a private right of action but permitted private litigants only injunctive and declaratory relief. Plaintiff appealed. The Court of Appeals held that the ACAA did not create a private right of action in federal district court to vindicate prohibition against disability-based discrimination on the part of air carriers. Thus the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings.Newman v. American Airlines, Inc., (1999) 176 F.3d 1128
Plaintiff who was blind and suffered from a heart condition sued Defendant, alleging that the airline discriminated against her due to her disabilities. She asserted claims for violation of the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), negligence, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and breach of contract. The United States District Court for the Southern District of California granted summary judgment for Defendant. Plaintiff appealed. The Court of Appeals en banc held that the ADA did not preempt Plaintiff’s run-of-the-mill personal injury claims and remanded the action to the lower court. The Court further held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of defendant on Plaintiff’s claim under the ACAA. Furthermore, Defendant’s refusal to transport Plaintiff constituted exactly the type of discrimination prohibited by the ACAA. At the time of the refusal, Defendant based its decision on Plaintiff’s appearance, her history of heart disease, her two bags of medication, and her failure to carry a health certificate. Plaintiff had previously completed several flights on Defendant air carrier without incident. The Court concluded it was not evident that, given the information available at the time of its decision, Defendant reasonably believed that Plaintiff could not safely complete the flight. The court held that Plaintiff had presented enough evidence to draw into question whether Defendant acted reasonably in refusing her passage.
Note that this case has come under scrutiny and has been criticized and distinguished in some jurisdictions. You should check to make sure this case is still good law in your jurisdiction before relying on it.Rowley v. American Airlines, (1995) 875 F.Supp. 708
Plaintiff brought action against airline alleging violation of ACAA and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. In her complaint, Plaintiff alleged that she had a disability and required an aisle chair, a special wheelchair that can be rolled down the aisle of an airplane; that she was not assisted to or from her seat; that her seat did not have a movable armrest; and that she was left unattended at a baggage claim area for more than an hour in a chair from which she was not independently mobile. The District Court denied Defendant’s motion for summary judgment holding that: (1) emotional distress claims under Texas and Oregon law were too tenuously related to Defendant’s services to be preempted by ADA; (2) emotional distress claims were not impliedly preempted by ACAA; (3) Department of Transportation did not have primary jurisdiction over disabled passenger's claim against airlines for injunctive relief under ACAA; and (4) issues of fact precluded summary judgment on claim that airline violated a regulation pertaining to disassembly of wheelchairs or other assistive devices.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision of a lower court which established that web sites do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The suit was originally filed by Access Now, an advocacy group for the disabled, and a blind man named Robert Gumson over the web site of Southwest Airlines. They claimed that Southwest's website violated the ADA because it was not easily accessible to the blind. Mr. Gumson relies on a screen reader and voice synthesizer to navigate the Internet, but the layout of Southwest's site was such that purchasing tickets was nearly impossible. The plaintiffs were looking for an order requiring Southwest to redesign their site to make it easier for the blind to navigate. Since the suit was originally filed, Southwest has redesigned the site to be more easily navigable for the blind. As written, the ADA lists 12 specific "places of public accommodation" that must provide access to the disabled, and advocacy groups have recently lobbied Congress to expand the act to cover the Internet.
Class Action: In a case entitled In re Expedia Hotel Taxes and Fees Litigation, consumers of hotel stays that were booked with Expedia have filed a lawsuit concerning bundled “Tax Recovery Charges” and “Service Fees” charged when consumers booked a hotel stay with Expedia. Consumers allege that Expedia committed deceptive or unfair practices in violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act (“CPA Claim”) from January 10, 2001 to June 11, 2008 and breached contractual obligations from January 1, 2003 to June 11, 2008 (“Contract Claim”). The lawsuit will proceed as a class action on behalf of all consumers who booked hotel stays during the aforementioned dates, although not all class members will have both the CPA Claim and Contract Claim. Expedia has denied all of Plaintiff’s claims, and the Court has not yet decided whether Expedia did anything wrong. Members of the above class have had their legal rights affected, and any one believing they have been affected by these violations is encouraged to take action and vindicate their legal rights.
Plaintiff, an American citizen of Bangladeshi ancestry brought an action alleging that Defendant airline discriminated against him by denying him boarding on basis of his ethnicity. Plaintiff was called by an airline supervisor and informed that the pilot for his flight had found a “phonetic similarity” between his name and a name on a FBI list of suspected terrorist. Thus Plaintiff would not be able to board until he had been cleared with the FBI. Although the FBI had cleared Plaintiff he was still denied boarding. Defendant gave him a ticket for a flight with another airline instead. This incident caused Plaintiff’s name to be added to a terrorism watch-list, distributed nationwide, until an employee of another airline had his name removed several weeks later. The airline moved to have the complaint dismissed on the ground they had legitimate concerns about security. The District Court denied Defendant’s motion holding that: (1) airline regulations giving pilot full control and authority in operation of aircraft did not bar Plaintiff's action; (2) Plaintiff’s state law claims were not preempted by the ADA; and (3) fact issues remained as to whether it was possible for Defendant to comply with federal aviation statutes and state anti-discrimination laws.Gadbury v. Delta Air Lines, (1997) 110 F.3d 1400
During takeoff acceleration and banking, a door on a service cart swung open and struck Plaintiff’s knee. Plaintiff brought suit in Oregon state court alleging common law negligence. Defendant removed to federal district court. Defendant admitted that the door opened after takeoff and that it "was not correctly latched by the flight attendants just prior to takeoff." The district court granted summary judgment holding that ADA Section 105 preempted Plaintiff’s claim. Plaintiff appealed and the Court of Appeals held that Plaintiff’s claim did not relate to airline "service" but instead concerned Defendant’s failure to take appropriate safety measures related to the operation of the aircraft. Therefore, the claim was not preempted by the ADA.Power Standards Lab, Inc. v. Federal Exp. Corp.,
Plaintiff sued Defendant after property was damaged during transit based on breach of contract and breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing claims. A jury verdict in the amount of $78,000 in compensatory damages was entered into judgment, but the punitive damage award was reduced from $1.5 million to $600,000. Plaintiff appealed. The United States Supreme Court interpreted the ADA to establish that Defendant cargo carrier cannot be made to pay for more than the declared value of the equipment. The same result is also compelled by the federal common law doctrine limiting a carrier’s liability to the value of a shipment declared by a shipper to the carrier. Anything more than the amount of Plaintiff’s repair costs, which Defendant paid prior to trial, cannot be recovered in a California court. Therefore, once the shipper has paid the contractual limit of its liability, including the purchase of additional “declared value” protection from Defendant which Plaintiff ultimately received its benefits, state common law and statutory remedies cannot augment that recovery.Rubin v. United Air Lines, Inc., (2002) 6 Cal.App.4th 364
Plaintiff brought an action for false arrest, false imprisonment, assault, battery and emotional distress against Defendant and others after she was forcibly removed from a commercial flight. Summary Judgment was granted in favor of the Defendant airline. Plaintiff appealed. The Court of Appeals held that the Defendant was justified in removing Plaintiff from the flight. The undisputed evidence established Plaintiff repeatedly and deliberately refused to comply with any of the directions from airline personnel regarding safety issues. This evidence, coupled with the unruly and potentially dangerous situation she helped create on board, was sufficient as a matter of law to establish that when Defendant made its decision, it had a reasonable basis for believing Plaintiff was, "or might be, inimical to safety," which in turn justified removing her from the flight.
The Court however held that the ADA didn’t preempt Plaintiff’s "routine breach- of-contract" claims under state law. Defendant argued that its boarding procedures were classified as a "service" under the ADA and therefore, Plaintiff’s state claims were expressly preempted by federal law. Although the Court did not define the precise perimeters of the ADA's preemption clause, the Court noted not all state law claims would be preempted. The Court’s reading of the ADA's preemption clause together with the Act's savings clause retaining existing statutory and common law remedies, made clear the ADA only "stops States from imposing their own substantive standards with respect to rates, routes, or services, but not from affording relief to a party who claims and proves that an airline dishonored a term the airline itself stipulated."
Plaintiffs brought an action for discrimination, breach of contract, and other tort claims against defendant airline for Defendant's refusal to allow passengers to board ticketed flight based on age and perceived physical limitations. The trial court granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Plaintiffs appealed. The Court of Appeals, held that: 1) a discrimination claim are not preempted by the Warsaw Convention because Article 17 of the Convention states that the Convention provides exclusive remedies only for passenger injuries occurring while on board, boarding or disembarking the aircraft. In this case the Plaintiffs were not embarking at the time of the incident. They had not checked their baggage, received a boarding pass, or gone through security checkpoints. Therefore the Warsaw Convention did not apply. (2) Neither discrimination nor breach of contract claims are preempted by the ADA because routine breach of contract claims are allowed to proceed if they do not allege violation of state imposed obligations. The court determined that Congress did not intend to preempt state law negligence, personal injury, discrimination, or routine breach of contract claims.Eck v. United Arab Airlines, Inc., (1964) 15 N.Y.2d 53, 255 N.Y.S.2d 249
Plaintiff, a California resident, contracted with Scandanavian Airline System (SAS) in Oakland, California, office of SAS for the purchase of tickets for her trip between several cities in Europe and the Middle East. One of the flights listed in the ticket SAS obtained for the plaintiff was to be on defendant United Arab Airlines Flight No. 796 from Jerusalem to Cairo. Subsequently plaintiff was injured when Flight No. 796 crashed on March 16, 1962 in Wadi Halfa, Sudan, a place not scheduled as a stop on the flight, but where the pilot was diverted in an attempt to avoid bad weather at Cairo. The Supreme Court, Special Term, New York County, denied defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, and defendant appealed. The Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Judicial Department, reversed the order and granted the motion, and plaintiff appealed. The Court of Appeals, held that under Warsaw Convention provision permitting suit where carrier has a place of business through which the contract had been made, suit could be maintained in New York where defendant had place of business, even though ticket had been purchased through different airline in California.El Al Israel Airlines, Ltd. v.Tseng, (1999) 67 U.S.L.W. 4036
Prior to boarding defendant airline’s flight from New York to Tel Aviv, Plaintiff was subject to an intrusive security search by defendant. Plaintiff sued in New York state court asserting personal injury claims for assault and false imprisonment. She alleged no bodily injury. After defendant removed, the federal district court dismissed the case, as there was no claim under the Warsaw. For a cause of action pursuant to Article 17 of the Convention, the plaintiff must claim bodily injury, which plaintiff failed to do here. There is no recovery for solely psychic or psychosomatic injury. Even if the plaintiff’s injury is only emotional, the plaintiff must show a physical effect of the injury.Lathigra v. British Airways PLC, (1994) 41 F.3d 535
Plaintiffs purchased airline tickets through defendant British Airways for flights from Seattle to Madagascar, with a connecting flight on Air Mauritius from Nairobi to Antananarivo. Plaintiffs’ agent reconfirmed booking days before the flight. Defendant, who issued the tickets, reconfirmed the reservations, but neglected to inform them that the Air Mauritius flight had been discontinued. Plaintiffs were stranded in Nairobi for five days, consequently incurring various damages. Plaintiffs brought a negligence action in Washington state court. Defendant removed the case and summary judgment was granted that there was no cause of action under the Warsaw Convention. Court of Appeals reversed holding that the Warsaw Convention was not applicable.
Plaintiff sued airline for wrongful exclusion from his flight. On a flight, which had already been delayed, the pilot announced an unscheduled stop and one passenger shouted insults at the pilot. At the airport during the stop, the plaintiff circulated a petition complaining about the delay. Airline personnel prevented the plaintiff from reboarding the plane, claiming he was the one who had insulted the pilot. The airline refused to investigate his claim of mistaken identity and excluded him from the flight. The United States District Court for the Central District of California rendered judgment on the jury verdict for loss of baggage, but awarded the airline judgment notwithstanding the verdict on the general and punitive damages awards. Plaintiff appealed. The airline in unreasonably failing to investigate the passenger's claim that he had been mistaken for another disorderly passenger did not shield the airline from liability under Section 44902 of the FAA. The Ninth Circuit reversed the judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of Defendant, finding ample evidence in the trial record from which the jury might have concluded that the airline acted unreasonably in excluding the Plaintiff "without even the most cursory inquiry into the complaint against him."
Plaintiff, holding a confirmed reservation was bumped from his flight on Defendant airline due to overbooking. Plaintiff was offered a seat on a later flight, which he accepted. Defendant offered to return the price of the ticket but he declined. Plaintiff flew on his original ticket, arriving between 3 and 4 hours after his scheduled arrival time. Plaintiff attended the wedding as planned, however suffered "humiliation, annoyance and distress." Plaintiff flew bimonthly to Miami, and was aware that Defendant overbooked flights, particularly on Fridays, and that his ticket contained provisions relating to over-booking and the damages thereby available. The District Court held that: (1) although widespread disclosure of airlines' overbooking practices may preclude bumped airline passengers from bringing tort claims for fraudulent representation, it does not follow that such passenger should not be able to seek relief under breach of contract theory, and (2) passenger who was delayed three to four hours in reaching final destination was entitled to recover $450 in breach of contract action which represented inconvenience, lost of time, anxiety and frustration.
JetBlue Airways and two Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners have made a $240,000 settlement with an Iraqi man who claims he was denied flight boarding if he did not cover or remove a T-shirt that said in English and Arabic: “We Will Not be Silent.” The settlement of the federal lawsuit comes after two and a half years of dispute. Raed Jarrar of Iraq, and who has lived in the United States for three years, says the payout will discourage airlines and airport security officials from imposing restrictions in the future. His attorney Aden Fine claims the award “should send a clear and strong message to all TSA officials and to all airlines that what happened here is wrong and should not happen again.” No disciplinary action against the employees is contemplated by the TSA. When asked why he had to cover the T-shirt, Jarrar was told “Coming to an airport wearing a T-shirt with Arabic letters on it was equivalent to going into a bank wearing a shirt saying ‘I’m a robber.’” Jarrar said he gave into the officials’ requests when he realized it was the only way he would be able to board the flight. Airline officials also changed his seats before they consulted with him, and forced him to sit in the back of the aircraft where flight attendants were able to watch over him. JetBlue is pleased that a settlement has been reached, but denies all accounts of Jarrar’s version of the events.
Bigfoot Productions obtained an apology from British Airways (BA) in connection with BA’s mistreatment of one of Bigfoot’s consultants. In June 2005, the consultant for a featured 2006 Nautical Angels Underwater Calendar (www.underwatercalendar.com), intended to review and edit photographs during her first class cabin flight, to be submitted to Bigfoot upon arrival in Los Angeles. The consultant was repeatedly told by BA flight attendants that she was not permitted to use her laptop for business purposes on any flight. These representations resulted in the consultant’s inability to provide the requested number of photographs for review and inclusion in the calendar upon arrival in Los Angeles. Bigfoot noted that BA’s first class cabin advertisements read: “Choose how you spend your time. Your secluded demicabin guarantees space and privacy, creating a comfortable oasis whether you are working, dining or catching up on some well-deserved sleep.” After initial litigation proceedings, BA agreed to settle by compensating Bigfoot and issuing an apology to the consultant. The case is an example of the importance of passengers standing up for their rights, and recognizing that passengers should not simply accept contrived “policies” imposed by the airlines.Mendelson, et al. v. Trans World Airlines, Inc. (1983) 466 N.Y.S.2d 168
This is a motion for class certification by plaintiffs, part of a group of 77 persons with confirmed reservations who were denied passage on an airline flight because the defendant, Trans World Airlines sold tickets to more persons than it could accommodate. The Court held that (1) failure of Defendant to disclose overbooking policy in advertisements or in ways other than required by federal regulations did not constitute fraudulent misrepresentation or willful and wanton disregard for passengers' rights; (2) Defendant’s compliance with federal regulations governing disclosure of overbooking policy precluded action under state deceptive acts and false advertising law; (3) no warranty of boarding existed where ticket expressly stated that "confirmed" reservation holder may be denied passage; (4) Defendant’s alleged failure to honor priority boarding rights of passengers was actionable; (5) class certification was denied as to subclasses of persons with "confirmed" reservations who were denied boarding on Defendant’s flights other than that particular flight in question; and (6) class certification as to passengers who were denied boarding on subject flight would also be denied, at least pending further disclosure as to number of persons still in that class.Andrews v. United Airlines, 24 F.3d 39 (9th Cir. 1994)
Upon arrival of a United Airlines flight at the gate, a briefcase
fell from the overhead compartment seriously injuring Plaintiff
Andrews. Passengers were warned on arrival that items stored in
overhead bins may have shifted and that passengers should use caution.
Expert testimony revealed that there had been 135 reported incidents of
items falling from overhead bins. Andrews appealed the district court’s
grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant United Airlines. The
issue on appeal was whether or not it was appropriate for a jury,
rather than a judge, to decide whether an airline has a duty to do more
than warn passengers about the possibility of falling luggage. The
finding was that common carriers must use the best precautions in
practical use known to any company exercising the utmost care and
diligence in keeping abreast with modern improvements in such
precautions. Many jurors have been airline passengers and are therefore
equipped to decide if Defendant should have done more to warn the
passengers. The question was one for a jury not a judge to decide, and
therefore summary judgment was not appropriate. The case was reversed
and remanded to the lower court for further action.
Singapore Airlines refused to honor a booking on a non-stop flight between Los Angeles and Singapore, routing the confirmed passenger on another flight which included a stopover at Tokyo's Narita Airport. The original booking included a non-stop flight in each direction and was valid for one year. Plaintiff sought a reward equivalent to the value difference between Singapore Airlines' flight and a competing carrier's less expensive flight on the same route, arguing that Plaintiff would have chosen the competing carrier's cheaper service had he known he would be forced to stopover anyway. Singapore Airlines offered 50,000 airmiles as cash equivalent to settle the matter amicably, without admitting liability.