Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Aviation

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Love Field airport is owned by the City and leased in part to Southwest Airlines. The City sought a declaration determining whether it must order Southwest to accommodate Delta at Love Field under the Lease Agreement or otherwise. Delta, Southwest, and the City filed competing motions for preliminary injunctions. The district court denied Southwest's motion and entered a preliminary injunction in favor of Delta essentially permitting Delta to continue operating five flights daily until a final decision on the merits. On appeal, Southwest argues that Delta is not a third party beneficiary and that the Lease Agreement does not require the accommodation Delta seeks. The court agreed with the district court that Delta and the City have shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits on the claim that the Lease Agreement requires Delta to be accommodated. In this case, the Lease Agreement plainly establishes a duty to accommodate by both Southwest and the City, and the scope of that duty is determined largely through the interpretation of language which the Lease Agreement itself leaves undefined. Interpreting such language, the district court found - and the court found persuasive - that Southwest owed the duty to accommodate Delta under these circumstances. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's order terminating the City's motion as moot; rendered judgment granting the City's motion for a preliminary injunction and ordering the accommodation of Delta; and affirmed the district court's denial of a preliminary injunction for Southwest. View "City of Dallas v. Delta Air Lines" on Justia Law
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Petitioner appealed the NTSB's final decision affirming the initial decision of the ALJ which upheld the FAA's sixty day suspension of petitioner's air transport pilot certificate. The suspension order stated that petitioner, as pilot-in-command, had filed a flight plan for and operated the flight of N497RC in reduced vertical separation (RVSM) airspace, even though no operator was authorized to do so at the time. The court concluded that the NTSB did not err reversibly in rejecting (1) petitioner's assertion that the ALJ improperly limited his cross-examination of several witnesses and (2) his affirmative defense of reasonable reliance. Therefore, the court affirmed as to those determinations. However, the court held that the NTSB’s decision affirming the ALJ’s rejection of petitioner’s defense of waiver of sanction under the Aviation Safety Report (ASR) procedure was arbitrary and capricious as a matter of law. Accordingly, the court reversed as to those rulings and rendered judgment that petitioner is entitled to waiver of all sanctions - expressly including the sixty day suspension of his air transport pilot certificate - by virtue of his timely compliance with the FAA’s ASR procedure. The court remanded to the NTSB with instructions to expunge its suspension of petitioner’s certificate and to take any other steps that might be required to complete these proceedings. View "Boeta v. FAA" on Justia Law
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Plaintiff filed suit against Korean Air claiming that the airline’s failure to place her in the wheelchair that she requested when she booked her flight was an “accident” under Article 17 of the Warsaw Convention. The Warsaw Convention sets forth air carrier liability for a passenger’s injuries if the accident causing the injury took place on board the aircraft, or during the process of embarking or disembarking. The court concluded that the district court was correct in holding that plaintiff’s injuries were not the result of an “accident” under the Warsaw Convention because her failure to be placed in a wheelchair was not an “unexpected or unusual” event. In this case, it would not have been “unexpected or unusual” for Korean Air employees to assume plaintiff simply did not want a wheelchair, and to refrain from tracking her down in the airport to provide her with the same empty wheelchair she just walked past. Because plaintiff did not suffer an “accident” under Article 17, the court need not determine whether the failure to place plaintiff in a wheelchair was a “link in the chain” of causes leading to her injuries. The court affirmed the judgment. View "Nguyen v. Korean Air Lines Co." on Justia Law
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After the court affirmed the ALJ's determination that Ameristar was liable for discharging Thomas Clemmons in violation of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21), 49 U.S.C. 42121, the court remanded for the determination of whether an e-mail found by Ameristar after Clemmons was fired was of such severity that he would have been terminated on those grounds alone. The ALJ determined that Ameristar failed to meet the high burden of proof required in AIR21 cases and the ARB affirmed. The court held that the heightened burden applies equally in all instances in which an employer is seeking to avoid providing relief, regardless of whether the employer is relying on pre-termination evidence or after-acquired evidence. In this case, the ALJ determined that Ameristar failed to provide clear and convincing proof that it would have terminated Clemmons solely on the basis of the e-mail. The ALJ had completely discredited the testimony of Ameristar's managers, and Ameristar offered no evidence other than the e-mail. Consequently, there is substantial evidence to support the ALJ's determination that Ameristar failed to prove its after-acquired-evidence defense by clear and convincing evidence. Accordingly, the court denied Ameristar's petition for review. View "Ameristar Airways, Inc. v. Administrative Review Board, Dept. of Labor" on Justia Law

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Thomas E. Clemmons, the former director of operations for Ameristar Airways, Incorporated (Ameristar), filed a complaint with the Secretary of Labor alleging he was discharged in retaliation for reporting air safety issues to the Federal Aviation Administration. The Department of Labor Administrative Review Board (Board) found a violation of the employee protection provision of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21), 49 U.S.C. 42121, ordering an award of back pay. The court held that because Clemmons had presented a prima facie case of retaliation and adduced evidence capable of rebutting Ameristar's proffered explanations, substantial evidence supported the Board's finding of liability. The court held, however, that because the question of whether Clemmons' insubordinate email, which was after-acquired evidence, "was of such severity that [he] would have been terminated on these grounds alone" was a question of fact, the court remanded to the agency to make that determination and to adjust the back pay award if necessary.