Articles Posted in Aviation

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After plaintiff filed suit against Air Methods for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, Air Methods removed the case to federal court and moved to dismiss based on the pre-emption provision of the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA), 49 U.S.C. 41713(b)(1). The district court relied on Botz v. Omni Air International, 286 F.3d 488 (8thCir. 2002), and dismissed the complaint. The Eighth Circuit reversed, holding that the ADA did not expressly preempt plaintiff's state-law wrongful-discharge claims involving post hoc reporting of alleged violations of air-safety regulations. To the extent that the court's opinion in Botz held otherwise, the court overruled it. View "Watson v. Air Methods Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Aviation

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Plaintiff filed suit against his former employer, Air Methods, in state court for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. Air Methods removed to federal court and the district court, relying on this court's decision in Botz v. Omni Air International, dismissed the complaint. In Botz, the court construed the effect of the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA), 49 U.S.C. 4173(b)(1), pre-emption clause on state whistleblower-protection laws. Although three circuits have disagreed with Botz in relevant part, the court concluded that plaintiff's claim cannot be distinguished from the second claim dismissed in Botz. Botz ruled that the plain language of section 41713(b)(1), bolstered by enactment of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (WPP), 49 U.S.C. 42121, pre-empted a whistleblower-retaliation claim based on reporting an alleged safety violation to an employer. Plaintiff argued that if Botz cannot be distinguished, then it should be overruled in relevant part. But one three-judge panel cannot overrule another. Plaintiff may raise this contention in a petition for rehearing en banc. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Watson v. Air Methods Corp." on Justia Law

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In 2002 an uncontrolled, runaway commercial aircraft at Las Vegas’s McCarran International Airport came to a rest at the bottom of an embankment. A maintenance worked had failed to properly engage the parking brake. The resulting property damage and loss-of-use of the aircraft totaled more than $10 million. The aircraft’s owner, Northwest Airlines, obtained a default judgment in Minnesota state court against PALS, the maintenance company responsible for the wreck, then commenced a garnishment action to recover part of the amount from PALS’s insurer, Westchester, which argued that PALS’s failure to provide notice and to cooperate extinguished Westchester’s payment obligation. While acknowledging unanswered questions of state law, the Eighth Circuit affirmed judgment in favor of Northwest. A Clark County ordinance mandates hangar-keepers liability insurance to protect parties like Northwest. Given this purpose, insurance coverage could not be avoided for an insured’s simple failure to satisfy the technical post-loss conditions on statutorily mandated coverage. View "NW Airlines, Inc. v. Westchester Fire Ins. Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Aviation, Insurance Law

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GoJet petitioned for review of the FAA Acting Administrator's ruling that GoJet violated FAA regulations when it failed to make a logbook entry and to remove a gear pin. GoJet argued that it did not violate 14 C.F.R. 91.13(a) and 121.153(a)(2) by carelessly or recklessly operating an unairworthy airplane, and procedural error. The court concluded that the Administrator did not err in determining that GoJet violated section 121.153(a)(2) where the type-certificate nonconformity in this case - inoperable landing gear - was so clearly related to safe operation of the airplane that a finding that the airplane was not airworthy was clearly warranted based solely on this nonconformity. The court also concluded that the Administrator did not err in crediting an FAA Inspector's testimony regarding potential danger and finding that GoJet violated section 91.13(a). The Administrator's decision that GoJet failed to establish extraordinary circumstances was not arbitrary or capricious. A violation of section 91.13(a) did not require proof of actual danger to lives or property; the potential for danger was enough. Finally, the agency did not abuse its discretion in terminating the Voluntary Disclosure Reporting Program self-disclosure proceeding and commencing a civil penalty action. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "GoJet Airlines v. FAA" on Justia Law

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Northwest and the Pilots Association filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that their post-bankruptcy retirement benefit plan (MP3) complied with the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001-1461. Appellants (older Pilots) counterclaimed arguing that the MP3 retirement benefit plan violated ERISA, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. 621-634, and several state laws prohibiting age discrimination. Under the MP3, the contributions of all of the pilots were based on their protected final average earnings, which could not be calculated without the use of age. However, that did not mean that the older Pilots' contributions have been reduced because of their age. There were several factors in the MP3 that could reduce an older pilots' projected final average earnings. While promotions and pay increases were correlated with age, they were analytically distinct and therefore not reductions in contributions because of age. Service ration and the frozen Pension Plan offset also both contributed to potential differences in contribution. Finally, the court rejected older Pilots' argument that the district court improperly disregarded the declaration of their expert witness. Therefore, the court held that the MP3 did not reduce the older Pilots' benefits because of age and therefore affirmed the judgment of the district court.

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Trans State Airlines, LLC ("TSA") appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Air Line Pilots Association International ("ALPA") enforcing an arbitrator's award of backpay to a pilot after TSA fired him. At issue was whether the award violated public policy against large loans to union officials embodied in the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act ("LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. 401-531. After concluding that TSA had standing to pursue an appeal and that the arbitrator's unreviewed decision in a prior arbitration did not preclude TSA's public policy challenge, the court held that the lack of control, combined with the purpose and structure of the section 60 payments in ALPA's Administrative Manual, weighed against finding the payments were an illegal loan.