Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Aviation

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In one of two consolidated purported class actions, Baumeister bought a ticket from Lufthansa for flights from Stuttgart to Munich, and then from Munich to San Francisco. The first flight, as indicated on his itinerary, was to be flown not by Lufthansa but by a regional German airline, Augsburg. That flight was cancelled. Lufthansa arranged substitute air transportation, but Baumeister arrived more than 17 hours after he was originally scheduled to arrive. European Union regulation EU 261 specifies damages for certain cancelled or delayed flights into and out of the European Union. Lufthansa’s contract with its passengers incorporates EU 261. In U.S. district court, Baumeister argued that the airline was contractually obligated to pay damages. That court dismissed, finding that the bridge carriers in both suits (Augsburg), not the airline that sold the tickets (Lufthansa) were liable for any damages. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that the German regulatory body charged with enforcing EU 261 dismissed Baumeister’s claim after Lufthansa’s counsel notified it that Lufthansa had not operated the flight between Stuttgart and Munich. Similarly, in the companion case, the court rejected theories of contract and agency law, where EU 261 would not apply directly. View "Baumeister v. Deutsche Lufthansa AG" on Justia Law

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BeavEx is a same-day delivery service that uses 104 couriers to carry out its customers’ orders throughout Illinois. By classifying its couriers as independent contractors instead of employees, Beav-Ex attempted to avoid the requirements of state and federal employment laws, including the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (IWPCA), 820 ILCS 115, which prohibits an employer from taking unauthorized deductions from its employees’ wages. Plaintiffs, and the putative class, were or are couriers who allege that they should have been classified as employees of BeavEx for purposes of the IWPCA, and that any deductions taken from their wages were illegal. The Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAAA), 49 U.S.C. 14501(c)(1) expressly preempts any state law that is “related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier.” The district court held that the FAAAA does not preempt the IWPCA and denied BeavEx’s motion for summary judgment. The court also denied Plaintiffs’ motion to certify the class but granted their motion for partial summary judgment, holding that Plaintiffs are employees under the IWPCA. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of BeavEx’s motion for summary judgment, vacated the denial of class certification, and remanded for further proceeding View "Costello v. BeavEx, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2010, Southwest Airlines stopped honoring certain in-flight drink vouchers issued to customers who had bought “Business Select” fares. Customers filed suit, seeking to represent a class of similarly situated plaintiffs. The parties reached a settlement to provide replacement drink vouchers to all class members, and injunctive relief constraining how Southwest could issue future vouchers. The parties negotiated an agreement on fees for class counsel. The court certified the class and approved the settlement’s class relief components, but awarded counsel a smaller fee than requested. Two class members objected, arguing that the settlement was unfair to the class because it was too generous to class counsel. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The “coupon settlement” provisions of the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1712, allowed the court to award attorney fees based on the lodestar method rather than the value of the redeemed coupons. While the fee aspects of the settlement include troublesome features, the settlement provides class members essentially complete relief. The financial and professional relationship between lead class counsel and one lead plaintiff created a potential conflict of interest that should have been disclosed, but another lead plaintiff had no conflict and the class received essentially complete relief, so there was no basis for decertification or rejecting the settlement. The court instead removed that plaintiff’s $15,000 incentive award and reduced the lawyer’s fee. View "Markow v. Southwest Airlines Co." on Justia Law

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On May 7, 2005, a commuter aircraft, operated by Transair, crashed into terrain on its way to the Lockhart River airfield in Queensland, Australia. All 15 people on board died. The estates sued several companies and one individual, alleging that they contributed to the crash. The Seventh Circuit consolidated appeals in the case against the successor to the plane’s manufacturer and the case against the manufacturer of the plane’s warning system and maker of navigational charts. In both, the district court granted the defendants summary judgment and the Seventh Circuit affirmed. The successor had no duty to warn the plane’s operator of the need to install a more enhanced warning system, and the operator did not rely on any alleged voluntary undertaking of a duty to warn. The plaintiffs did not properly present any evidence from which a reasonable jury could infer that the defendants’ products probably contributed to the crash, and the warning system’s manufacturer had no duty to alert the customer that an improved system should be installed. View "Thornton v. M7 Aerospace, L.P." on Justia Law
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Air travelers sued Delta Airlines, seeking compensation for a nationwide class of persons who were inconvenienced when their flights from airports located in the European Union were delayed for more than three hours or cancelled on short notice. The suit was filed in the Northern District of Illinois and invoked the court’s diversity jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act, 29 U.S.C. 1332(d). The claim cited a consumer-protection regulation promulgated by the European Parliament setting standardized compensation rates ranging from €250 to €600 (depending on flight distance) for cancellations and long delays of flights departing from airports located within EU Member States. The district court held that the regulation could not be enforced outside the European Union and dismissed the case. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The regulation is not incorporated into Delta’s contract of carriage, so the claim is not cognizable as a breach of contract. A direct claim for compensation under the regulation is actionable only as provided in the regulation itself, which requires that each European Union Member State designate an appropriate administrative body to handle enforcement responsibility and implicitly limits judicial redress to courts in Member States under the procedures of their own national law. View "Volodarskiy v. Delta Air Lines, Inc." on Justia Law

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After Continental and United Air Lines merged, they needed to produce unified seniority and longevity rosters for pilots. The Air Line Pilots Association represents all of the pilots. In 2012 the new United and the Union reached an agreement that sets pilot pay based on: rank (captain vs. first officer), type of aircraft flown, and longevity, defined as all time since the date a pilot was hired, including time spent on furlough. Pre-merger, pilots on furlough accrued seniority but not longevity. Plaintiffs challenged ancillary Agreement 25, under which pilots in active service longer than four years and seven months would receive no credit for furlough time; pilots who had four years and six months of service could claim only one month of furlough; and so on. Plaintiffs claimed that the provision slots 475 former United pilots into the table behind former Continental pilots who were hired before May 6, 2008, in violation of the main agreement, and accused the Union of inadequate representation (DFR claim). Defendants replied that the main agreement governs the future, after Agreement 25 determines the pilots’ starting positions. The district judge dismissed United as a party because disputes about the meaning of an airline industry collective bargaining agreement are within the exclusive authority of an adjustment board under the Railway Labor Act, leaving plaintiffs unable to establish both that United violated the contract and that the union did not represent workers fairly. They then argued that the Union negotiated a bad contract. The district court concluded that Agreement 25 is not irrational. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that, with pilots on different sides of the issue, a compromise that favored some over others was inevitable.View "Cunningham v. Air Line Pilots Ass'n, Int'l" on Justia Law

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American Airlines filed for bankruptcy and implemented a plan to reduce labor costs. Anticipating a reduction in the number of AA mechanics, resulting in reduction in the number of Transportation Workers Union members, the national leadership of that union consolidated local unions and shuttered offices. The district court denied a motion by local unions for a preliminary injunction preventing the consolidation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. TWU’s actions were within the scope of its authority; TWU reasonably exercised powers granted to it by the TWU Constitution. View "Transp. Workers Union of Am., AFL-CIO Local Unions v. Transp. Workers Union of Am., Int'l " on Justia Law

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In 2003, the airline established guidelines that address accommodating employees who, because of disability, can no longer do essential functions of their current jobs, even with reasonable accommodation. The guidelines specify that the transfer process is competitive, so that an employee in need of accommodation will not be automatically placed into a vacant position, but will be given preference over similarly qualified applicants. The EEOC challenged the policy under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101. The district court ruled in favor of the airline. On rehearing, en banc, the Seventh Circuit reversed and held that the ADA does mandate that an employer appoint employees with disabilities to vacant positions for which they are qualified, provided that such accommodations would be ordinarily reasonable and would not present an undue hardship to that employer. The court concluded that contrary precedent did not survive in light of U.S. Airways, Inc. v. Barnett, 535 U.S. 391 (2002). View "Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm'n v. United Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law

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While working as a flight attendant, LeGrande was injured when the aircraft encountered severe turbulence. She sued the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 2674, alleging that air traffic controllers employed by the FAA negligently had failed to warn the flight’s captain that turbulence had been forecast along the flight path. The district court concluded that FAA employees did not breach any duty owed LeGrande and granted summary judgment for the government. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. LeGrande argued, for the first time, that her injuries resulted from the negligence of a National Weather Service meteorologist. The court concluded that the FAA breached no duty owed to LeGrande and that LeGrande failed to give the NWS the notice that the FTCA requires. View "LeGrande v. United States" on Justia Law

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Airlines, users of airports owned by the City of Chicago, have use agreements that make they city responsible for runway clearing. The airlines pay a per-landing fee, based on the city's actual expenses. In 1999 and 2000 the airports were crippled by severe snowstorms. The city obtained $6,000,000 in reimbursement from FEMA under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. 5121. Years later FEMA ordered the city to return the money, based on a provision of the Act concerning duplicate benefits. FEMA asserted that the use agreements entitled the city to reimbursement of costs from the airlines. After exhausting administrative remedies the city filed suit. The district court denied the airlines' motion to intervene. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Finding that the airlines have standing, the court stated that t would not be as "efficient to litigate this three-cornered dispute in two lawsuits rather than one."