ATA Airlines, Inc. v. FedEx Corp.
In a national emergency, the Department of Defense can augment its own capabilities with aircraft drawn from the "Civil Reserve Air Fleet," composed of aircraft owned by commercial carriers but committed voluntarily for use during emergencies. The Fleet is divided into teams of airlines. The Department awards mobilization value points; the more points a member has, the more non-emergency Department air transportation the member can bid on. Points are transferrable within teams. Members of defendant's team have a contract with a one-year term and a separate three-year agreement concerning distribution of business among members. Plaintiff's suit is based on a 2006 three-year agreement in the form of a letter. A change from what members of the team had been doing ultimately led to plaintiff's withdrawal from the team. Plaintiff subsequently went into bankruptcy. Plaintiff won a jury verdict of almost $66 million. The Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that the "agreement" did not include crucial terms and was so indefinite as to be unenforceable. The court also criticized the regression analysis on which the award was calculated. A promissory estoppel claim, while not preempted, failed on the facts.