Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Aviation
Brian Hughes v. Southwest Airlines Co.
Hughes bought a ticket from Southwest to fly to Chicago. Just before the flight was to board, Southwest canceled it. Hughes, who chose an alternate flight through Omaha, claims that the cancellation was because Southwest ran out of de-icer and that no other airlines had a similar problem. He claims he incurred additional costs for lodging and similar expenses. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of his breach of contract claim. There was no breach; the contract allows the airline to cancel and either reschedule the passenger or refund the fare. There is no implied duty to avoid cancellation. View "Brian Hughes v. Southwest Airlines Co." on Justia Law
Miller v. Southwest Airlines Co.
Under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, before obtaining any fingerprint, a “private entity” must provide the subject or “the subject’s legally authorized representative” with certain written information and obtain the consent of the subject or authorized representative, 740 ILCS 14/15(b). The private entity must make available to the public a protocol for retaining and handling biometric data and follow rules regarding the destruction of the data. Private entities must protect biometric information from disclosure. Both Southwest and United Airlines maintain timekeeping systems that require workers to clock in and out with their fingerprints. Plaintiffs contend that the airlines implemented these systems in violation of the Act. The airlines contend that the plaintiffs’ unions consented. Plaintiffs argued that a judge should resolve their contentions. The airlines claimed that resolution belongs to an adjustment board under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. 151–88, which applies to air carriers. The Seventh Circuit held that dispute about the interpretation or administration of a collective bargaining agreement must be resolved by an adjustment board under the RLA. Unions in the air transportation business are the workers’ exclusive bargaining agents. Illinois cannot and did not remove a topic from the union’s purview. Its statute provides that a worker or an authorized agent may receive necessary notices and provide consent. Whether the unions did consent or grant authority through a management-rights clause, is a question for an adjustment board. View "Miller v. Southwest Airlines Co." on Justia Law
Hirst v. Skywest, Inc.
Current and former flight attendants challenged a SkyWest Airlines compensation policy of paying for their work in the air but not on the ground, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201 (FLSA), and various state and local wage laws. The sought to certify a class of similarly situated SkyWest employees. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the federal claim. The flight attendants plausibly allege they were not paid for certain hours of work but under the FLSA the relevant unit for determining a pay violation is the average hourly wage across a workweek. The flight attendants failed to allege even a single workweek in which one of them received less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The dormant Commerce Clause, however, does not bar the other claims.. States possess authority to regulate the labor of their own citizens and companies; the dormant Commerce Clause does not preclude state regulation of flight attendant wages in this case, particularly when the FLSA itself reserves that authority to states and localities. View "Hirst v. Skywest, Inc." on Justia Law
National Power Corp. v. Federal Aviation Administration
National manufactures battery packs, including the lithium battery packs at issue (Batteries), which were regulated as hazardous materials. A Federal Aviation Administration agent inspected National’s Chicago facility and discovered that National made 11 air shipments of the Batteries to customers in California and Canada that did not comply with multiple hazardous material regulations (HMRs). The FAA filed a complaint. National’s vice president testified that he believed, without supporting evidence, the Batteries were exempt from testing because they were similar to previously tested batteries. The shipping papers indicated that each shipments conformed tp the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods. National’s office manager, certified each shipment, but her hazardous materials training was Department of Transportation specific and did not include training on the ICAO Technical Instructions. Because the Batteries were untested lithium batteries, they should have been packed according to the more stringent standards. An ALJ found that National knowingly violated the HMRs. The FAA assessed a civil penalty of $66,000 based on 49 U.S.C. 5123(c). The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. A reasonable person in National’s position would have been aware of its violations; the penalty was within statutory limits, and rationally related to National’s multiple offenses View "National Power Corp. v. Federal Aviation Administration" on Justia Law
Gary Jet Center, Inc. v. AFCO AvPORTS Management, LLC
Gary Jet began operating as a Fixed Base Operator (FBO) at the Authority's Gary/Chicago International Airport in 1991. The 2006 “Minimum Standards,” regulations governing FBOs, contained a 1.5% charge on gross revenue for commercial FBO services beginning in 2001, “pending the expiration of existing leases which do not incorporate these terms.” Gary Jet’s lease did not contain this provision. During negotiations for a new lease, the parties agreed that Gary Jet would instead pay “supplemental rent” of 10% of certain fees. A January 2007 “First Amended Lease” with a 39-year term, required Gary Jet to pay base rent plus supplemental rent and stated Gary Jet “shall abide by” the Minimum Standards, except when they conflict with the 2007 Lease. The lease stated that the Minimum Standards “shall be … made applicable to” subsequent lease agreements. In 2013, Gary Jet sued for breach of contract. The parties entered settled in 2014. Gary Jet agreed that New Minimum Standards controlled any conflict with its lease. A 2014 revised lease stated that the Minimum Standards controlled any conflicts. The initial draft of new Minimum Standards did not require Gary Jet to pay a percentage of gross revenue. In 2015, the Authority stated that it intended require that each FBO pay a percentage of gross revenues. Gary Jet objected, but the Authority approved the New Minimum Standards with the provision. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of Gary Jet’s suit under the Contracts Clause. Gary Jet cannot plausibly demonstrate that it is without a remedy for any violation of its contractual rights, which is essential to a Contracts-Clause claim. View "Gary Jet Center, Inc. v. AFCO AvPORTS Management, LLC" on Justia Law
Baumeister v. Deutsche Lufthansa AG
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
Costello v. BeavEx, Inc.
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
Markow v. Southwest Airlines Co.
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
Thornton v. M7 Aerospace, L.P.
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
Volodarskiy v. Delta Air Lines, Inc.
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