Justia International Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Aviation
Smith v. Malaysia Airlines Berhad
This appeal arose out of the unexplained disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 somewhere over the Southern Indian Ocean in the early hours of March 8, 2014. Representatives of many of the passengers filed suit in United States, alleging claims under the Montreal Convention against Malaysia's national airline at the time of the flight, its current national airline, and the airliners' insurers, as well as claims against Boeing, which manufactured the aircraft in Washington state. After the lawsuits were centralized into a multidistrict litigation in the district court, the district court granted appellees' motion to dismiss on forum non conveniens grounds.The DC Circuit held that the district court did not clearly abuse its discretion in dismissing the lawsuits for forum non conveniens. In this case, the district court carefully weighed the relevant public and private interest factors and reasonably concluded that Malaysia is a more convenient forum to try the claims. View "Smith v. Malaysia Airlines Berhad" on Justia Law
Doe v. Etihad Airways, P.J.S.C.
Doe and her daughter flew aboard Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi to Chicago. During the journey, Doe’s tray table remained open because a knob had fallen off. Doe’s daughter found the knob on the floor; Doe placed it in a seatback pocket. When a flight attendant reminded Doe to place her tray in the locked position for landing, Doe attempted to explain by reaching into the seatback pocket to retrieve the knob. She was pricked by a hypodermic needle that lay hidden within, which drew blood. Doe sought damages from Etihad for her physical injury and her “mental distress, shock, mortification, sickness and illness, outrage and embarrassment from natural sequela of possible exposure to” various diseases. Her husband claimed loss of consortium. The court granted Etihad partial summary judgment, citing the Montreal Convention of 1999, an international treaty, which imposes capped strict liability “for damage sustained in case of death or bodily injury of a passenger upon condition only that the accident which caused the death or injury took place on board the aircraft.” The Sixth Circuit reversed. The district court erred in reading an additional “caused by” requirement into the treaty and concluding that Doe’s bodily injury did not cause her emotional and mental injuries. The Convention allows Doe to recover all her “damage sustained” from the incident. View "Doe v. Etihad Airways, P.J.S.C." 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
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
Campbell v. Air Jamaica Ltd., et al.
Plaintiff filed suit against Air Jamaica and Caribbean Airlines, seeking recovery under Article 17 and 19 of the Montreal Convention, S. Treaty Doc. No. 106-45, 2242 U.N.T.S. 350, a multilateral treaty setting rules for international air travel. Article 17 addresses accidents that injure passengers on board a plane or during the course of embarkation or disembarkation, and Article 19 concerns damages due to delay. The district court dismissed the amended complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court concluded, however, that Article 33 granted the district court power to hear plaintiff's claims. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal on alternative grounds to the extent that plaintiff failed to state claims against defendants. The court vacated the dismissal of the Article 19 claim against Air Jamaica for damages from the $150 fee to change flights, and remanded only as to that issue. View "Campbell v. Air Jamaica Ltd., et al." on Justia Law
Russell v. SNFA
In 2003, Russell, the sole occupant and pilot of an Agusta 109C helicopter, died after his helicopter crashed in Illinois. Russell, a resident of Georgia, was living in Illinois and working for an Illinois air ambulance service operating in the Chicago area. The helicopter was manufactured in Italy in 1989. The trial court dismissed claims against SNFA, a French company that manufactured a custom tail-rotor bearing for the helicopter, for lack of jurisdiction. The appellate court reversed and the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, noting that Agusta and its American subsidiary, AAC, effectively operated as an American distributor for the tail-rotor bearings in the U.S. market and that SNFA custom manufactured the bearings at issue specifically for Agusta. By engaging a business entity located in Illinois, SNFA undoubtedly benefitted from Illinois’ system of laws, infrastructure, and business climate and has the requisite minimum contacts with Illinois for purposes of specific personal jurisdiction. The exercise of jurisdiction is reasonable; Illinois has an indisputable interest in resolving litigation stemming from a fatal Illinois helicopter accident.View "Russell v. SNFA" on Justia Law
Phifer v. Icelandair
Plaintiff sued Icelandair in federal district court, alleging that it was liable for her injuries under Article 17 of the Convention of the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Transportation by Air (Montreal Convention), which established that air carriers were liable for accidents that occurred to passengers while they were boarding, aboard, or disembarking aircraft, S. Treaty Doc. No. 106-45, 33. At issue was whether the district court properly granted summary judgment on behalf of Icelandair. The court held that a plaintiff did not have to prove that an airline violated a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standard to establish that there was an "accident" under Article 17 of the Montreal Convention. The court also held that because the district court held otherwise, requiring plaintiff to provide evidence that the airline had failed to meet FAA requirements in order to survive summary judgment, the court reversed and remanded. View "Phifer v. Icelandair" on Justia Law