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Federal Control of Airlines Does Not Preempt State Tort Suits
Description Ninth Circuit en banc reversed previous decisions that held that the Airline Deregulation Act preempted state court suits against airlines for tort suits against airlines. Act was intended to control competition in the industry, not prohibit suits for luggage dropped on passengers' heads.
Topic Constitutional Law
Key Words Preemption; Regulation; Airlines
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Various airline passengers claimed they suffered assorted injuries on different airline flights (e.g., hit by baggage; struck by a service cart pushed by a flight attendant). They sued the airlines in state court in tort and for breach of contract. Ninth circuit panel decisions in the cases held that the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA) preempted such claims by passengers and dismissed the suits. Cases were appealed to the court en banc.
Decision Reversed. "We now hold that in enacting the ADA, Congress intended to preempt only state laws and lawsuits that would adversely affect the economic deregulation of the airlines and the forces of competition within the airline industry. Congress did not intend to preempt passengers' run-of-the-mill personal injury claims. Accordingly, we hold that Congress used the word 'service' in the phrase 'rates, routes, or service' ... to refer to the prices, schedules, origins and destinations of the point-to-point transportation of passengers, cargo, or mail." The law "was not intended to include an airline's provision of in-flight beverages, personal assistance to passengers, the handling of baggage, and similar amenities."
Citation Charas v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 160 F.3d 1259 (9th Cir., 1998)

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