The outcome of a case that the Supreme Court will hear later this year may have far-reaching repercussions on the airline industry as well as on air travelers residing in every state, including North Carolina. Arguments will focus on whether an airline that mistakenly reports a security threat should be immune from lawsuits. The case arose out of a December, 2004 business dispute between a U.S. airline and one of its pilots.
Shortly before boarding a plane as a passenger, an Air Wisconsin Airlines pilot failed a flight test aboard a simulator for the fourth time. According to the airline, the pilot knew that this would lead to his termination and he became verbally abusive towards those administering the test. Due to this altercation and the pilot’s training to carry a firearm in the cockpit, airline officials were concerned that the he presented a security threat aboard the plane. According to reports, airline officials did not know if the pilot was in fact carrying a firearm at the time.
The pilot was awarded $1.4 million in a defamation lawsuit by jury trial. The Colorado Supreme Court denied Air Wisconsin’s petition for immunity in the case.
The International Air Transport Association believes that the Colorado court is wrong, and this trade group is among the parties that has asked the Supreme Court to consider the case. There is concern by those in the airline industry that denying immunity to airlines who report suspected security threats will ultimately compromise the integrity of the air security system. A decision in the case is expected by June, 2014.
As it appears in this case, business litigation can be costly, and the ultimate conclusion may remain uncertain for a length of time. An experienced attorney may be able to assist those who are involved in business disputes by handling negotiations between parties and devising strategies for their clients that will lead to the best possible outcome for future operations.
Source: USA Today, “Supreme Court to hear case about airline security threats“, Bart Jansen, June 17, 2013