Justia U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Aviation
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Kelly Day appealed the district court’s dismissal of the diversity action she filed against SkyWest Airlines for personal injuries she allegedly sustained when a SkyWest flight attendant carelessly struck her with a beverage cart. The district court granted SkyWest’s motion to dismiss the action as preempted under the Airline Deregulation Act (“ADA”), which preempted state laws “related to a price, route, or service of an air carrier.” The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concurred with sister circuits that personal-injury claims arising out of an airline employee’s failure to exercise due care were not “related to” a deregulated price, route, or service. Therefore, the Court reversed the district court’s dismissal of Day’s action and remanded for further proceedings. View "Day v. SkyWest Airlines" on Justia Law

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As Plaintiff William Frey proceeded through the Transportation Security Administration (“TSA”) checkpoint at Jackson Hole Airport in Teton County, Wyoming, the body scanner alerted TSA screeners to a potentially suspicious area on Plaintiff’s person. When the security screeners informed Plaintiff that they would have to conduct a pat down, Plaintiff became agitated and repeatedly refused to cooperate. So the security screeners summoned a police officer, Defendant Nathan Karnes, who arrested Plaintiff. After being transported to the Teton County Jail for booking, Plaintiff continued his noncooperation, refusing to participate in the booking process and demanding that jail officials allow him to have an attorney present. Jail officials detained Plaintiff for about three hours before releasing him. Plaintiff sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law, alleging many violations of his rights. The district court dismissed Plaintiff’s federal claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, denied leave to file a second amended complaint, declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims, awarded attorney’s fees to the Municipal Defendants, and sanctioned Plaintiff’s attorneys. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that some of his claims should have survived dismissal, that the district court should have permitted him to add some of his new proposed claims in a second amended complaint, and that the district court should not have awarded any attorney’s fees. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "Frey v. Town of Jackson, WY, et al." on Justia Law

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Williams International Company LLC designed, manufactured, and serviced small jet engines. Dodson International Parts, Inc., sold new and used aircraft and aircraft parts. After purchasing two used jet engines that had been manufactured by Williams, Dodson contracted with Williams to inspect the engines and prepare an estimate of repair costs, intending to resell the repaired engines. Williams determined that the engines were so badly damaged that they could not be rendered fit for flying, but it refused to return one of the engines because Dodson had not paid its bill in full. Dodson sued Williams in federal court alleging federal antitrust and state-law tort claims. Williams moved to compel arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), relying on an arbitration clause on the original invoices. The district court granted the motion, and the arbitrator resolved all of Dodson’s claims in favor of Williams. Dodson then moved to reconsider the order compelling arbitration and to vacate the arbitrator’s award. The court denied both motions and, construing Williams’s opposition to the motion for vacatur as a request to confirm the award, confirmed the award. Dodson appealed, challenging the district court’s order compelling arbitration and its order confirming the award and denying the motions for reconsideration and vacatur. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed, holding: (1) the claims in Dodson’s federal-court complaint were encompassed by the arbitration clause; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Dodson’s untimely motion to reconsider; and (3) that Dodson failed to establish any grounds for vacatur of the arbitrator’s award or for denial of confirmation of the award. View "Dodson International Parts v. Williams International Company" on Justia Law

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Defendants-Appellees Air Methods Corporation and Rocky Mountain Holdings, LLC provide air ambulance services. Defendants provided air ambulance services to Plaintiffs-Appellants, or in some cases to their minor children. Plaintiffs dispute their obligation to pay the full amounts charged by Defendants because Plaintiffs claim to have never agreed with Defendants on a price for their services. Plaintiffs filed suit, asserting jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act, 28 U.S.C. 1332(d), to determine what, if any, amounts they owe Defendants. Plaintiffs also sought to recover any excess payments already made to Defendants. Defendants moved to dismiss, arguing that Plaintiffs’ claims were pre-empted by the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA), 49 U.S.C. 41713. The district court agreed and dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims with prejudice. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of all Plaintiffs’ breach of implied contract claims, the Scarlett Plaintiffs’ declaratory judgment claim, all Plaintiffs’ unjust enrichment claims, and the Scarlett Plaintiffs’ due process claims; the Court reversed the district court’s dismissal of the Cowen Plaintiffs’ declaratory judgment claim, only with respect to the existence of contracts between the Cowen Plaintiffs and Defendants; and the Court remanded for further proceedings. View "Scarlett v. Air Methods Corporation" on Justia Law

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Defendant Joseph Lynch, II was a first-class passenger on a flight from Philadelphia to Denver. Defendant had consumed at least six beers prior to boarding, and began behaving in a loud, unruly manner once the flight was underway. He repeatedly placed his hands on first-class flight attendant’s lower back as she was serving him beverages, which made her feel “very uncomfortable,” and she tried to move out of his reach each time. Flight attendants refused to serve defendant any more alcohol during the flight, at which point defendant became “irate” and started shouting obscenities to the cabin crew. Defendant was arrested upon landing; while in custody, he continued shouting expletives. A jury found Defendant guilty of violating 49 U.S.C. 46504, which prohibits the in-flight assault or intimidation of a flight crew member or flight attendant that interferes with his or her duties. He received a sentence of four months, followed by a three-year term of supervised release. On appeal, Defendant challenged the district court’s interpretation of the statute, the constitutionality of the statute, and the length of his sentence. After reviewing the district court’s sentencing decision, the Tenth Circuit found no evidence of error and affirmed defendant’s conviction and sentence. View "United States v. Lynch" on Justia Law

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Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust (TAIT) sought reimbursement for amounts it paid to a third-party contractor in furtherance of a noise abatement program funded primarily by grants from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Because its petition for review of agency action was not timely filed, The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the action. View "Tulsa Airports Improv. Trust v. FAA" on Justia Law

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At the heart of this appeal were The Boeing Company’s alleged violations of FAA regulations arising from aircraft Boeing sold or leased to the government. Three former employees of Boeing (referred to as relators) in this qui tam action, brought suit under the False Claims Act (FCA) against Boeing and one of its suppliers, Ducommun, Inc. The relators claimed Boeing falsely certified that several aircraft it sold to the government complied with all applicable Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, even though it knew parts manufactured by Ducommun and incorporated into the aircraft didn’t conform to FAA-approved designs. The district court granted Boeing’s and Ducommun’s respective motions for summary judgment on the relators’ FCA claims, finding no genuine dispute of material fact as to the falsity, scienter, and materiality elements of those claims. The district court also denied the relators’ motion to strike two FAA investigative reports, which the court then relied on in granting the motions for summary judgment. The relators then appealed. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded the district court properly admitted the FAA reports under the Federal Rules of Evidence and the relators failed to establish the scienter element of their FCA claims. View "Smith v. Boeing Company" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Aaron Cope was convicted of one count of operating a common carrier (commercial airplane) under the influence of alcohol. On appeal, Defendant challenged his conviction based on improper venue, insufficiency of the evidence, and improper reliance on federal regulations. In 2009, Defendant was the copilot and first officer of a commercial flight from Austin, Texas to Denver, Colorado. Robert Obodzinski was the captain. Following the flight to Austin, Mr. Obodzinski invited the crew to dinner, but Defendant declined, stating that he did not feel well. Mr. Obodzinski did not see Defendant again until the next morning in the hotel lobby. Mr. Obodzinski testified that “[Mr. Cope] had a little bit of a puffy face, and his eyes were a little red, and I assumed that since he said the night before he wasn’t feeling well, that he was probably coming down with a cold.” The pilots flew from Austin to Denver that morning without incident. While in the cockpit, Mr. Obodzinski detected occasional hints of the smell of alcohol. When they arrived in Denver, Mr. Obodzinski leaned over Defendant and “took a big whiff,” concluding that the smell of alcohol was coming from Defendant Mr. Obodzinski contacted dispatch to delay the next leg of their flight, and contacted the airline's human resources officer. Defendant would later be indicted by the federal grand jury in Colorado. After a two-day bench trial, the district court convicted Mr. Cope and sentenced him to a below-guidelines sentence of six months in prison and two years of supervised release. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that the district court had sufficient evidence to find that Defendant was “under the influence of alcohol,” even if the district court relied on the FAA regulations or Republic Airways'[Defendant's employer] company policy, such reliance would have been harmless error. View "United States v. Cope" on Justia Law