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Supreme Court hears arguments on airline immunity, damages claims

The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] Monday in two cases. In Air Wisconsin Airlines Corp. v. Hoeper [transcript, PDF; JURIST report] the court heard arguments on "Whether Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA) [text, PDF] immunity may be denied without a determination that the air carrier's disclosure was materially false." The ATSA requires airlines and their employees to report to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) [official website] any and all potential security threats to the nation's air transportation system. To encourage such reports, the ATSA provides a broad grant of immunity from suit, shielding airlines and their employees from all liability, including liability for state-law defamation. The only exception to this immunity is for reports made "with actual knowledge that the disclosure was false, inaccurate, or misleading" or "with reckless disregard as to the truth or falsity of that disclosure." In this case William Hoeper was employed as a pilot by Air Wisconsin. An Air Wisconsin manager reported Hoeper to the TSA as a possible threat after Heoper became angry during a certification test. Hoeper brought a defamation suit against Air Wisconsin in Colorado Court. The Supreme Court of Colorado held [opinion] that Air Wisconsin was not entitled to immunity and that the statements were false.

In Ray Haluch Gravel Co. v. Central Pension Fund [transcript, PDF] a federal district court ruled on a breach-of-contract claim for damages. Just over a month later, it ruled on a discrete contractual claim for damages pleaded in the same complaint, which (a) sought to recoup pre-litigation (as well as litigation) collection expenses and fees and (b) was not contingent on being a "prevailing party" in litigation. The question presented is whether the first order is a "final decision" that must be appealed separately under 28 USC § 1291 [text], or whether instead a notice of appeal filed within 30 days of the second order brings the entire case before the court of appeals. The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled [opinion] that an appeal filed within 30 days of the second ruling, but more than 30 days after the first ruling, was timely as to all issues.

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