Gilstrap v. United Air Lines

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Tort Law
  • Date Filed: 03-12-2013
  • Case #: 11-55271
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Berzon for the Court; Circuit Judges Pregerson and Graber
  • Full Text Opinion

The Air Carrier Access Act does not preempt state law personal injury tort claims but, instead, can describe the duty element of a negligence claim. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act does not include terminals for transportation by aircraft within the definition of "places of public accommodation."

Michelle Gilstrap filed suit against United Air Lines (“United”) alleging several tort claims under California state law and violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). In response, United filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that (1) the state tort claims were preempted by the Air Carrier Access Act (“ACAA”) and (2) Title III of the ADA did not include airline terminals within its meaning of “places of public accommodation” and was therefore inapplicable. The district court granted the motion entirely, dismissing the case. The Ninth Circuit held that the ACAA only preempts state standards of care but not state remedies, therefore reversing the ruling of the district court on preemption issue. The panel held that tort plaintiffs can use the ACAA to describe the duty element of negligence. Also, the ACAA does not preempt state personal injury claims based on how an airline’s agents interact with the plaintiff. As for the Title III claim, the panel upheld the district court’s ruling. The language of the statute excludes terminals used for transportation by aircraft from within the definition of a “place of public accommodation.” AFFIRMED in part; REVERSED and REMANDED in part.

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