Air Wisconsin Airlines Corp. v. Hoeper

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Law
  • Date Filed: June 17, 2013
  • Case #: 12-315
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 2012 CO 19, 33 IER Cases 1022
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA) gives immunity without a determination that an air carrier's disclosure was materially false.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued Respondent a firearm under a federal statute that authorizes TSA to deputize volunteer pilots as federal law enforcement officers "to defend the flight decks of aircraft . . . against acts of criminal violence [*2] or air piracy." 49 U.S.C. § 44921(a) (2006). Such a pilot is known as a federal flight deck officer (FFDO).

Respondent, a pilot for Petitioner was retaking a flight test as required by the company. Respondent, believing that the test administrators were sabotaging his test flight became disgruntled and a confrontation occurred. Respondent left the testing facility in route to the airport. The test administrator called the TSA to report that Respondent may be armed and was concerned about his mental stability and the whereabouts of his firearm. The TSA subsequently detained Respondent.

Respondent brought a defamation action against Petitioner. Petitioner argued that it had immunity from a defamation suit pursuant to the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA), 49 U.S.C. section 44941 (2006). The trial court held that it only had immunity if it was found that the statement was not materially false. The appeals court and state supreme court held that a trial court must decide before trial if the statement was materially false. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide whether the ATSA gives immunity without a determination that an air carrier's disclosure was materially false.

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