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Overka v. American Airlines, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

June 12, 2015

DARYL OVERKA, ET AL., Plaintiffs, Appellants,
v.
AMERICAN AIRLINES, INC., Defendant, Appellee

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS. Hon. William G. Young, U.S. District Judge.

Shannon Liss-Riordan, with whom Lichten & Liss-Riordan, P.C. was on brief, for appellants.

Michael Vance Powell, with whom Amy C. Mariani, David J. Volkin, and Fitzhugh & Mariani LLP were on brief, for appellee.

Before Lynch, Chief Judge, Kayatta and Barron, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

BARRON, Circuit Judge.

For the third time in recent years, " skycaps" -- airport porters who, among other things, assist passengers with curbside check-in -- ask us to decide whether they may sue an airline for alleged violations of state law arising out of the imposition at airports of a $2.00 per-bag, curbside check-in fee. As in those previous cases, and on the basis of those prior precedents and intervening precedent, we hold that federal law preempts these skycaps' state statutory and common law claims.

Page 37

I.

The suit before us began on April 24, 2008, when a class of skycaps working at Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, and at other airports throughout the country, brought suit against American Airlines. The suit arose after American began charging passengers $2.00 per bag to use curbside check-in services at airports across the country. According to the plaintiffs, American failed to adequately notify customers that skycaps would not receive the proceeds from the new charge. The plaintiffs further claimed that their compensation " decreased dramatically" following the introduction of the new charge, as fewer passengers tipped skycaps on top of paying the per-bag charge.

The plaintiffs thus sued American, on behalf of the Massachusetts skycaps, for violations of the Massachusetts Tips Law, Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 149 § 152A. The plaintiffs also sued American on behalf of both those skycaps and the others in the class for tortious interference with the " implied contractual and/or advantageous relationship that exists between skycaps and [American's] customers" and unjust enrichment or quantum meruit.[1]

American filed a motion to dismiss in May of 2014 after the case was reopened following two stays. American argued that two recent circuit precedents, DiFiore v. American Airlines, Inc., 646 F.3d 81 (1st Cir. 2011), and Brown v. United Airlines, Inc., 720 F.3d 60 (1st Cir. 2013), cert. denied, 134 S.Ct. 1787, 188 L.Ed.2d 757 (2014), compelled the conclusion that the Airline Deregulation Act, 49 U.S.C. § 41713(b)(1), preempted each of the skycaps' claims. The District Court agreed. Following a short hearing on American's motion, the District Court issued an order of dismissal in August of 2014. The plaintiffs now appeal that decision.

II.

In 1978, " as part of a wave of deregulatory measures," DiFiore, 646 F.3d at 85, Congress enacted the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA), " which largely deregulated domestic air transport," Am. Airlines, Inc. v. Wolens, 513 U.S. 219, 222, 115 S.Ct. 817, 130 L.Ed.2d 715 (1995). The ADA sought to promote " efficiency, innovation, and low prices" in the airline industry through " maximum reliance on competitive market forces and on actual and potential competition." 49 U.S.C. § § 40101(a)(6), (12)(A). " To ensure that the States would not undo federal deregulation with regulation of their own," Morales v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 504 U.S. 374, 378, 112 S.Ct. 2031, 119 L.Ed.2d 157 (1992), Congress included an express preemption clause in the ADA, which provides that

a State, political subdivision of a State, or political authority of at least 2 States may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of an air ...

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