Abdullah v. American Airlines
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
181 F.3d 363 (1999)
During a flight operated by American Airlines, Inc. (American) (defendant), the pilots noticed potential turbulence in the flight path. The pilots notified the rest of the flight crew and turned on the seatbelt sign in the passenger compartment. However, the pilots did not specifically warn the passengers about the potential turbulence. The turbulence was severe and injured several passengers. Khaled Abdullah and three other passengers (plaintiffs) sued American for negligence in federal court in the Virgin Islands. The district court used the territory’s common law to instruct the jury that a reasonableness standard of care governed American’s conduct on the flight. Applying that reasonableness standard, the jury found that American was negligent. American moved for a new trial, arguing that federal law preempted state and territorial laws on the topic of aviation safety and, therefore, was the only applicable standard of care for a flight crew. The district court ruled that federal law preempted territorial law and vacated the verdict. However, before conducting a second trial, the district court certified an interlocutory, i.e., interim, appeal to the Third Circuit to confirm which laws governed (1) the applicable standard of care for a flight crew and (2) the remedies in the case.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Roth, J.)
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