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Gilling v. Eastern Airlines, Inc.

United States District Court for the District of New Jersey
680 F.Supp. 169 (1988)


Facts

Richard Gilling and other passengers (plaintiffs) were aboard a flight operated by Eastern Airlines, Inc. (defendant), when they were forced to leave the plane due to two knife incidents. The passengers filed several claims against Eastern Airlines, arguing they were wrongfully ejected. The trial court’s local rules provided for mandatory arbitration before trial. Counsel for Eastern Airlines attended arbitration, but no one from the company came. Instead of calling witnesses, counsel for Eastern Airlines read excerpts from deposition transcripts and interrogatories. For its argument, Eastern Airlines’s counsel read brief position statements. When the arbitrator asked counsel for Eastern Airlines about a potential damage award, she replied that she did not care what the arbitrator would do because they did not plan to pay it anyway. The arbitrator found in favor of the passengers. Pursuant to the court’s local rule, Eastern Airlines moved for a new trial after the arbitrator’s award. The passengers opposed Eastern Airlines’s motion, arguing that Eastern Airlines did not participate in the arbitration in a meaningful manner. The court’s local rule stated that a court may sanction a party for failing to participate in a meaningful manner by striking a party’s motion for a new trial, among other things. The rule provided that the arbitrator determines whether the party participated in a meaningful manner. The court remanded the case to the arbitrator for a factfinding on whether Eastern Airlines meaningfully participated. The arbitrator found that Eastern Airlines did not. Eastern Airlines then moved to vacate the arbitrator’s finding and renewed their motion for a new trial.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Sarokin, J.)

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