Ventress v. Japan Airlines

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Preemption
  • Date Filed: 03-28-2014
  • Case #: 12-15066
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge McKeown for the court, Circuit Judge Hawkins; Concurrence by Circuit Judge Bea
  • Full Text Opinion

The Federal Aviation Act impliedly field preempts state whistleblower and employment law claims regarding pilot qualifications and medical standards.

Martin Ventress claimed that Japan Airlines and Jalways Co., Ltd. (collectively “JAL”) retaliated against Ventress for raising safety concerns and submitting safety reports regarding a fellow pilot’s fitness to operate an aircraft in June 2001. Ventress claims JAL retaliated against him because JAL made Ventress undergo unnecessary psychiatric evaluations and prevented him from working in violation of California’s whistleblower and employment laws. On remand from appeal on other issues, the District Court held the Federal Aviation Act (“FAA”) preempts Ventress’s state law claims and granted JAL's motion for judgment on the pleadings on preemption grounds. On appeal the Ninth Circuit affirmed with two holdings. First, the FAA and accompanying regulations create an implied field preemption of Ventress’s state law claims because pilot qualifications and medical standards are pervasively regulated by the FAA and usurpation by state laws would frustrate Congress’s goal of a uniform system of regulation. Second, despite the pilot’s alleged conduct not occurring in U.S. airspace, the preemption still reaches Ventress’s claims because his complaint alleged the retaliation and termination happened in Honolulu, Hawaii. AFFIRMED.

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