Nat’l Fed. of the Blind v. United Airlines

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Preemption
  • Date Filed: 01-19-2016
  • Case #: 11-16240
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Berzon for the Court; Circuit Judge Kleinfeld and Senior District Judge Benitez; Concurrence by Kleinfeld
  • Full Text Opinion

The federal government has broadly preempted the field of accessibility of air transportation.

The National Federation of the Blind (Federation) filed a class action lawsuit against United Airlines, alleging that the automatic kiosks violated California’s anti-discrimination laws. The district court dismissed the Federations claim after determining that the suit was expressly preempted by the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA) and was impliedly field preempted by the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). On appeal, the Ninth Circuit failed to find express preemption, after determining that the kiosks were not “services” for purposes of express preemption in the ADA. The panel did agree that the district court’s finding of field preemption, after concluding that the federal government has broadly and repeatedly preempted the field of accessibility of air transportation. More specifically, the panel found that the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) promulgation of a formal rule under the ACAA after the decision of the district court was within the agency’s delegated authority and led to the DOT’s occupation of the field of kiosk accessibility. The panel found that the new DOT regulation to extensively and comprehensively regulated that field, thereby creating implied field preemption that preempted the Federation’s state law claims. In concurrence, Senior District Judge Kleinfeld agreed with the panel’s decision, but declined to accept or reject the panel’s analysis of the express preemption issue. AFFIRMED.

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