MoFo Secures Unanimous Defense Verdict on Behalf of Alaska Airlines
SAN FRANCISCO – March 5, 2013 – Morrison & Foerster recently scored a complete defense verdict on behalf of Alaska Airlines in a three-week jury trial in the U.S. District Court of Nevada. It is the first U.S. verdict implicating the Tokyo Convention, which provides immunity for reasonable decisions made by a pilot to maintain the safety, good order and discipline of a flight.
The case was filed in 2004 by a group of first-class passengers who were removed from a 2003 flight from Vancouver to Las Vegas after the captain diverted the plane to Reno due to a passenger disturbance involving some members of the group. Morrison & Foerster previously obtained dismissal of plaintiffs’ various state law claims as preempted by the Warsaw Convention and won summary judgment on plaintiffs’ Warsaw Convention claim for delay of international travel under the Tokyo Convention’s immunity provision. The passengers appealed the decisions to the 9th Circuit, which remanded the case for trial in 2010 ruling that a jury should determine if the pilot’s decision was reasonable.
Plaintiffs subsequently added numerous defamation claims to the case, and asked for approximately $39 million in closing argument before the seven-member jury returned a unanimous defense verdict on all counts, necessarily concluding that the Alaska Airlines captain’s actions were reasonable. The jury verdict vindicated the actions of Alaska Airlines, the captain and the flight attendants after nine years of hard-fought litigation.
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