Air Wisconsin Airlines Corp. v. Hoeper

U.S. Supreme hears oral argument in airline security case

Term: 2013 Term
Oral Argument Date: Dec 9, 2013
Vote: 6-3
Opinion: Sotomayor
Questions Presented: 

Whether immunity under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act may be denied without a determination that the air carrier's disclosure was materially false.

U.S. Chamber's Position: 

In its brief, the U.S. Chamber urged the Supreme Court to grant certiorari and reverse the Colorado Supreme Court's ruling that the Aviation and Transportation Security Act's (ATSA) immunity for air carriers in reporting potential threats may be denied even without a determination that the air carrier's disclosure was materially false. The Colorado Supreme Court held that airlines can be held liable for reporting potential security concerns without undertaking a sufficient investigation to confirm those suspicions. The Chamber argued that this "investigate first, report later" approach is contrary to what Congress intended when it enacted the ATSA and ignores the primary role of the Transportation Security Administration in investigating these threats. In addition, the Chamber noted that "airlines risk delaying flights and snarling the entire air-transportation network if they keep planes from taking off while their employees conduct a first-level review of a potential threat." Finally, such a rule would chill airline reports "lead[ing] to delayed reports by airlines or no reports at all" with negative consequences for airlines and the traveling public. 

Outcome Content: 

Immunity under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act may not be denied without a determination that the air carrier's disclosure was materially false because any falsehood in the disclosure would not affect a reasonable security officer’s assessment of a supposed threat.
 

Justices in Minority: 
Procedural History: 

Cert. Petition filed 9/11/12. Granted 6/17/13. Decided 1/27/14.