Frequent-Flying Rabbi Must Head to High Court
WASHINGTON (CN) - Northwest Airlines persuaded the Supreme Court on Monday to consider tossing claims that it booted a rabbi from its frequent-flier program for complaining too much.
After being dismissed from the Northwest's WorldPerks frequent-flier program, Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg filed a class action against the airline, now part of Delta in 2009. He claimed that Northwest had "revoked his membership arbitrarily because he complained too frequently about the services," according to the ruling.
U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino in San Diego dismissed the case, finding that the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA) pre-empted the rabbi's contract claims.
A three-judge appellate panel of the 9th Circuit reversed in 2011, however, cautioning the lower court that the virtues of deregulation do not trump the common law.
"When Congress passed the ADA, it dismantled a federal regulatory structure that had existed since 1958," Judge Robert Beezer wrote for the Pasadena-based panel. "By including a preemption clause, congress intended to ensure that the states would not undo the deregulation with regulation of their own. Congress's 'manifest purpose' was to make the airline industry more efficient by unleashing the market forces of competition - it was not to immunize the airline industry from liability for common law contract claims. Congress did not intend to convert airlines into quasi-government agencies, complete with sovereign immunity."
In granting Northwest a writ of certiorari on Monday, the Supreme Court issued no comment, as is its custom.