Court Nixes Class Action Over 9-Hour Tarmac Wait

     (CN) – The 8th Circuit upheld the dismissal of a class action accusing American Airlines of false imprisonment and negligence for stranding passengers for nine hours on the tarmac.

     Lead plaintiff Catherine Ray sued the airlines for false imprisonment and negligence after she waited nine hours for her flight to leave a runway in Austin for the Dallas airport, which had been closed due to bad weather.
     The airline gave passengers two opportunities to take a bus back to the airport, but Ray declined. She said the pilot told passengers that if they chose to deplane, they would be “finished with this flight” and would be “on their own.”
     Ray and her husband stayed on board, which soon became “stuffy” and “smelly,” according to the lawsuit.
     She says passengers were given just “two or three granola bars” and “two soda pops” over nine hours, and one of the toilets in the plane stopped working.
     The plane was taken to a gate around 9 p.m., and many passengers, including Ray and her husband, spent the night in the terminal.
     A federal judge ruled for American Airlines, and the federal appeals court in St. Louis rejected Ray’s appeal.
     The three-judge panel dismissed her false imprisonment claim, saying there were no laws capping how many hours an airline could delay its passengers.
     “Ray has not presented any statute or regulation, federal or state … that placed a limit on the number of hours American was permitted to keep passengers aboard one of its airplanes during a delay,” Judge Diana Murphy wrote.
     “Moreover, American provided two opportunities to deplane, and the pilot informed the passengers that the second was their last chance to leave the flight.”
     Ray’s negligence claim fails, the panel ruled, because she “has presented little to no evidence that she suffered physical injury because of American’s actions.”

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