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Monday, April 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge Tosses Lawsuit Over Airline Tarmac Waits

(CN) - A federal judge in Dallas dismissed a class action seeking damages for up to 33,000 American Airline passengers who were allegedly forced to wait in grounded airplanes for more than three hours, sometimes "in poor to deplorable conditions."

Lead plaintiff Thomas Dickson complained that he and his family, on their way from San Francisco to Belize on Dec. 29, 2006, were stuck on a grounded American Airlines flight for more than eight hours.

Bad weather purportedly forced more than 1,100 American Airlines flights to stay at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, where passengers were not allowed to exit the planes.

Dickson sued under the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for the International Carriage by Air, known as the Montreal Convention. The Montreal Convention allows air passengers to recover damages for delay, injury or death.

The problem with Dickson's Montreal Convention claim, U.S. District Judge John McBryde wrote, was that its two-year limitation was up before Dickson filed his complaint.

In trying to get around the two-year limit, Dickson claimed his class action was a continuation of an earlier class action filed by another party. The earlier action, Harper v. American Airlines, was filed before the statute of limitations ran out, but the complaint never won class-action status.

Even if Harper had become a real class action, the court noted, Dickson did not file his complaint in time to tack it onto the earlier case and still be within the two-year limit.

"[P]utative class members are not permitted to piggyback one class action onto another and thus toll the statute of limitations indefinitely," Judge McBryde added.

The judge tossed the class action and barred Dickson from appealing.

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