Carlsmith Ball successfully defended a major airline in a whistleblower lawsuit brought by a former flight engineer.
The plaintiff claimed that he was terminated as a result of reporting alleged safety concerns and filed suit in federal district court in California. Carlsmith had the case transferred to federal district court in Hawaii, and sought summary disposition on several preemption bases, including the argument that the Federal Aviation Act (FAA) preempted the plaintiff’s California state law claims.
The airline prevailed on FAA preemption in the district court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In the appellate decision, the Ninth Circuit panel affirmed that the plaintiff's California state law claims were preempted by the FAA, because their determination would intrude upon the federally regulated area of aviation safety. The U.S. Supreme Court denied plaintiff’s petition for writ of certiorari.