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CAFA Law Blog Information, cases and insights regarding the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005

Plaintiff Gets on That 707 with Plans of Rridin’ High, but That Big Ol’ Jet Airliner Won’t Carry Her Too Far Away.

Posted in Case Summaries

Hanni v. American Airlines, Inc., 2008 WL 1885794 (N.D.Cal. Apr. 25, 2008)

In this CAFA remand case, the plaintiff, Hanni, took an American Airlines flight from San Francisco to Mobile, with a stopover in Dallas. After the weather in Dallas turned a bit rough, the plane got diverted to Austin. According to Hanni, once in Austin, no one was let off the plane. So Hanni, did was so many do when they’ve had a crappy time—she filed a class action in state court.

In this CAFA remand case, the plaintiff, Hanni, took an American Airlines flight from San Francisco to Mobile, with a stopover in Dallas. After the weather in Dallas turned a bit rough, the plane got diverted to Austin. According to Hanni, once in Austin, no one was let off the plane. So Hanni, did was so many do when they’ve had a crappy time—she filed a class action in state court.
 

In the suit, Hanni sought class-wide damages for false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, breach of contract, and intentional misrepresentation. According to Hanni, American Airlines was liable to the putative class for: (1) its decision to allow the flight from San Francisco to Dallas to depart in spite of the possibility of thunderstorms in Dallas; (2) after the flight was diverted to Austin, refusing to permit the passengers to leave the airplane while it was on the runway in Austin; (3) its failure “to supply the parked aircraft with essentials of water, food, sanitary waste removal, light, and breathable or fresh air at normal temperatures” while on the runway in Austin; (4) its decision not to unload checked baggage when it allowed the passengers off the airplane in Austin at 9:30 PM; (5) its failure to provide payment for lodging, meals, ground transportation and other expenses when the passengers were kept in Austin overnight; and (6) its failure to allow passengers to board their connecting flights in Dallas when they arrived the following morning. Put simply, the plaintiff had a really crappy flight.

American Airline removed the case under CAFA. Hanni promptly filed a motion to remand, arguing that the $5m amount in controversy wasn’t present.  However, Hanni had forgot that, shortly after filing the motion to remand, her counsel had sent a settlement letter to American Airlines offering to settle the case for a “global settlement amount” of “about” $5m.

Based on the almost $5m settlement demand letter, American Airline filed a motion to amend its notice of removal to cite the letter as evidence that the amount in controversy exceeded $5m to support its CAFA-based removal. 

The motion to amend was granted and, based on the settlement demand letter, the court found that the amount in controversy exceeded $5m. Even though the demand letter sought slightly less than $5m, the court denied the motion to remand. Per the court, the fact that the demand amount in the letter was slightly below $5m was not necessarily sufficient to place the amount in controversy at less than CAFA’s $5m minimum. Per the court, “an offer falling just below the jurisdictional threshold tends to suggest that the amount in controversy exceeds this threshold, especially since parties routinely offer and accept settlement amounts significantly below the total amount placed into controversy.”