A Brooklyn appellate court has clipped the wings of a putative class action suit from an airline passenger who spent 11 hours on the tarmac waiting for her flight to take off.
"The plaintiff's intentional tort and fraud claims relate to the provision of airline service and are, therefore, pre-empted by federal law," Justice Leonard Austin wrote for a unanimous panel of the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, in Biscone v. JetBlue Airways, 700140/10.
Justices Mark Dillon, Anita Florio and Sheri Roman joined the Dec. 26 decision affirming the lower court's partial dismissal.
The ruling also upheld a denial of a motion to reargue a denied bid for class certification. Arguments were heard on Feb. 7, 2012.
In the underlying case, Katharine Biscone, a comedy writer, was bound for Burbank, Calif., from John F. Kennedy International Airport on Feb. 14, 2007. Scheduled to depart at 6:45 a.m., the JetBlue plane left the terminal shortly thereafter. But it stayed on the ground for the next 11 hours. Biscone finally was let off at 5:30 p.m., then waited another two hours to retrieve baggage.
In the first five hours on the tarmac, Biscone kept her seat belt fastened because the crew told the passengers the weather was "holding us up" and the plane could leave on five minutes' notice.
In the next five hours, the crew told passengers if they wanted to leave and take another flight, they had to inform a crew member.
A passenger allegedly tried to deplane but the "flight attendant bullied and intimidated him to stay on the plane," telling him that the carrier would not help in finding another flight, and that no flights were available.
Other passengers also allegedly tried getting out, but the airplane personnel said attempts to force oneself off a plane could mean a 20-year prison term pursuant to the Federal Patriot Act.
Small amounts of water and snacks were passed out periodically as the plane's ventilation was shut down, causing the cabin to become "sweltering." After 10 hours, the captain told passengers that because the toilet tanks were now full, no one could "do a [number] 2."