California Appeals Court Affirms ADA Preemption of State Consumer Protection Action Relating to Airline’s Mobile App
The California Superior Court agreed with the airline that the ADA expressly preempted the State's consumer protection claim. On appeal, the Court of Appeal conducted a de novo review, specifically examining the Supreme Court's ADA decisions in Morales v. Trans World Airlines,5 Inc., Am. Airlines, Inc. v. Wolens6 and Northwest, Inc. v. Ginsberg7, all of which reiterated the broad scope of ADA preemption of state law claims that "relate to" an airline's prices, routes, or services.8 The court recognized that the federal legislative presence in matters of air transportation is "longstanding and pervasive" and that a presumption against preemption was unwarranted, as such a presumption "only arises … if Congress legislates in a field traditionally occupied by the states."9
Lastly, the court recognized that its holding was consistent with several previous Federal district court decisions that had examined the scope of ADA preemption in the context of state enforcement of consumer protection laws regarding privacy policies and the collection of PII.12 In those cases, plaintiffs asserted that the airlines violated their stated privacy policies by collecting and disclosing certain PII in their passenger name records. The courts uniformly concluded that such claims were expressly preempted by the ADA under Morales and Wolens.1 No. A139238, 2016 WL 3001805 (Cal. Ct. App., 1st Dist. May 25, 2016).
2 49 U.S.C. § 41713(b)(1).
4 Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 22575-22579; Stats. 2003, ch. 829, § 1.
5 504 U.S. 374 (1992).
6 513 U.S. 219 (1995).
7 134 S. Ct. 1422 (2014).
8 Morales, 504 U.S. at 378-79.
9 Citing Morales and Wolens as cases in which such a presumption was not adopted.10 Quoting Wolens, 513 U.S. at 228.
11Quoting Wolens, 513 U.S. at 228 and Morales, 504 U.S. at 390.12 See, e.g., In re JetBlue Airways Corp. Privacy Litig., 379 F. Supp. 2d 299 (E.D.N.Y. 2005); In re Am. Airlines, Inc. Privacy Litig. 370 F .Supp. 2d 552 (N.D. Tex. 2005); Copeland v. Northwest Airlines Corp., 2005 U.S. Dist. Lexis 35139 (W.D. Tenn. 2005); In re Northwest Airlines Privacy Litig., 2004 U.S. Dist. Lexis 10580 (D. Minn. 2004).