By Daniel Wiessner
NEW YORK, Dec 26 (Reuters) - A New York appeals court has
dismissed a lawsuit in which a woman claimed that JetBlue
Airways forced her to stay on a plane for 11 hours with little
food or water when her flight was delayed.
In a unanimous decision, the Appellate Division, Second
Department, on Wednesday found that Katharine Biscone's claims
of false imprisonment, emotional distress, fraud and deceit
could not be brought under New York state law.
The court found that her claims were pre-empted by the
federal Airline Deregulation Act, which regulates the airline
industry nationwide. Among other things, the statute says states
"may not enact or enforce a law ... related to a price, route,
or service of an air carrier."
"The provision of food, water, clean air, and toilet
facilities, as well as the ability to deplane, all relate to
airline service" under the federal law, Justice Leonard Austin
wrote for the court.
Biscone claimed that on Feb. 14, 2007, she boarded a JetBlue
flight scheduled to depart New York's JFK Airport for Burbank,
California, at 6:45 a.m. Inclement weather forced the plane to
remain on the tarmac until 5:30 p.m., Biscone said, when
passengers were allowed to exit.
During those 11 hours, according to the suit, the airline
provided only small amounts of water and little food and shut
down the plane's heating and ventilation system. Toward the end
of the ordeal, the Second Department said, the pilot informed
passengers that the toilet tanks were full.
Biscone claimed that she and other passengers were
"intimidated" and "deceived" by JetBlue personnel into staying
on the plane. She sued the airline in New York state Supreme
Court in Queens in 2010. Biscone, a comedy writer, claimed she
missed her friend's film premiere and "important" business
meetings, the Second Department said.
In 2010, Supreme Court Justice Valerie Brathwaite-Nelson
dismissed the case, finding that the claims were pre-empted by
Brathwaite-Nelson also dismissed Biscone's negligence
claims, finding that she failed to prove any injury stemming
from the botched flight, and denied her motion to certify the
suit as a class action on behalf of all the passengers on the
The Second Department on Wednesday affirmed the lower court
decision. Austin was joined by Justices Mark Dillon, Anita
Florio and Sheri Roman.
JetBlue and its attorney, Christopher Kelly, did not return
requests for comment. Biscone's attorney, Paul Hudson, was not
available on Wednesday.
The case is Katharine Biscone v. JetBlue Airways
Corporation, New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division,
First Department, No. 2010-11745.
For Biscone: Paul Hudson.
For JetBlue: Christopher Kelly, Judith Nemsick and Christine
Tramontano of Holland & Knight.
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