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Supreme Court will hear case about airline reporting

Massachusetts residents may have heard about an airline that has brought a case to the Supreme Court in regards to whether airline companies should be protected from lawsuits during cases of mistaken security threat reports. The case concerns a pilot who the airline had mental health concerns about. The pilot was a passenger on a flight, and the airline reportedly believed that he might be a threat to the safety of the other passengers. The Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether airline should have the same protection as the Transportation Security Administration when it comes to reporting threats so that it can avoid any cases of business litigation.

The pilot had failed several test flights previously and believed that he was going to be fired for his performance. According to the airline, the pilot had acted aggressively after failing the test flight for the fourth time. The airline additionally stated that they were not aware whether he was carrying a gun on the flight. However, the state Supreme Court ruled that the airline had overstated the threat that the pilot had caused.

The pilot was awarded $1.4 million in a defamation suit against the airline. He argued that the report was an overreaction based on a personal event that occurred between him and other airline employees. The pilot was taken into custody on the day of the flight before being released after an investigation.

The company believes that it should not be held liable for its reports because this will discourage employees from reporting other possible threats. However, the Supreme Court ruled against the airline because they decided that it had overstated the threat that the pilot represented. Business and commercial law attorneys may be necessary in future cases to help the company determine how it can avoid penalties for the reporting of a non-credible threat in the future.

Source: USA Today, "Supreme Court to hear case about airline security threats", Bart Jansen, June 17, 2013

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