The Fifth Circuit awarded a complete victory to our client The Boeing Company, and its co-defendant Southwest Airlines, in a November 21 decision. The court not only reversed the district court’s certification of four nationwide classes in a RICO class action, but ordered the district court to dismiss the case altogether.
The district court certified four separate plaintiff classes, containing anyone who paid for one of more than 200 million tickets on American and Southwest Airlines over an 18-month class period. The litigation relates to Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft, but none of the plaintiffs claimed to have been injured as a result of air travel: 95% of them never flew on a MAX and were never scheduled to do so. Rather, the plaintiffs claimed that if more safety information about the MAX had been known during the class period, the cost of their tickets would have gone down. The district court agreed that this theory could proceed — and the plaintiffs sought a multibillion-dollar recovery.
The Fifth Circuit granted interlocutory review of the class certification order, stayed the litigation, and in the recent opinion, ordered the case dismissed in its entirety. As the court explained, the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue: they failed to plead any plausible theory that they were any worse off financially as a result of buying tickets for air travel, and they disclaimed any theory that they were harmed by the travel itself. Because they had no concrete injury, their case had to be dismissed.
Boeing took the lead in briefing and arguing this standing issue. William Jay, co-chair of Goodwin’s Appellate and Supreme Court Litigation practice, argued the appeal for Boeing. On the briefs were Jaime Santos and Benjamin Hayes from Goodwin and Brian Schmalzbach, Benjamin Hatch, Gregory DuBoff, and Thomas Farrell from McGuireWoods.
The case has already received substantial coverage, including on law.com.