US Airways has been sued for beach of contract over its checked baggage fee.
Plaintiff Hayley Hickcox-Huffman bought a ticket on US Airways to fly from Colorado Springs, Colorado, to San Luis Obispo, California. She was charged $15 by US Airways for her one checked bag. Upon her arrival, Hayley’s checked bag was not waiting on the baggage carousel to greet her but instead US Airways delivered it to her the next day.
Hayley filed a class action lawsuit to get her $15 back. Her complaint pleads (1) “breach of self-imposed undertaking,” (2) “breach of express contract,” (3) “breach of implied contract,” (4) “breach of contract — federal common law,” (5) “breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing,” (6) “unjust enrichment,” (7) “intentional misrepresentation,” and (8) “negligent misrepresentation.” All the claims are for refunds of what she and other passengers paid as baggage fees, on the theory that US Airways did not do what it promised to do in exchange for the money.
To bring a breach of contract claim against a defendant, a plaintiff must first demonstrate that a contract existed between the plaintiff and the defendant. Then, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant breached that contract and that the breach resulted in the plaintiff’s damages.
The court found that Hayley demonstrated that a contract existed with US Airways. The elements of a contract include the offer, acceptance of the offer, and consideration. The court found that US Airways offered to transport Hayley’s checked baggage and deliver it on-time and that Hayley accepted the offer by purchasing the airfare, paying $15 for the checked bag (the consideration) and traveling on the airline.
Contract law is generally governed by state law. If there is a conflict between state law and federal law, state law generally prevails. US Airways argued that the federal Airline Deregulation Act preempted state law claims arising out of delayed baggage.
The court disagreed with this argument and looked to the purpose of the Act and case law precedent. The court found that the Airline Deregulation Act was enacted to encourage efficient and well-managed air carriers and to attain an air transportation system which relies on competitive market forces to determine the quality, variety, and price of air services. The Act allows airlines, not the states or the government, to control fare prices and routes. In looking to American Airlines, Inc. v. Wolens, the court concluded that the states may not impose their own rules regarding fares, routes, or services, but may afford relief for breaches of obligations the airlines voluntarily undertook themselves, even when the obligations directly relate to fares, routes, and services.
The court found that Hayley’s breach of contracts claim were properly pleaded and that the beach of contracts claims were not preempted by federal law. The case was remanded for further proceedings.
Read the entire opinion here. http://www.leagle.com/decision/In%20FCO%2020170503158/HICKCOX-HUFFMAN%20v.%20US%20AIRWAYS,%20INC.