Nat'l Fed. of the Blind v. United States, No. 11-16240 (9th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
The Federation filed a class action against United, alleging that the airline’s policy of using automatic kiosks inaccessible to blind travelers violates California’s antidiscrimination laws. The district court dismissed the suit on the grounds that the Federation’s claims were expressly preempted under the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (ADA), 49 U.S.C. 41713, and impliedly field preempted under the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA), 49 U.S.C. 41705, and its implementing regulations, issued by the DOT. Under its interpretation of section 41713(b)(1) of the ADA, the court concluded that the Federation’s claims do not relate to a “service” provided by United. Moreover, the court's conclusion that United's kiosks fall outside the statutory definition of “services” is consistent with the ADA’s deregulatory purpose. Therefore, the Federation’s claims are not expressly preempted under the ADA. Absent any specific indication that Congress sought to preserve all state-law claims not expressly preempted under the ADA, the court adopted the Geier v. Am. Honda Motor Co. approach and applied ordinary implied field preemption principles to the Federation’s claims. Applying the court's precedent concerning field preemption, the court concluded that the DOT ACAA regulations covering matters other than the use of airline ticketing kiosks are not pertinent to the court's field preemption inquiry; the new regulation is pervasive and intended to occupy the field of kiosk accessibility; and DOT acted within its delegated authority in promulgating the new regulation. Therefore, the Federation’s state-law claims are impliedly field preempted under the ACAA. The court affirmed the judgment.