Sky-Med, Inc. v. Federal Aviation Administration, No. 18-70306 (9th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The FAA filed an enforcement action against Pacific before an ALJ, which was then appealed to the Administrator. The ALJ and Administrator held that they had the power to adjudicate the action because the FAA initially sent Pacific two separate notices alleging that Pacific was liable for civil penalties for different violations, with each notice seeking less than $50,000.
Because the FAA ultimately pursued those penalties through a single complaint seeking more than $50,000, the Ninth Circuit held that the only tribunal with jurisdiction to adjudicate the complaint was a federal district court under 49 U.S.C. 46301(d)(4). The panel explained that its conclusion is not altered by the fact that the ALJ and Administrator ultimately imposed a total penalty of less than $50,000, because a higher amount was in controversy even though not ultimately awarded. Accordingly, the court vacated the Administrator's decision and remanded with instructions to dismiss.