January 31, 2014
On January 27, 2014, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Air Wisconsin Airlines Corp. v. Hoeper. The question in this case was whether immunity under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA) can be denied to an air carrier sued on defamation-related tort theories without a determination that the air carrier's report to the Transportation Security Administration was materially false.
In a decision issued by Justice Sotomayor, the Court held by a vote of 9-0 that immunity under the ATSA may not be denied without a determination that the disclosure at issue was materially false. Reasoning that the state courts made no such determination, below--and that any falsehood in the disclosure here would not have affected a reasonable security officer's assessment of the supposed threat--the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Colorado Supreme Court by a vote of 6-3 and remanded the case for further proceedings.
Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Alito joined Justice Sotomayor’s majority opinion. Justice Scalia filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which Justices Thomas and Kagan joined.
To discuss the case, we have Andrew Grossman, who is an associate at Baker Hostetler as well as a Visiting Fellow at the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation.