Nader v. Allegheny Airlines, Inc.

RESPONDENT:Allegheny Airlines, Inc.
LOCATION:Vermillion Police Station

DOCKET NO.: 75-455
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 426 US 290 (1976)
ARGUED: Mar 24, 1976
DECIDED: Jun 07, 1976

E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr. – for respondent
Reuben B. Robertson, III – for petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Nader v. Allegheny Airlines, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – March 24, 1976 in Nader v. Allegheny Airlines, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 07, 1976 in Nader v. Allegheny Airlines, Inc.

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in 75-455, Nader against Allegheny Airlines will be announced by Mr. Justice Powell.

Lewis F. Powell, Jr.:

This case is here on certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The petitioner, Ralph Nader, had reserved a seat on Allegheny Airlines to fly to Hartford.

He arrived to check in five minutes before departure time, but found that all seats on the flight were occupied.

In the familiar terminology of air travel, petitioner was bumped.

This resulted from the then practice of Allegheny and other domestic airlines of overbooking at least on many flights.

Petitioner instituted suit claiming damages on account of alleged fraudulent misrepresentation.

Petitioner had not been advised in the filed tariffs or otherwise of the overbooking practice and the resulting possibility of being bumped.

It was acknowledged that this possibility was relatively remote statistically.

The 1972 average for all domestic airlines was slightly more than one chance in 2000 of a particular passenger being bumped.

The airlines are subject to extensive regulation by the Civil Aeronautics Board.

Although the board was fully familiar with the overbooking practice, it had never been firmly authorized or expressly approved.

The Court of Appeals nevertheless decided that petitioners tort action should be stayed to afford the board an opportunity to consider whether failure to disclose overbooking is a deceptive practice under Section 411 of the Federal Aviation Act.

We conclude for reasons set forth in our opinion filed today with the clerk, that there is no incompatibility between the maintaining of a common law tort action and the exercise of the regulatory authority of the Board.

Indeed, we think this is clear from Section 1106 of the Act.

We therefore hold, reversing the Court of Appeals that a stay of petitioner’s suit is inappropriate.

We remand the case for further proceedings consistent with our opinion.

Mr. Justice White has filed a concurring opinion.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Powell.