A class action lawsuit pending in Sherman against Southwest Airlines and the Boeing Company should be dismissed immediately because the plaintiffs in the litigation suffered no actual damages, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled Monday.
In a 10-page opinion, a three-judge panel reversed U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant of the Eastern District of Texas who had certified four classes consisting of an estimated 200 million passengers who claim they could have been at risk for flying on Southwest aboard a Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft.
The lawsuit, filed in Sherman in 2019, accused Boeing and Southwest Airlines of fraud for hiding serious safety defects in the Boeing jet and misleading the Federal Aviation Administration.
“But plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged that any class member suffered either physical or economic injury from Boeing’s and Southwest’s alleged fraud,” Judge Andrew Oldham wrote in the unanimous opinion. “Plaintiffs therefore lack Article III standing. We reverse and remand with instructions to dismiss for want of jurisdiction.”
Southwest Airlines Chief Legal Officer Mark Shaw, in an interview Monday evening with The Texas Lawbook, praised the Fifth Circuit and his legal team that included three in-house counsel and several lawyers at Norton Rose Fulbright.
“We vigorously defended against this case from the beginning, and we are thankful for the result,” Shaw said.
The Southwest litigation team was led by Southwest Associate General Counsel for Litigation Kerrie Forbes, Associate General Counsel for Governance and Legal Operations James Sheppard, litigation attorney Morgan Schweinzger and litigation paralegal Lauren Armstrong.
“We went through a selection process for outside counsel at the start, and Norton Rose Fulbright had a good analysis and strategy to defend Southwest and we are glad we chose them,” Shaw said.
The Norton Rose Fulbright team was led by Dallas trial partner Michael Swartzendruber and appellate partner Jonathan Franklin. Other Norton Rose Fulbright lawyers on the case included Jason Fagelman, James Leito, Philip Tarpley and Geraldine Young.
Boeing was represented by McGuireWoods, including Houston partner Thomas Farrell.
The plaintiffs are represented by New York-based Bathaee Dunne and California-based Dovel & Luner. The Texas lawyers advising the plaintiffs include Elizabeth DeRieux of Capshaw DeRieux in Gladewater and Bathaee Dunne partner Edward Grauman, who offices in Austin.
The case is No. 21-40720.