Justia Alaska Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Transportation Law
Thompson v. United Services Automobile Association
In this case, a woman was severely injured while moving an inoperable airplane owned by her husband. She sought recovery from her husband's homeowner's insurance policy. The insurance policy, however, excluded injuries "arising out of" the ownership, maintenance, use, loading or unloading of an aircraft. The woman argued that the policy should cover her injury because, in her view, the aircraft had become mere "parts" after her husband removed the wings, elevators, and tail rudder. The lower court disagreed and concluded that her injuries were not covered by the policy. The woman appealed this decision.The Supreme Court of the State of Alaska agreed with the lower court’s interpretation of the homeowner's insurance policy exclusion. The court maintained that regardless of whether the airplane was considered an aircraft or a collection of airplane “parts” when it injured the woman, the injury arose out of the husband’s ownership of the airplane. This interpretation was supported by the clear language of the policy which excluded coverage for bodily injury arising out of ownership or maintenance of an aircraft. As a result, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision. View "Thompson v. United Services Automobile Association" on Justia Law
HDI-Gerling America Insurance Company v. Carlile Transportation Systems, Inc.
One night in February 2014 Carlile Transportation Systems, Inc. driver Bart Neal was driving a tractor-trailer southbound on the Dalton Highway. Neal could not steer properly at speeds above 35 miles per hour and decided to stop to put chains on his tires, partially blocking both traffic lanes, and, by his account, activated his flashers. Neal did not deploy reflective triangles. Eggor Enterprises, Inc. driver Joe Seurer was hauling a load of fuel northbound. By his account, Seurer saw lights in the distance but could not determine what they were. Seurer slowed his tractor-trailer from 50 to 35 miles per hour. About three-quarters of a mile from Neal, Seurer again saw lights and thought they might be from a pipeline maintenance truck stopped off the side of the road. He did not see reflective triangles or flashers. The road had an S-curve between Seurer and Neal. Until Seurer rounded the final curve, he did not realize Neal’s rig was blocking the road. Seurer applied his brakes about 300 feet from Neal, avoiding a serious collision but causing Seurer’s trailer to fall onto the side of the highway. The trailer’s fuel load spilled alongside the road. Eggor Enterprises’s insurer, HDI-Gerling American Insurance Company (HDI), paid over $3.5 million in cleanup costs to remediate the spill. HDI-Gerling, as subrogee of its trucking company client, sued Carlile for negligence. After a trial the jury determined that Carlile company’s driver was not negligent and returned a defense verdict. The insurance company appealed some of the superior court’s trial rulings. Seeing no reversible error, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s entry of final judgment. View "HDI-Gerling America Insurance Company v. Carlile Transportation Systems, Inc." on Justia Law
Lingley v. Alaska Airlines, Inc.
In February 2012, Alaska Airlines terminated Helen Lingley, a longtime employee, for violating company rules and polices after she allegedly took earbuds from a left-on-board box, made contradictory statements during the ensuing investigation, and made discourteous comments about her coworkers. The terms and conditions of Lingley’s employment were governed by a collective bargaining agreement negotiated by Lingley’s union,the International Association of Machinists and AerospaceWorkers, pursuant to the federal Railway Labor Act (RLA). This agreement broadly incorporated Alaska Airlines’ rules and policies and gave the company the right to change those rules and policies at any time. Lingley sued Alaska Airlines for wrongful termination without first attempting to arbitrate her claims under the provisions of a collective bargaining agreement subject to the RLA. The superior court denied the Lingley leave to amend her complaint, concluding that her claims and proposed claims were precluded by failure to exhaust contractual remedies and were preempted by the RLA. The Supreme Court found the collective bargaining agreement did not clearly and unmistakably waive the Lingley's right to litigate her claims, a prerequisite to finding her claims precluded. "And a number of her proposed claims may have an independent state law basis that does not depend on an interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement; such claims would not be preempted by the Railway Labor Act." Accordingly the Court reversed the superior court order denying leave to amend. View "Lingley v. Alaska Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law
Borgen v. A&M Motors, Inc.
The issue presented to the Supreme Court in this case was whether under the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act a misrepresentation by a seller of a used motor home is subject to a defense that the misrepresentation was made in good faith. Plaintiff Robert Borgen bought a used Travelaire motor home from A&M Motors, Inc. in 2004. The motor home had previously been owned by Thom and Linda Janidlo; the Janidlos traded in the vehicle to A&M Motors about two weeks before Borgen bought it. When the Janidlos traded in the motor home, they indicated that it was a 2002 model. At some point, someone changed the model year to 2003 on the documents at A&M Motors. The title from the State of Alaska showed that the motor home was a 2003 model, but the vehicle identification number (VIN) indicated that the motor home was a 2002 model. Both trial experts testified that the tenth digit of a VIN of a chassis indicates the model year of the chassis, but their testimony as to whether the same holds true for the VIN of a coach was unclear. The VIN on the chassis is the VIN on the vehicle’s title, but a motor home’s model year is determined by the model year of the coach. A&M Motors sold the Travelaire to Borgen as a 2003 model. In August 2005 Borgen discovered documents in the motor home indicating the motor home was actually a 2002 model. He contacted A&M Motors to complain; the only compensation they offered him was a $1,000 service contract. Borgen sued A&M Motors, pleading three causes of action: (1) misrepresentation, (2) violation of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act (UTPA), and (3) breach of contract. Borgen moved for summary judgment on his UTPA claim in February 2008. The trial court denied that motion, and a jury ultimately decided that A&M Motors had not engaged in an unfair or deceptive act in its dealings with Borgen. Finding that the trial court did not err by finding the UTPA implied an unknowing affirmative misrepresentation of material fact would not give rise to liability, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment with respect to Borgen's UTPA claims, but remanded for further proceedings on treble damages. View "Borgen v. A&M Motors, Inc." on Justia Law