It might come as a surprise that you really can’t sue an airline in a state court. For just about anything.
Instead, you have to file your lawsuit in Federal court which means you have to have a basis of your lawsuit that is founded on Federal law. Since Federal law generally doesn’t address nuances (that’s generally left to states) and sets a high bar (because a lower bar is what States are for), lawsuits against airlines generally lose.
Oh, it’s quite possible to do a personal injury suit against an airline in Federal court when there is a crash. But that has as much to do with the bad publicity as it does the law.
You see, airlines managed to have most issues against them (for all practical purposes, all issues) moved to Federal court by an act of Congress back when Deregulation was occurring.
This sets the bar very, very high for winning a lawsuit against an airline. It is a very protected place to sit as an industry.
And unfair. You can sue Exxon wherever you want but you can’t sue American Airlines wherever you want.
As a result, airlines are able to write egregious contract terms and abuse passengers on a daily basis with the clear knowledge that virtually all passengers can’t sue them. Imagine the change in attitude and service an airline might experience when it has to face a jury of its peers in East Texas after losing luggage, holding people hostage in an airplane and then arbitrarily cancelling their flight.
I honestly struggle to find the justification for airlines to have such a protected status in 2014. Virtually all other service oriented industries manage to do just fine without such protections.
We shouldn’t forget the purpose of a civil lawsuit: It’s to correct a wrong *and* take punitive action against an entity when it intentionally does that harm. By design, this is to give incentive to companies (and individuals) to Be Nice and Behave.
Wouldn’t that be a near revolution in the airline industry?