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Texas Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Lufthansa Group in Preemption Appeal

In a unanimous opinion issued February 1, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor our client, the Lufthansa Group of airlines, on an appeal of a decision by a Fort Worth trial court sought by Sabre Travel International. The appeal arose in a lawsuit filed by Lufthansa Group against Sabre for breach of contract and tortious interference with the airline’s contracts with travel agencies. Sabre moved to dismiss the state-law tort claim on the grounds of preemption by the federal Airline Deregulation Act. On behalf of Lufthansa, Yetter Coleman opposed the motion to dismiss, which the trial court denied. Sabre tried to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals, which denied the request. Sabre sought review by the Texas Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the appeal.

Our appellate team, led by Reagan Simpson, presented oral arguments to the Court in October 2018 on the effects of Lufthansa’s tort claim on the airlines’ routes, rates, and services. In its opinion, the Court fully adopted Lufthansa’s position that the conduct at issue—Sabre’s encouragement of travel agents to breach their contracts with Lufthansa and incur unnecessary booking fees—had no effect on airline routes, rates, or services, and any potential effect was too tenuous and remote to implicate the ADA preemption provisions. The decision has important implications for airlines pursuing state-law claims against non-airline suppliers, distribution outlets, and other vendors.

Our attorneys Reagan Simpson and Shane Pennington handled briefing before the Texas Supreme Court, while Paul Yetter and Wyatt Dowling are handling proceedings before the trial court.