Rushing McCarl files Ninth Circuit appeal in sexual assault case

by Rushing McCarl LLP Nov. 08, 2021

Rushing McCarl LLP attorneys Ryan McCarl, John Rushing, and Davit Avagyan just filed an opening brief on behalf of Jane Doe in the Ninth Circuit case Doe v. Compania Panamena de Aviacion (Case No. 21-55983).

Doe was the victim of an inflight sexual assault experienced while she was flying from Los Angeles to Panama. Her lawsuit alleges that the assault occurred because defendant Copa Airlines allowed a felon fleeing the jurisdiction to board the plane and sit next to Doe, then ignored her complaints and refused her requests to change seats. Copa then forced Doe to remain in the assailant’s presence, including by moving her a single seat away from him and by seating her in a plastic chair directly across from him while he snarled threats at her after the flight.

Doe brought a negligence claim against Copa Airlines and its parent company, but the District Court dismissed the case on the theory that an international treaty called the Montreal Convention completely preempts her negligence claim. The Court also mistakenly believed that Doe had not filed her lawsuit in time to bring a claim under the Convention.

“We agreed to handle Ms. Doe’s Ninth Circuit appeal because we thought her claims were too important to be thrown out without even giving her a hearing or an opportunity to amend her complaint,” Ryan McCarl said.

“The airline’s treatment of Ms. Doe was unacceptable, and if we win this appeal, we intend to hold them accountable in a jury trial,” added John Rushing.

Rushing McCarl’s primary goal is to get a reversal on appeal that allows Doe’s case to move forward on the merits. But the appeal has legal implications for the airline industry and its passengers that extend beyond this particular matter. In its brief, Rushing McCarl argues that international airlines should not be able to use the Montreal Convention to shield themselves from all state-law tort claims and drag every tort victim into federal court.

You can read the brief here.