ATSA Immunity: Supreme Court Grants Cert to Decide Bounds for Applying Immunity Under the Aviation Transportation Security Act

The Supreme Court granted certiorari yesterday to decide whether a court can deny immunity under the Aviation Transportation Security Act (ATSA) in a defamation case without first deciding whether an airline’s report to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was true. Air Wisconsin Airlines Corporation v. Hoeper, No. 12-315, will be the first time the Supreme Court addresses the immunity conferred by ATSA, and the case could have long-lasting effects on security procedures for commercial air carriers and the aviation industry.

BACKGROUND -

ATSA directs that air carriers and their employees with “information . . . about a threat to civil aviation shall provide the information promptly to the [TSA].” 49 U.S.C. § 44905(a). Failure to report can result in civil penalties. Id. § 46301(a)(1)(A). This policy has been aptly called “when in doubt, report.” ATSA also provides air carriers immunity from civil liability for disclosure of suspicious activity, provided that the air carrier does not report information that it knows to be false or misleading. 49 U.S.C. § 44941(a)-(b).

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