Federal appeals court upholds dismissal of Southwest Airlines discrimination case

By Charmaine Little | Jul 24, 2018

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of a discrimination case against Southwest Airlines on July 23.

Southwest Airlines will not face a lawsuit over the Air Carrier Access Act.   ICS Media Database

SAN FRANCISCO –– The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of a discrimination case against Southwest Airlines on July 23.

Robert Segalman, who has cerebral palsy, sued Southwest after the airline allegedly damaged his wheelchair multiple times when it was in its possession. One of those incidents resulted in Segalman's hospitalization after the airline allegedly returned the wheelchair to him without a  seatbelt. In another incident, Segalman claims Southwest returned the wheelchair with damage to the chair's joystick, which made him unable to operate the device.

Segalman said Southwest violated the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 regulation, which bans  airlines from “discriminating against an otherwise qualified individual” if the person “has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

The appeals court backed the decision from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California and ruled the ACAA did not apply in this case. 


Robert Segalman, who has cerebral palsy, sued Southwest after the airline allegedly damaged his wheelchair.  

Other courts have ruled similarly, arguing the ACAA does not allow an individual to sue. Only the U.S. Department of Transportation can enforce the law and impose fines.

“A private cause of action does not exist where the statute in question does not manifest Congress’s intent to create one,” Judge Richard Paez wrote in the opinion. 

Paez said the U.S. Supreme Court law bans the court from ruling on such matters, as they are better left for Congress to handle.

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