Civil Aeronautics Act-Discrimination-Private Cause of Action for Punitive Damages

Plaintiff held a reconfirmed tourist reservation on one of defendant’s St. Louis-to-Los Angeles flights. Defendant oversold the flight and subsequently “bumped” the plaintiff from the flight in favor of a first-class passenger who was given plaintiff’s accommodations in the tourist section. Defendant’s agent booked a reservation for the plaintiff aboard another airline and provided plaintiff with lunch. The only expense incurred by the plaintiff as a result of being removed from defendant’s flight was the cost of a telephone call to inform his wife of his new arrival time; and plaintiff was inconvenienced by a delay of four hours on a Sunday in his arrival in Los Angeles. Plaintiff instituted suit in federal district court for actual and punitive damages alleging the violation of a federal criminal statute. Held, judgment for plaintiff for the cost of the telephone call as compensatory damages and for five thousand dollars as exemplary damages. Defendant unjustly discriminated against plaintiff in violation of section 404 (b) of the Civil Aeronautics Act by giving flight priority to passengers who had booked reservations subsequent to plaintiff’s booking. This violation of a federal criminal statute creates an implied federal cause of action in favor of the plaintiff for both actual and punitive damages. Wills v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 200 F. Supp. 360 (S.D. Cal. 1961).