Shutterstock_546772Being obnoxious doesn't pay. Or does it?

In one six-month period, Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg griped to Northwest Airline 24 times about "travel problems, including 9 incidents of [his] bag arriving late at the luggage carousel". Northwest, Inc. v. Ginsberg, No. 12-462, slip op. at 2 (U.S. Apr. 2, 2014). Mr. Ginsberg also "continually asked for compensation over and above our guidelines" and received "$1,925.00 in travel credit vouchers, 78,500 WorldPerks bonus miles, a voucher extension for your son, and $491.00 in cash reimbursements". Id. When Northwest fired him from its frequent flyer program, he brought a class action on behalf of himself and other firees for "damages in excess of $5 million" plus "injunctive relief requiring Northwes to restore the class members' WorldPerks status and prohibiting Northwest from future revocations of membership." Id. at 3.

Some might say that Mr. Ginsberg had gotten a lot out of his constant complaining. But he went too far in the class case, the Supreme Court held today, singling out one of his several theories. "Because respondent's implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing claim seeks to enlarge his contractual agreement with petitions, we hold that 49 U.S.C. 41713(b)(1) pre-empts the claim." Id. at 14. The Court thus reversed the Ninth Circuit and sent the case back to the district court. Id. at 14-15.

Writing for a 9-0 Court, Justice Alito pointed out that Mr. Ginsberg might have "vindicated" his "claim of ill treatment by Northwest . . . if he had pursued his breach-of-contract claim after its dismissal by the District Court." Id. at 14. That claim alleged that "the frequent flyer agreement did not actually give Northwest unfettered discretion to terminate his membership in the program". Id.

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