January 05, 2016 Top Story

Discovery "Ineptitude" Costs Delta Airlines Another $3 Million

Court increases special master's award recommendation and rejects partner fee discount

Katerina E. Milenkovski

A federal court found that a defendant’s multiple discovery abuses warranted ordering the party to pay nearly $3 million in fees and expenses in multidistrict litigation involving allegations of airline collusion to impose a fee for the first bag checked. In re Delta/AirTran Baggage Fee Antitrust Litig. In reaching the amount, the district court increased the special master’s award recommendation that included a partner fee discount. Section leaders say the court’s rejection of the special master’s partner fee reduction provides litigators with precedent for future requests for full payment for partner services.

The Plaintiffs’ Fourth Motion for Sanctions

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia had already imposed nearly $5 million in discovery sanctions against Delta in this dispute as a result of prior motions filed by the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs’ fourth motion for sanctions sought to preclude Delta from disputing the existence of a conspiracy with AirTran to impose first bag fees, or alternatively, to require the jury to draw an adverse evidentiary inference against Delta based on its pattern of misconduct. The plaintiffs also claimed that Delta’s motion for summary judgment should be denied, as Delta’s actions created a factual issue regarding bad faith spoliation, which rendered summary judgment inappropriate. Finally, the plaintiffs sought reasonable fees and expenses.

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