Volodarskiy v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 784 F.3d 349 (7th Cir. 2015) [click for opinion]

Plaintiff-appellant Gennadiy Volodarskiy is an Illinois resident who travelled from London, England to Chicago, Illinois on August 17, 2009 on a flight operated by Defendant Delta Airlines, Inc. ("Delta") after a delay of over eight hours. Delta neither warned Volodarskiy his flight would be delayed nor did they compensate him for the delay.

In his lawsuit as putative class representative in a suit filed in the Northern District of Illinois, Volodarskiy sought recompense under EU 261, a European Parliament regulation establishing common rules governing airline assistance and compensation to customers in the event of long delays or cancellations of a customer's flight. Article 3(1)(a) of the regulation provides that EU 261 applies to any passenger "departing from an airport located in the territory of the Member State."

Delta moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint on the grounds that a claim under EU 261 is only actionable in a designated administrative body or a court in an EU member state. The district court agreed with Delta and dismissed the complaint.

On appeal to the Seventh Circuit, Plaintiffs argued that EU 261 does not have an explicit forum-limitation clause, and plaintiffs in the United States can avail themselves of its protections, particularly because Article 15(1)(1) specifies that a carrier's obligations to its passengers "may not be limited or waived."

Article 16(1) of EU 261 required each Member State to "designate a body responsible for the enforcement of this regulation," while Article 16(2) further authorized passengers to "complain to any body designated under paragraph 1, or to any other competent body designated by a Member State about an alleged infringement of this Regulation." Plaintiffs maintained that "any other competent body" includes courts in the United States.

However, the Seventh Circuit disagreed. It found that the language of EU 261, and Article 16 in particular, when read as a whole, only provides a private right of action in fora specifically designated by a Member State of the European Union.

In support of its decision, the Seventh Circuit invoked principles of EU law. For example, the Seventh Circuit reasoned that the principle of "subsidiarity" supports Member States' authority to designate the proper fora for enforcement actions. Moreover, the Court agreed with Delta that divergent interpretations of EU 261 that may result from enforcement of the regulation by non-Member States could violate the principle of EU law known as "legal certainty."

Michael Lehrman of the Chicago office contributed to this summary.