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Trapped in a plane 11 hours, but court dismisses lawsuit

New York?s top court has dismissed a lawsuit

New York’s top court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by a JetBlue passenger who sued the airline for false imprisonment and emotional distress. (Credit: AP)

New York's top court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by a JetBlue passenger who sued the airline for false imprisonment and emotional distress after travelers were forced to sit on a plane at Kennedy Airport for 11 hours with little food or water while the flight was delayed by a snowstorm.

In refusing to hear the passenger's case, the Court of Appeals upheld a midlevel court ruling that federal aviation laws prevented claims being brought under New York State law.

The court dismissed Katharine Biscone's lawsuit without comment.

Biscone, of New York City, has a separate "personal injury" claim that still hasn't reached the top court, said Paul Hudson, her attorney.

He said the Court of Appeals dismissal means "you can be forced to sit 11 hours in a plane . . . and unless you are injured or killed, you have no recourse in the New York courts."

JetBlue spokeswoman April Dinwoodie said the company was "pleased with the court's decision."

The lawsuit seeking damages stemmed from a 2007 incident that garnered international attention.

The JetBlue flight was scheduled to depart Kennedy at 6:45 a.m. on Feb. 14, 2007, bound for Burbank, Calif. Because of bad weather, the plane never took off -- but it remained on the tarmac until 5:30 p.m., when passengers were finally allowed to leave.

Along the way, passengers said they were given "very small amounts of water and a few snacks after three hours had passed and then again after a period of eight hours," according to court documents.

After eight hours, the heating, cooling and ventilation system "shut down," causing the air to become "sweltering" and making it difficult for passengers to breathe, Biscone said. After 10 hours, the captain informed passengers that the toilet tanks were full and couldn't be used.

Biscone said she and other passengers were "intimidated" and "deceived" by JetBlue personnel into staying on the plane. She said airline employees told them "numerous" times the plane was "next in line" for takeoff.

Both lower and midlevel courts dismissed the claims, saying they were pre-empted by federal law. Airline service, the courts ruled, fell under federal law.

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