Cases & Deals

Atlas Air defeats mass-action litigation in federal court over its COVID-19 vaccine policies

Client(s) Atlas Air Inc.

Jones Day successfully secured complete dismissal of a mass-action litigation brought against Atlas Air, Inc. and its senior executives challenging Atlas's COVID-19 policies. The case involved novel issues of personal jurisdiction and the application of federal statutes, the Constitution, and state tort law to an employer's response to the pandemic.

Over 80 current and former employees and an associational organization sued Atlas in October 2022 asserting claims under Title VII, the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA), Americans with Disabilities Act, Rehabilitation Act, state law, the Constitution and the company's Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA). Confronted with Atlas's arguments for dismissal, Plaintiffs abandoned their GINA, CBA, and disability-related claims and dropped Atlas’s executives from the case.

In September 2023, Atlas obtained a ruling that Plaintiffs' remaining claims should be dismissed. The Court also agreed with Atlas that the airline was not subject to general, or all-purpose, personal jurisdiction in Florida and that the majority of the individual plaintiffs lacked a suit-related connection to Florida that would permit the exercise of specific jurisdiction over their claims. That personal jurisdiction ruling established that the Supreme Court's Mallory v. Norfolk Southern Ry. Co. (2023) decision does not allow plaintiffs to rely on Florida’s long-arm statute to establish personal jurisdiction by "consent" without meeting the traditional due process test.

Plaintiffs sought to replead by adding a claim under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, alleging that the FDA's initial approval of COVID-19 vaccines using Emergency Use Authorization rendered Atlas's vaccine policies unlawful. On March 19, 2024, the Court rejected this new claim and entered final judgment for Atlas on all claims.

Estate of Lane Caviness et al v. Atlas Air, Inc. et al, 1:22-cv-23519-KMM (S.D. Fla.)