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Federal Judge Tosses Discrimination Lawsuit Against Airlines
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 15, 2004

MIAMI, FLORIDA--An attorney representing 13 airline passengers with disabilities who sued 10 U.S. airlines is reviewing a judge's recent decision to throw out the case.

The passengers sued the airlines in federal court in February, claiming the carriers continue to discriminate against them in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Rehab Act, which bans discrimination against companies that accept federal funds, would not ordinarily apply to airlines. But the plaintiffs reasoned that the airlines fell under the scope of that law once they accepted $3.2 billion in bailout-out money after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro-Benages disagreed, and on June 8 she ruled that the money was given to the airlines to compensate them for the revenue they lost when the federal government ordered all jets grounded in the days following the tragedy.

The suit was a test case, asking the court to force the airlines to make reasonable accommodations in aircraft, facilities and programs, and to pay damages for past violations. Attorneys for the passengers argued that the airlines subject them to harassment and inconveniences because they cannot file individual lawsuits under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

The airlines that were named in the suit included American, America West, Continental, Northwest, Trans States and United airlines, Delta Air Lines, the Alaska and Mesa air groups and US Airways.

Barbara Junge, an attorney with the firm of de la O & Marko, which represented the passengers, said Monday, "We're disappointed, and we're reviewing it to determine whether we'll be filing an appeal."

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