Federal judge refuses to dismiss consumer advocate’s suit against Delta

By Harry R. Weber, AP
Friday, January 29, 2010

Judge allows flyer advocate’s suit to go forward

ATLANTA — A lawsuit by a passenger rights advocate seeking at least $11 million from Delta Air Lines Inc. for allegedly conspiring to obtain hacked e-mails from her computer has survived a challenge from the airline.

A federal judge in Houston has rejected Delta’s request to throw out the lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Sim Lake said in an order dated Thursday that a reasonable person could conclude that it was more likely than not that it was Delta that hacked into Kate Hanni’s computer and stole her files.

Hanni, of FlyersRights.org, alleges that Delta wanted to derail her efforts to protect air travelers from lengthy tarmac delays and other inconveniences.

Delta, based in Atlanta, denies wrongdoing.

The judge said Delta had motive and means and despite the carrier’s explanation that it came upon the e-mails through legal means, there is genuine dispute about how Delta got them. Sim is allowing the case to move forward. No trial date has been set.

A Delta spokesman declined Friday to comment on Lake’s ruling.

Hanni and her group have been a thorn in the side of the airline industry, pushing Congress to enact a passenger bill of rights at a time when airlines have been suffering from big revenue declines due to the drop-off in demand for air travel during the recession.

In late December, the Department of Transportation imposed new rules on airlines, including one that limits tarmac delays to three hours. Hanni and her group supported the limit.

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