ACI-NA Supports the Port of Seattle in Seeking Review of Case in Supreme Court of the State of Washington


ACI-NA was asked recently to consider supporting the filing of an amicus brief in a pending case involving an airport’s liability for damages for airfield operations at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Brandon Apela AFOA v. Port of Seattle).  The lawsuit was brought against the Port of Seattle as a result of a workplace accident in the Air Operations Area of the airport rendering the plaintiff a paraplegic.   The accident occurred while the plaintiff was operating a powered industrial vehicle on the airplane ramp, where the plaintiff’s employer (Eagle) held a license agreement with the Port of Seattle under which it received access to the airport to conduct certain aircraft ground handling services for American Airlines.  The Port maintains that its license agreement with the plaintiff’s employer was not an employment contract between the Port and Eagle, that the employer of the plaintiff retained control over its workers and their operations, and that the Port did not owe a duty of care to the employees of that company.

The lower court granted the Port’s Motion to Dismiss plaintiff’s claims, but the Court of Appeals of the State of Washington reversed that decision. The Port has now appealed the decision of the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court of the State of Washington.

Several state business organizations, including the Association of Washington Business, the Washington Retail Association, the Washington Public Ports Association, and the City of Kent (Washington) decided to seek permission of the court to file an amicus brief supporting the Port of Seattle’s motion for discretionary review of the Court of Appeals’  decision by the Washington State Supreme Court.

ACI-NA joined the state business organizations and the City of Kent in the filing because of the importance and implications of these issues to member airports.  We believe that review of this case by the state Supreme Court is important, and that the court needs to understand how and why airports establish and use minimum standards for commercial activities and license the various commercial operators at airports -- including the federal regulatory context for such standards.   Peter Kirsch and Eric Pilsk of ACI-NA associate law firm Kaplan Kirsch and Rockwell assisted ACI-NA with this filing.

The State Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to review the appellate court’s ruling by July 12.

If review is granted, ACI-NA intends to participate with the other state business organizations in filing arguments on the merits supporting the position of the Port of Seattle.