Mesa defamation suit dismissed in Arizona
The lawsuit against an Aloha Airlines pilot may be refiled here
A federal judge in Phoenix yesterday threw out a lawsuit by Mesa Air Group Inc. against an Aloha Airlines pilot over a Web site that Mesa says was defamatory in opposing its interisland startup go!
U.S. District Judge James Teilborg wrote in his ruling that Mesa failed to establish a substantial connection between Mike Uslan and the Web site, and provided insufficient reason for the case to be tried in Arizona.
The ruling left the door open for the Phoenix-based Mesa to refile the case in Hawaii, which Mesa's attorney said the company plans to do.
Uslan and his attorney, Honolulu-based Jeffrey Miller, had sought dismissal of the case because they said Phoenix was not the proper jurisdiction to hold the hearing.
"They overreached in bringing the suit in Arizona to make it more difficult for Mike Uslan," Miller said.
Uslan also has denied owning, controlling or managing the Web site, www.dontflygo.com.
"I'm ecstatic. I'm speechless," said Uslan, who received the news upon arriving in Los Angeles on a flight from Phoenix after yesterday morning's hearing.
"We had a lot of faith that we had the moral high ground," Uslan said. "We know a lot of people supported us and a lot of people were praying for us and we're stoked."
Uslan, who said the suit has cost him "well in excess" of $10,000 in legal fees, called the attack on him "personal."
Even though Uslan has denied his involvement in the Web site, he has written letters to the media critical of Mesa's interisland carrier, go!, and was one of the leaders in a grass-roots group, H.E.R.O. (Hawaii airline Employees Repelling Ornstein.)
Last November, that group sent Jonathan Ornstein, Mesa's chairman and chief executive, a T-shirt with one anti-Semitic slur and several profane messages. The anti-go! Web site contained stories and commentary critical of Mesa.
Brian Gillman, general counsel for Mesa, said yesterday the airline believed the jurisdiction was proper in Arizona.
"However, based on the judge's ruling today, which we're still in the process of reviewing, our current intention is to file the suit in Hawaii," Gillman said.
Mesa argued in its suit that Uslan has admitted involvement in providing material for the Web site and that the site posted content that defamed Mesa, made false statements, competed unfairly and infringed on trademarks.