Airline suit headed for trial
Mesa and a consultant fail in their bid to stop a lawsuit by Hawaiian
A federal bankruptcy judge denied motions yesterday by go! parent Mesa Air Group and airline consultant Mo Garfinkle to dismiss a lawsuit against them by Hawaiian Airlines.
The ruling by Judge Robert Faris clears the way for the case to go to trial on Sept. 25.
Hawaiian alleged in a lawsuit against Mesa in February 2006 that the Phoenix-based carrier violated a confidentiality agreement and used for its new interisland operation proprietary information that was gathered as a potential investor during Hawaiian Airlines' bankruptcy.
Hawaiian later added Garfinkle, a former Hawaiian Airlines consultant, to the suit after Garfinkle began consulting for Mesa.
Faris denied Mesa's summary judgment motion yesterday after Mesa argued that virtually all of the damages Hawaiian is seeking are related to routes and pricing that are pre-empted by the Airline Deregulation Act. Mesa said the purpose of the ADA was to allow the competitive marketplace to establish routes and prices.
Mesa had made similar arguments, also unsuccessful, in another lawsuit by Aloha Airlines before U.S. District Court David Ezra. Mesa has said it is preserving its position on the issue if an appeal on Ezra's ruling proves necessary.
In addition, Faris also denied yesterday three motions for summary judgment by Garfinkle's company, GCW Consulting, in which the consultant said Hawaiian had no facts to support its claims that GCW misused confidential information.
Faris said, though, there was enough circumstantial evidence for the case to proceed to trial.
Aloha's suit against Mesa, filed in October 2006, covered the same confidentiality grounds as Hawaiian since Mesa was a potential investor during Aloha's bankruptcy. Aloha also alleged in its suit that Mesa is offering unrealistic fares to drive out competition in the Hawaii market. Aloha based its charge on several e-mails between Garfinkle and Mesa Chief Financial Officer Peter Murnane.
In one e-mail message to Garfinkle, Murnane said that the only way it made sense for Mesa to come into the Hawaii market was to give Aloha, then in bankruptcy, "the last push." Mesa has said the e-mail was taken out of context.