US court rejects flight instructor’s complaint

THE federal court is recommending the dismissal of a flight instructor’s $1 million lawsuit against the Commonwealth Ports Authority.

After reviewing the complaint, District Court for the NMI Magistrate Judge Heather Kennedy recommended the dismissal of Hiroaki Nishio’s lawsuit.

 Nishio, part owner of Saipan Flight Academy, represented himself in the lawsuit against CPA for two counts of negligence.

Demanding a jury trial, Nishio sued CPA for what he deemed “unreasonable” liability insurance required of him for his flight training operation.

 Nishio is asking the court to award him compensatory damages amounting to $1 million, attorney’s fees and court costs.

 He also requested that all court fees be waived.

 A longtime Saipan resident, Nishio has been conducting flight instruction on Saipan since 1992.

But Magistrate Judge Kennedy said Nishio has not asserted any basis for federal subject matter jurisdiction.

 “As the party seeking to invoke it, [the] plaintiff has the burden to show that it exists,” the judge said.

 She said the two primary statutory sources of federal subject matter jurisdiction are 28 U.S.C. § 1332, which grants jurisdiction when the parties are completely diverse and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000; and 28 U.S.C. §1331, which establishes jurisdiction over claims involving a federal question.

 She said diversity jurisdiction exists when none of the plaintiffs is a citizen of a state as any of the defendants and the amount in controversy is met.

 On the face of the complaint, Kennedy said, it appears that the parties are not diverse as the plaintiff states that both he and the defendant CPA are residents of Saipan.

 “Even if plaintiff is not a CNMI citizen, diversity is lacking. CPA is an arm of the CNMI. Agencies that are arms of the state performing essential government functions are not citizens of the state for diversity purposes, because the state itself is the real party in interest,” the magistrate judge said.

 She added that negligence is a state-law claim, not a claim under federal law, and cannot be the basis for federal-question jurisdiction.

 Nishio alleged that CPA violated the Airport and Airways Improvement Act of 1982, but Kennedy said the U.S. Congress has limited the judicial review of violations of the law.

“Even in a court that could exercise jurisdiction over a negligence claim arising from these facts, [the] plaintiff would have a hard time stating a claim if he cannot show CPA owed a duty to him not to impose unreasonable or unjust conditions on airport use,” the judge said.

Judge Kennedy denied Nishio’s bid for fee waivers and instructed the clerk of court to close the case and enter judgment.

 Nishio complained that on or about July 11, 2011, CPA required him to obtain a $10-million  insurance for flight operation, which also prohibited him from conducting flight operations.

 Nishio said he filed a complaint on March 23, 2013 against CPA at the Federal Aviation Administration’s chief counsel office in Washington, D.C.

 On April 29, 2016, he said the FAA director found that the CPA was in violation of federal law, and that  a $10 million aircraft liability insurance requirement is unreasonable, and therefore, “unjustly discriminatory to the complainant’s flight training-only operation.”

But Judge Kennedy noted that the docket sheet for the FAA case shows no document filed or posted on or about Nov. 23, 2016.

 “It does show that CPA responded to the director’s determination and on April 13, 2017 the director issued a Satisfactory Resolution of Grant Assurance Violations Identified in the 14 CFR part 16 Director’s Determination, finding that CPA had revised its liability insurance requirement for general aviation users such as Nishio to $4 million, and that such insurance was available in the CNMI.”

Source: Marianas Variety :

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