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FedEx wins reversal of jury's $66M award to ATA

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FedEx Corp. has won an appeal that overturns a $66 million verdict in favor of defunct Indianapolis airline ATA Airlines Inc.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago heard the appeal in November and issued the reversal Tuesday morning in ATA Airlines Inc. v. Federal Express Corp., No.s 11-1271, 11-1492.

ATA initially won a jury verdict over the breach-of-contract case in October 2010. FedEx unsuccessfully appealed the decision to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana before taking it to the higher court.

ATA charged in its initial lawsuit that FedEx’s unexpected decision in January 2008 to drop it as a military-charter partner forced it into bankruptcy liquidation that spring. ATA had been flying military charters for more than two decades, and it said FedEx was legally obligated to keep it on board through at least September 2009.

The appeals court said ATA’s legal experts failed to prove the amount of damages suffered because of the breach of contract. The court said ATA may well have suffered some losses due to FedEx’s actions, but because there was “no reasonable confidence in the jury’s damages award,” the case should be reversed.

The case hinged on a September 2006 letter that described how business was to be divvied up through September 2009 between ATA and another airline that was part of the FedEx military-charter team.

FedEx argued that was not a legal contract because it didn’t address financial terms and other key issues. It noted the legal standard for an enforceable contract is “a meeting of the minds of the parties, in mutual assent to all essential terms.”

In a court filing, FedEx attorneys wrote, “Given the uncontroverted evidence and the relevant law … there is simply no reasonable basis in the record on which the jury could find that an agreement on just one term of FedEx Team membership was an enforceable contract for FedEx Team membership.”

FedEx balked at the size of the jury's award, noting that in fiscal 2007, ATA earned just $2.1 million from its military charter business.

The $66 million judgment was supposed to go to ATA's creditors, who are still owed millions in the company's Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The 7th Circuit dismissed the suit with prejudice.

This story originally ran on IBJ.com Dec. 27, 2011.

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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