Federal Treaty Jurisdiction
U.S. code gives federal courts original jurisdiction over all civil actions arising under treaties of the United States.
In aviation law, the Warsaw Convention and the Montreal Convention, which govern nearly all claims related to international flights, are both treaties the U.S. has entered into, and thus, any cases falling under these treaties are under the jurisdiction of federal court.
There is a continuing conflict among district courts, however, concerning whether an action subject to one of the treaties can be heard only in federal court or whether there is concurrent jurisdiction in the state courts, allowing remand of cases to the state court.
New York federal courts have held that the treaties establish a federal claim that cannot be remanded. In litigation arising from the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in 2001, for example, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York concluded that “international air travel is so completely preempted that a well-pleaded state-law complaint necessarily becomes a federal claim.”
By contrast, other federal courts have recently held that the treaties do not completely preempt state law claims and have remanded cases to state court.