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Million Miler Sues United [Judgment for UA Jan 2014] Judgment Affirmed Dec 2014

Million Miler Sues United [Judgment for UA Jan 2014] Judgment Affirmed Dec 2014

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Old Dec 22, 14, 8:02 am   -   Wikipost
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Plaintiff: George Lagen, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated
Defendant: United Continental Holdings, Inc. and United Airlines, Inc.

Filed In The United States District Court For The Northern District Of Illinois Eastern Division

Case No. 1:12-cv-04056
Filed: 05/24/2012

Judge Harry D. Leinenweber
Magistrate Judge Young B. Kim

Proposed class: All persons, as of midnight, December 31, 2011, who were members of the Million Mile Program under United Airlines’ Mileage Plus frequent flyer program.

Filings/rulings can be found on www.pacer.gov (requires registration)

12 June 2012 - Amended Class Action Complaint filed
Spring 2013 - Court denies United's request to close case
Spring 2013 - Plaintiff files for suit to become a class action, United asks Judge before he decides if there could be limited discovery (which typically happens after case becomes class-action). Judge allows it.
August 2013 - Depositions/Limited Discovery completed and transcripts were handed over to the court.
22 October 2013 - Pursuant to an order of the Court, both sides filed cross-motions for summary judgment:

Plaintiff contends that he is a United pre-merger Million Miler, that United promised Million Miler fliers certain lifetime benefits on its web site, including two regional upgrades every year and Premier Executive status, which provided certain delineated benefits (e.g., 100% mileage bonus). Plaintiff cites deposition testimony from United stating "lifetime" means: "as long as they were really able to fly … as long as someone is coming on a plane and alive and capable of flying." Plaintiff concludes by stating that United has breached its contract with its pre-merger Million Miler fliers by reducing the lifetime benefits they were promised.

United contends in its motion that Million Miler is part of the MileagePlus program, that United reserved the right to make any changes it wishes to the MileagePlus program, and that the changes it made that plaintiff now complains of are therefore contractually permissible. United does not admit, and does not address, the "lifetime" benefit statements that it made on its website.

23 January 2014 - Judge denies Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and grants United's cross-motion for summary judgment. Judgment entered in favor of United.

The Judge begins his Opinion with a quote from Job: “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away” and then holds that Plaintiff has not produced any evidence that UA made him an offer to participate in a separate MM program.

The Court noted that: “The sum total of his evidence is vague references to ‘electronic and written correspondence’ from United, which, in both instances postdates his qualification as a Million Mile flyer and was not directed to him; and a 1997 Newsletter from United announcing the creation of the program he could not remember receiving. However the card he did receive from United, admitting him to MililionMile Flyer Program, shows that his new status is clearly a status within the Mileage Plus Frequent Flyer Program, as does the form letters United sent to applicants advising them of their admission to the MillionMile Flyer program. In fact, Plaintiff in his Complaint alleges that the MillionMile Flyer program was part of the Mileage Plus program. He has not produced any document that comes close to substantiating that the programs were separate and distinct."

Bottom line: The Court agreed with United's position that the Plaintiff had not proved the existence of a separate contract between itself and the Million Milers.

Full decision: http://media.wandr.me/MMerOpinion.pdf

20 February 2014

Plaintiff filed a notice of appeal of the trial court's decision. The record on appeal is due by March 13, 2014.

Appeal docs available at:Appellant's (Lagen's) Brief due 4/2/2014

8 September 2014
Oral arguments were heard by a three judge panel. Links to the original MP3 of the Court's recording and also some transcription can be found around post 2350 and for several more following that.
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/23496499-post2361.html

22 December 2014
Affirmed over a dissent.
http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/cgi-bi...:N:1474449:S:0
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Old Feb 2, 13, 10:18 pm
  #1036  
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Originally Posted by pigx5 View Post
Do you mean Infinite Platinum flew 0.25M get screwed to become life time 1K?
Seeing as there is less then 1600 active members under that scheme no, and neither should you.

No I mean the continental million milers. The lost in the merger too. What should happen to the them?
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Old Feb 2, 13, 10:20 pm
  #1037  
 
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Originally Posted by colpuck View Post
And what about the continental million milers, do they just get screwed? I don't think you have thought this through.
You and other legal experts have made very clear the potential dichotomy between what’s moral and what’s potentially legal.

UA has made this mess for itself. I don’t own that problem. UA does. UA had no reluctance about "screwing" PMUA MMs such as me.

All I can do at this point is demand any contractual rights owed me as a PMUA Million Mile Flyer, if they exist.

Anybody who reviews the original thread can see that the vast majority of PMCO MMs posting were thrilled at what they sadly believed to be increased benefits, i.e. “Oh boy, now we get to board at the same time as the credit card holders!”

The scales have fallen from many eyes.

Are you perhaps a PMCO Million Miler? Why don’t you propose what you think is fair for you? If you don't get what you want, you no doubt have the ability to launch your own suit.

I wish nothing less than what is fair for all customers. You have reminded me that "the law is not fair."
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Old Feb 2, 13, 10:21 pm
  #1038  
 
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Originally Posted by colpuck View Post
Seeing as there is less then 1600 active members under that scheme no, and neither should you.

No I mean the continental million milers. The lost in the merger too. What should happen to the them?
What do they lose?
1 piece/50 pound of luggage allowance -> 3 pieces/70 pound?
no lounge access->lounge access?
Economy plus at check-in become at booking?
What do they lose?
25% bonus become 50%
CPU window 24 hrs-> 48 hrs
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Old Feb 2, 13, 10:22 pm
  #1039  
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Originally Posted by Bear96 View Post
You (and many others here) are seriously misunderstanding what this ruling was about. It was not a ruling on the substantive merits of the case. It was only saying that *IF* what the plaintiffs are alleging is true, there may have been a breach of contract. That is all. It did not remotely even touch on the issue of whether what the plaintiffs are alleging is true or not.

Don't bother, in his(?) eyes one is either a wise an virtuous man if one agrees with him or a nonsensical person who clearly doesn't understand the law if one doesn't agree with him.
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Old Feb 2, 13, 10:25 pm
  #1040  
 
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Originally Posted by colpuck View Post
I am sorry there is no citation for any of that. Can you provide some citations for me?
No. You claim you're a lawyer. Go do your own research and feel free to tell me what I got wrong.
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Old Feb 2, 13, 10:25 pm
  #1041  
 
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Originally Posted by Bear96 View Post
You (and many others here) are seriously misunderstanding what this ruling was about. It was not a ruling on the substantive merits of the case. It was only saying that *IF* what the plaintiffs are alleging is true, there may have been a breach of contract. That is all. It did not remotely even touch on the issue of whether what the plaintiffs are alleging is true or not.
Really? It's very clear the judge denied a motion by the defendants to dismiss the case. It's very clear that the extent of the judge's ruling is that it might be "plausible" that UA breached a contract.

It's very clear that all this does is to leave a door open for the plaintiff to proceed toward discovery and a trial.

Do you really think that "many others" are seriously misunderstanding this?
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Old Feb 2, 13, 10:29 pm
  #1042  
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Yes I do.
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Old Feb 2, 13, 10:30 pm
  #1043  
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Originally Posted by Fredd View Post
You and other legal experts have made very clear the potential dichotomy between what’s moral and what’s potentially legal.

UA has made this mess for itself. I don’t own that problem. UA does. UA had no reluctance about "screwing" PMUA MMs such as me.

All I can do at this point is demand any contractual rights owed me as a PMUA Million Mile Flyer, if they exist.

Anybody who reviews the original thread can see that the vast majority of PMCO MMs posting were thrilled at what they sadly believed to be increased benefits, i.e. “Oh boy, now we get to board at the same time as the credit card holders!”

The scales have fallen from many eyes.

Are you perhaps a PMCO Million Miler? Why don’t you propose what you think is fair for you? If you don't get what you want, you no doubt have the ability to launch your own suit.

I wish nothing less than what is fair for all customers. You have reminded me that "the law is not fair."
you are correct. you are entitled to benefits of contractual deal you have with United. If you indeed have a contract.

I was merely pointing out that his solution benefits one group at the expense of another who was just as entitled possibly as the other.

Originally Posted by pigx5 View Post
What do they lost?
1 piece/50 pound of luggage allowance -> 3 pieces/70 pound?
no lounge access->lounge access?
Economy plus at check-in become at booking?
What do they lose?
25% bonus become 50%
CPU window 24 hrs-> 48 hrs
CO MMers lost, I think more than PMUA million milers lost. but this is not the place to discuss that. there is a generic million milers thread where that has been discussed at length.

Originally Posted by Always Flyin View Post
You claim you're a lawyer. Go do your own research and feel free to tell me what I got wrong.
So do you my brother. I didn't say you were wrong, I said you failed to support your claim. A good lawyer uses language precisely.

Originally Posted by Fredd View Post
Really? It's very clear the judge denied a motion by the defendants to dismiss the case. It's very clear that the extent of the judge's ruling is that it might be "plausible" that UA breached a contract.

It's very clear that all this does is to leave a door open for the plaintiff to proceed toward discovery and a trial.

Do you really think that "many others" are seriously misunderstanding this?
Yes we do.

For example, I could walk into court tomorrow and sue you for battery because of the bar fight we got into last night. Now there is no merit to that case because we didn't get into a bar fight last night. (AFAIK we haven't met)

BUT if I properly laid out a complaint for battery it would survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss exactly as the plaintiff did here.

A proper complaint is different from the complaint actually having merit.

Last edited by colpuck; Feb 2, 13 at 10:37 pm
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Old Feb 2, 13, 10:33 pm
  #1044  
 
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Originally Posted by colpuck View Post



CO MMers lost, I think more than PMUA million milers lost.
For example?
My brother, you failed to support your claim because you only "think" but you don't have proof.
I don't know any lawyer who goes to the court and says "I think" instead of "here is the evidence"
If they lose so much why they do not want to go back to their original benefits? As a lawyer, would you please flight for their
right to restore their original benefits?

Last edited by pigx5; Feb 2, 13 at 10:52 pm
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Old Feb 2, 13, 10:34 pm
  #1045  
 
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Originally Posted by Bear96 View Post
Yes I do.
If you truly do, I'd refer you to Covey's Habit No. 5.
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Old Feb 2, 13, 10:55 pm
  #1046  
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I base my opinion on my observation that they appear to be reading wayyyy too much into the significance of this ruling, as evidenced by the self-congratulatory back-slapping that has been going on.
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Old Feb 2, 13, 11:23 pm
  #1047  
 
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Originally Posted by Bear96 View Post

You (and many others here) are seriously misunderstanding what this ruling was about. It was not a ruling on the substantive merits of the case. It was only saying that *IF* what the plaintiffs are alleging is true, there may have been a breach of contract. That is all. It did not remotely even touch on the issue of whether what the plaintiffs are alleging is true or not.
-
You have me puzzled again!

I do not think that I "and many others here" are "seriously misunderstanding what this ruling was about."

There may be a few who posted inappropriate remarks that indicate a lack of understanding, but certainly I "and many others" have not misunderstood the decision.

Perhaps it is you who have misunderstood "many others here" in reaching your erroneous conclusion.

It should be clear from most (but not all) postings made to this thread (since the ruling was issued) that I "and many others" fully understand what the judge wrote. After all, it is merely a matter of reading what was written.

-- - - - - - -
-

Originally Posted by Always Flyin View Post

When you say, "less than honest", I assume you really mean immoral, particularly here when there is ambiguity as to whether UA had the right to make changes to vested benefits or not.

The law does not enforce moral obligations--only legal ones.
-
You are correct; my comment "less than honest" means immoral. I probably should have used a stronger word but I believe most readers know how I feel about what the new UA management did to our million-mile program.

Originally Posted by Always Flyin View Post

By the way, there is no fiduciary relationship between United and its passengers so therefore no issue of breach of fiduciary duty.
-
Although there is no actual or formal legal fiduciary relationship between UA and it's countless frequent flier members, it could be argued that million-milers already earned specific benefits (with a monetary value) being withheld by UA.

While it is true that the fiduciary concept is a novelty idea, suppose the already earned benefits had been a pension plan and contributions had been placed in a fund for future use by plan members such as our benefits already vested. In this case (pension plan) there would be a fiduciary relationship.

The portion of the judge's order that denied UA's MTD states that it is possible that the million-mile members believed that they had a separate contact. If that premise is upheld, it is not unreasonable to conclude that UA is breaching a "quasi" fiduciary relationship by presently taking away/withholding benefits that were already earned by members.

However, you are correct, there is no formal case that would equate pension benefits with earned benefits in a mileage plus program, despite the mileage plus benefits having a monetary value.

So we go back to what is morally right. And, as you wrote, moral obligations are not the law.
-

Last edited by iluv2fly; Feb 3, 13 at 12:27 am Reason: merge
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Old Feb 3, 13, 1:42 am
  #1048  
 
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Originally Posted by Bear96 View Post
Yes I do.
Monsieur Bear96, you seem like a nice guy and what you are saying is partly true. Yes, the judge is stating that if what the Plaintiff is saying is true, which he/she will have to provide backup, of which there is plenty - 30 years worth, there are significant damages.

However, what the judge also did say was the MM program and the T&C of the MP program are two separate things, which is huge. Backslapping? No. Just hopeful, at least what I see on here. There's a lot still ahead, nothing is ever certain.

Had it gone the OTHER way, how would that have played out? Anyways...

The paperwork has already been submitted to make this a class action. Which means discovery into UAs internal documents, emails, etc., this include depositions of all of the UA/CO executives necessary to prove the facts. You think the truth is not going to come out? This is going to be a mess for UA regardless of the outcome.

UG

Originally Posted by colpuck View Post
And what about the continental million milers, do they just get screwed? I don't think you have thought this through.
On the contrary, and if one - only takes one - feels this way, we live in a country where we can have a court of law decide. All that person has to do is file a suit. As to back up my claim about CO MM, it's all on the Million Milers United web page, the link is below.

I have a colleague who is now a 3MM on the combined new MP program, because he flew AF Concorde back in the day a dozen times and applied the miles to his CO account. With the quadruple bonus miles and the back and forth, he only flew 500,000 miles and got 3MM. He didn't have to sit on a plane for 3MM. Another colleague got CO MM via credit card purchases and flying partner airlines in premium cabins. Because CO MM was easier to obtain, the benefits were lower (Silver for life) and CO had the FOUR tiers if I remember.

PM UA had to fly actual miles. When the two combined, CO MM were UPGRADED. Where is the "screwed" part?! Unless you mean it in the pleasurable sense.

In the nicest manner possible, I wonder what the intentions are of some in terms of contributions to this particular thread. They do not have to have one of course, they are free to write whatever they wish, but since the suit was announced, a good 90% of their legal comments have been off, statements (and actions) contradictory, assumptions about the law firm and the Plaintiff completely wrong and, frankly, as a member of FlyerTalk it's strange. They are giving misguided information under the false pretenses to those who may look to them for guidance.

All I can say is reader beware...

UG

Last edited by UrbaneGent; Feb 3, 13 at 6:43 am Reason: merge
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Old Feb 3, 13, 7:51 am
  #1049  
 
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I think UA was very aware of the grey areas here when they changed the benefits. Why do folks think that the 2 MMers kept club membership? I think it was that the thing that had been granted was "lifetime club membership" which was therefore a value now completely in the possession of the member and therefore not able to be canceled. It wasn't "annual club membership for life" which UA might have construed as something that could be changed. It seems to me a lot of the issue will turn on whether the item of value was/is a "lifetime X" or "annual X for life". As the lawyers here have pointed out it will be interesting to see how the court can disentangle two conflicting sets of terms. From a practical perspective a reading that a flyer who had flown 1 mile had relied on the MM promises and therefore should be grandfathered seems silly and would cancel the company's right to change the program at all. At the other extreme is the vested MM flyer. If I were a betting man I'd predict "close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades" so nothing unless actually vested and then some accommodation around the RPUs for sure and perhaps gold benefits for the vested MMers.
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Old Feb 3, 13, 7:55 am
  #1050  
 
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Score One for the Good Guys

Mr. Urbane,

Although I stopped reading this thread months ago, convinced that agitators like colpuck had nothing to interest me, I return this once to congratulate you on your legal victory last week. While it is an intermediate step on a long road, your courage, sacrifice and tenacity should serve as an example for all of us.

Soldier on!

Respectfully,

lf
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