After American Airlines' $1 antitrust win, legal fee fight looms

3 minute read

An American Airlines Airbus A321-200 plane takes off from Los Angeles International airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S. March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
  • American to seek "unprecedented" fees in long-running case, defendant Sabre said in filing
  • Airline sought $300 million in damages at trial

(Reuters) - American Airlines Inc is preparing to ask a Manhattan federal court judge to award it legal fees in a long-running antitrust case against flight-booking service Sabre Corp, setting up a lawyer compensation clash after a jury awarded the airline just $1 in damages at trial in May.

American's lawyers at O'Melveny & Myers and attorneys for Sabre at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom on Thursday told the court in a filing the two sides already were in dispute over how much billing information the airline should be forced to provide as part of its upcoming petition for fees.

The airline's lawsuit, accusing Sabre of charging excessive fees and suppressing competition, was lodged in 2011 by then-US Airways, which later merged with Fort Worth, Texas-based American. Southlake, Texas-based Sabre runs an electronic network that travel agents use to book flights. The company denied violating federal antitrust law.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

American hasn't yet said how much it will ask for, but Sabre's attorneys predicted American "likely will seek tens of millions of dollars despite USAir's loss on all of its claims but one, for which USAir received effectively zero percent of its claimed damages and no prospective relief."

O'Melveny partner Andrew Frackman, a lawyer for American, and Skadden partner Boris Bershteyn, representing Sabre, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

A representative from American did not immediately comment and Sabre did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

American sought $300 million in damages from Sabre, which the airline alleged had set restrictive contract terms and charged excessive fees.

At an earlier trial, American in December 2016 won about $15.3 million. An appeals court ruling in 2019 erased the verdict and opened a door for the airline to pursue broader claims of damages.

Sabre's filing on Thursday suggested American should not be entitled to fees after the second trial. The company, quoting a 1992 court ruling, said "USAir's lack of success renders ‘the only reasonable fee . . . no fee at all.'"

The company also said "billing records and invoices are necessary to identify excessive, redundant and unnecessary costs—an especially critical task in light of the unprecedented fees USAir likely will claim."

American's lawyers said Sabre was imposing a "burdensome" and "unnecessary" task to "disclose every attorney time entry for the past 11 years." The company has said it plans to file its fee request in August.

The case is US Airways Inc v. Sabre Holdings Corp, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No 1:11-cv-02725-LGS.

For plaintiff: Andrew Frackman, Ian Simmons and Katrina Robson of O'Melveny & Myers; and Paul Yetter of Yetter Coleman

For defendant: Patrick Fitzgerald, Steven Sunshine and Boris Bershteyn of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.