[Insel Air] $5M Class Action Against Bankrupt Airline Cleared for Takeoff

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[Insel Air] $5M Class Action Against Bankrupt Airline Cleared for Takeoff

Unread post by bimjim » Thu Jul 18, 2019

https://www.law.com/dailybusinessreview ... 0618102714

[Insel Air] $5M Class Action Against Bankrupt Airline Cleared for Takeoff
by Florida Federal Judge

A $5 million class action lawsuit will advance against now-bankrupt Dutch Caribbean airline Insel Air Aruba, which allegedly charged $80 in extra fees that weren't mentioned on ticket contracts.
Raychel Lean
July 17, 2019

U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. Williams in the Southern District of Florida certified a $5 million class action lawsuit Tuesday against defunct Dutch Caribbean airline InselAir Aruba NV, accused of forcing passengers to pay surprise $80 fees before boarding flights at Miami International Airport.

The order advances allegations from lead plaintiff Hector G. Saade that the now-bankrupt airline mandated “exit tax” without mentioning them on customer contracts. Saade paid the fees on flights to Venezuela and Aruba, according to his May 2017 complaint, after being told he wouldn’t be allowed to board if he didn’t.

Insel Aruba defaulted after failing to answer the complaint and filed for bankruptcy in June 2017, beleaguered by Venezuela’s economic crisis.

Tuesday’s order follows a report from U.S. Magistrate Judge Edwin Torres, recommending certification and finding that thousands of people could have been hit with the superfluous fees.

But there might be turbulence ahead as Torres noted much of the plaintiff’s fact gathering depends on Insel Aruba’s willingness to share records, customer receipts and airline tickets.
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“Plaintiffs reliance on the cooperation of Insel Aruba is illusory because there is no explanation as to how plaintiff will acquire customer information from a foreign airline that has failed to defend this action from its inception,” Torres’ report said.

Plaintiffs attorneys Jose-Luis Baloyra and Milton Fuentes of Baloyra Law in Coral Gables, John Crabtree of Crabtree & Auslander in Key Biscayne and solo practitioner Brian M. Torres in Miami did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.

The original complaint included Insel Aruba’s separate parent company Insel Air International, which flew customers on different routes.

Insel International responded to the lawsuit “in an abundance of caution,” arguing the complaint failed to point the finger at a particular defendant and moving to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. The plaintiff then opted to proceed against Insel Aruba, according to Torres’ report.

Coral Gables attorney Alexander J. Monje of Del Cristo Fernandez Monje represented Insel International in the case before it filed for bankruptcy in February. He isn’t confident that the plaintiff will prevail.

“Being that this case involves two foreign entities that have filed for bankruptcy, and in light of some recent decisions concerning Chapter 15 of the Bankruptcy Code, it will be interesting to see how or even if these claims move forward,” Monje said via email.

Before closing down, Insel Air flew passengers around the Pan-American region. It was based in the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao and had an office in Miami.

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