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Court Rejects Airport Association Lawsuit:

The Second Appellate District for the California Court of Appeals issued an opinion last Wednesday, rejecting a 1999 lawsuit filed by the Santa Monica Airport Association (SMAA) against the City of Santa Monica.

The 1999 action sought to find the City in violation of the Santa Monica Airport Agreement (often referred to as the “1984 Agreement”), an agreement between the City and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

This appellate proceeding reviewed a Judgment issued by Superior Court Judge Cesar C. Sarmiento ruling in favor of the City on 12 of 13 causes of action relating to the operation of the Santa Monica Municipal Airport under the 1984 Agreement.

The Court dismissed SMAA’s appeal and its entire action based on the cross-appeal filed by the City challenging SMAA’s right to bring the action since it was not a party to the 1984 Agreement. In reversing the Trial Court’s finding that SMAA was a ”third party beneficiary” of the 1984 Agreement, the Court of Appeal not only dismissed the action, but denied all relief to SMAA and awarded the City its costs on appeal.

The appellate court’s ruling ended six years of litigation.

Airport Manager Robert Trimborn said, “I hope the ruling of the Court of Appeal will encourage the Airport Association to work with Airport Staff on the issues facing the Airport today rather then dwell on issues from the past.”

On November 15, 1999, the Association, a group of local airport users, filed an action in California Superior Court against the City of Santa Monica (“City”) seeking injunctive and declaratory relief and damages for breaches of the 1984 agreement between the FAA and the City. The action alleged that the City failed to implement the aircraft noise abatement program and provide the facilities and services described in the agreement. The City asserted that the Association was not authorized to bring the suit,

The Association suit cited 27 causes of action seeking both injunctive and declaratory relief and damages, The Trial Court dismissed the request for damages along with 11 of the causes of action prior to trial. Trial commenced in the Superior Court in Malibu on March 17, 2003 before Judge Cesar C. Sarmiento and concluded on May 27, 2003.

Deputy City Attorney Martin T. Tachiki represented the City. The Association was represented by Lloyd Kirschbaum, Esq. In ruling for the City on every cause of action except one, the Trial Court validated the Airport’s current operational layout, its aircraft noise abatement program and the provision of aviation services. Until the appellate court’s reversal in favor of the City, the Trial Court’s ruling in favor of the Associatuon regarding leases for two Airport tenants conflicted with an FAA ruling on the same issue, which is currently pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.When the Assoxiation filed a limited appeal of the judgment issued in favor of the City, the City filed a cross-appeal on the one favorable ruling for the Association and on the finding that it had standing to bring this action. On August 24, 2005, Division 5 of the Second Appellate District of the California Court of Appeal issued its decision finding that SMAA lacked authority to file an action based upon the terms of the 1984 Agreement. The Court of Appeal dismissed the entire action and awarded the City its costs on appeal.

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