Spirit Airlines Inc v. Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO
ORDER denying 57 Motion to Stay. Signed by District Judge Patrick J. Duggan. (MOre)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
SPIRIT AIRLINES, INC.,
Case No. 14-CV-10715
Honorable Patrick J. Duggan
ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT
ATTENDANTS – CWA, AFL-CIO,
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO STAY
ENFORCEMENT OF JUDGMENT PENDING APPEAL
On June 17, 2015, the Court issued an order enforcing the arbitration award
at issue in this litigation. See Spirit Airlines, Inc. v. Ass’n of Flight Attendants –
CWA, AFL-CIO, No. 14-CV-10715, 2015 WL 3771330 (E.D. Mich. Jun. 17,
The award, which was issued pursuant to the mandatory arbitration
provisions of the Railway Labor Act and the collective bargaining agreement
(“CBA”) between Plaintiff Spirit Airlines, Inc. (“Spirit”) and Defendant
Association of Flight Attendants – CWA, AFL-CIO (“AFA”), resolved in favor of
AFA a grievance concerning the healthcare options available to Spirit flight
attendants whose relationships are by partnership (as opposed to marriage) and
their families. Spirit offered its married Spirit flight attendants and their families a
choice of four healthcare plans from which to choose, while limiting partnered
flight attendants and their families to just one plan. The award requires Spirit to
treat married and partnered flight attendants alike by offering the same menu of
healthcare options to both classes of flight attendants.
On July 14, 2015, Spirit filed a notice of appeal along with the present
motion to stay enforcement of the Court’s June 17, 2015 order enforcing the
arbitration award. The motion is fully briefed and ready for decision. The Court
dispenses with oral argument, see E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2), and will deny the
motion for the reasons that follow.
Spirit seeks a stay pending appeal, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 62(d), of the Court’s order enforcing an arbitration award that provides
AFA with injunctive relief. Rule 62(d) permits an appellant to obtain a stay
pending appeal as a matter of right by giving a supersedeas bond. However, an
appellant is not automatically entitled to a stay by supersedeas bond “in an action
for an injunction.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 62(a), (d). Because Spirit seeks to stay an order
of this Court enforcing an arbitration award that provides injunctive relief to AFA,
Rule 62(d) does not apply.1
Even if this case is not “an action for an injunction” per se, Spirit would still not
be entitled as a matter of right to a stay by supersedeas bond under Rule 62(d)
because such stays are best suited for cases involving money judgments and this
case is not one involving a money judgment. See Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Am.
Broadcasting-Paramount Theatres, Inc., 87 S. Ct. 1, 3 (1966) (Mem. Op. of
Although Rule 62(d) does not apply, a stay pending appeal may nonetheless
remain possible under a different provision of Rule 62. Rule 62(c) governs stays
pending appeal in cases involving injunctions and authorizes courts to “suspend,
modify, restore, or grant an injunction on terms for bond or other terms that secure
the opposing party’s rights.” To determine whether a stay pending appeal is
appropriate under Rule 62(c), the Court balances the following four factors:
(1) whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that he is
likely to succeed on the merits; (2) whether the applicant will be
irreparably injured absent a stay; (3) whether issuance of the stay will
substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding; and
(4) where the public interest lies.
Hilton v. Braunskill, 481 U.S. 770, 776, 107 S. Ct. 2113, 2119 (1987). As noted in
one respected treatise, the first two factors are the most important and the
proponent of the stay, Spirit here, must clear a substantial hurdle:
There is, of course, considerable reluctance in granting an injunction
pending appeal when to do so, in effect, is to give the appellant the
Harlan, J.) (“With respect to a case arising in the federal system it seems to be
accepted that a party taking an appeal from the District Court is entitled to a stay of
a money judgment as a matter of right if he posts a bond in accordance with Fed.
R. Civ. P. 62(d).”); Arban v. West Publ’g. Corp., 345 F.3d 390, 409 (6th Cir. 2003)
(“Rule 62(d) entitles a party who files a satisfactory supersedeas bond to a stay of
money judgment as a matter of right.”); Hebert v. Exxon Corp., 953 F.2d 936, 938
(5th Cir. 1992) (“Courts have restricted the application of Rule 62(d)’s automatic
stay to judgments for money because a bond may not adequately compensate a
non-appealing party for loss incurred as a result of the stay of a non-money
judgment.”); 12 James Wm. Moore, Moore’s Federal Practice ¶ 62.039[b] (3d
ed. 2015) (“Since the purpose of requiring a bond is to assure that if the appeal is
unsuccessful there will be adequate funds available to pay the judgment, the Rule
62 stay is best suited for cases in which money judgments are involved.”).
ultimate relief being sought. Thus, to succeed in obtaining an
injunction in these circumstances, the appellant will be required to
show a great likelihood that he will prevail when the case finally
comes to be heard on the merits and that a denial of interim relief will
result in irreparable injury.
11 Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Mary K. Kane, Federal Practice &
Procedure § 2904 pp. 702-04 (2012) (footnotes omitted). Regarding the interplay
between the first two Hilton factors, “[t]he probability of success that must be
demonstrated is inversely proportional to the amount of irreparable injury [the nonmovant] will suffer absent the stay. Simply stated, more of one excuses less of the
other.” Mich. Coal. of Radioactive Material Users, Inc. v. Griepentrog, 945 F.2d
150, 153 (6th Cir. 1991) (citation omitted). However, to obtain a stay pending
appeal, the movant must always show, at the very least, “serious questions going to
the merits.” Id. at 153-54 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
Regarding the likelihood that Spirit will prevail on appeal, the Court
acknowledges, as Spirit points out, that this is a “close case,” Spirit Reply at 3, and
that the Court has “viewed the issue of enforceability of the [award] both in favor
of Spirit (in denying AFA’s motion for judgment on the pleadings) and in favor of
AFA (on cross-motions for summary judgment).” Spirit Br. at 2. Although the
Court agrees with Spirit that there is a possibility that it will prevail on appeal, a
mere possibility of success is not the standard. Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 434,
129 S. Ct. 1749, 1761 (2009); Griepentrog, 945 F.2d at 153. Rather, Spirit must
show that its likelihood of success on appeal is “great” or, at the very least, that
there are “serious questions going to the merits.” Although Spirit states in its brief
that it “will raise valid and meritorious arguments on . . . appeal,” Spirit Br. at 2, it
does not identify what those arguments will be, nor does it explain why it believes
the Court erred in concluding that the arbitration award must be enforced. Because
Spirit has not satisfied its burden of showing a great likelihood of success on
appeal or even serious questions going to the merits, Spirit is not entitled to a stay
under Rule 62(c). See Perry v. Schwarzenegger, 702 F. Supp. 2d 1132, 1135 (N.D.
Cal. 2010) (no likelihood of success on appeal where proponent of stay fails to
discuss likelihood of success on appeal “with reference to the court’s
conclusions”); Smith v. Jones, No. 05-CV-72971, 2007 WL 3408552, at *2 (E.D.
Mich. Nov. 15, 2007) (no likelihood of success on appeal where proponent of stay
“re-argu[es] . . . the issues without any new analysis or case citation”).
While the Court believes that Spirit’s failure to show “serious questions
going to the merits” ends any possibility of obtaining a stay, the Court is cognizant
of the novel factual circumstances of this case and the lack of analogous case law
on point, and will therefore consider the remaining factors of the Hilton
The Court discusses the second and third factors together by
“consider[ing] . . . the harm that a stay might cause to the party who has obtained
the judgment,” AFA, “and balanc[ing] this against the harm that denial of a stay
would cause to the losing party,” Spirit. 11 Wright & Miller § 2902 p. 668.
Tellingly, Spirit does not argue that it will suffer irreparable harm absent a
stay. To be sure, Spirit points to harm that it will suffer if a stay is not granted:
“[R]equiring Spirit to amend . . . plan options for thousands of
employees . . . represents a substantial administrative and financial
“Amending the . . . plan options . . . carries both administrative
challenges, and exposes Spirit to interim claims by other unionized
groups for the same domestic partner options under ‘me too’
provisions of other collective bargaining agreements.”
Affording additional health plan options to flight attendants whose
relationships are by partnership will cost Spirit money because
“individual and spousal/family health benefits for flight attendants
are heavily subsidized by Spirit.”
Spirit Reply at 3-4. However, all of Spirit’s alleged harm involves financial loss,
inconvenience, or administrative difficulty. As such, the harm alleged does not
qualify as irreparable. See Sampson v. Murray, 415 U.S. 61, 90, 94 S. Ct. 937, 953
(1974) (“Mere injuries, however substantial, in terms of money, time and energy
necessarily expended in the absence of a stay, are not enough.” (internal quotation
marks and citation omitted)).
Regarding the third factor of the Hilton framework, the possibility that AFA
would be harmed in the event of a stay, Spirit argues that AFA would suffer
minimal harm if the Court granted a stay because a stay would preserve the status
Spirit emphasizes that adequate health insurance coverage will remain
available to partnered flight attendants and their families during the next open
enrollment period in November 2015 under the one Spirit plan available to them or
through other sources, such as the Affordable Care Act. Spirit acknowledges that
partnered flight attendants and their families will continue to be denied access to
the three additional plan options available to married flight attendants and their
families, but argues essentially that partnered flight attendants and their families
will not miss those additional options because they have never been entitled to
them. Spirit also contends that partnered flight attendants and their families could
find themselves without any coverage in the event a stay is denied and Spirit wins
Offering domestic partner health benefits in additional plan options at
the next open enrollment . . . and then discontinuing the benefits in the
middle of a plan year, should Spirit prevail on appeal, would entail
multiple modifications of the plans, and conceivably leave domestic
partners without coverage, and without the ability to revert to
whatever health plan . . . they now leave.
Spirit Reply at 5.
The Court rejects Spirit’s arguments and concludes that AFA will suffer
harm if a stay is granted.
If a stay is granted, partnered flight attendants
represented by AFA and their families will be restricted to one employersponsored healthcare plan during the November 2015 open enrollment period; if a
stay is not granted, partnered flight attendants and their families will have four
plans from which to choose during the November 2015 open enrollment period.
The elimination of a choice of employer-sponsored healthcare plans during the
next open enrollment period, regardless of whether a choice of plans was
historically offered, constitutes clear harm.
Moreover, Spirit’s concern about
partnered flight attendants and their families being without any coverage or unable
to switch back mid-plan-year to the one healthcare plan presently available to them
in the event a stay is not granted and this Court’s decision to enforce the award is
reversed is unsupported and speculative. Even if this Court’s decision enforcing
the arbitration award were reversed during the plan year, Spirit does not explain
how a participant’s plan election could be altered outside of the open enrollment
period. Thus, Spirit’s concern about the harm that mid-plan-year election changes
could cause partnered flight attendants and their families is unfounded. Moreover,
even if participants could be forced to change plans outside of the open enrollment
period, Spirit provides no evidence that its concerns are plausible.
Regarding the final Hilton factor, Spirit concedes that the public interest in
granting a stay “does not weigh heavily in either direction.” Spirit Reply at 5.
Having balanced the four Hilton factors, the Court concludes that a stay
pending appeal of the Court’s order enforcing the arbitration award at issue in this
litigation is not warranted under Rule 62(c). Moreover, Spirit is not entitled to a
stay by supersedeas bond as a matter of right under Rule 62(d). Accordingly,
Spirit’s motion to stay enforcement of the Court’s judgment pending appeal is
Dated: August 12, 2015
s/PATRICK J. DUGGAN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Peter J. Petesch, Esq.
William B. Balke, Esq.
John R. Runyan , Jr., Esq.
Marshall J. Widick, Esq.
Peter C. Swanson, Esq.
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