In a decision yesterday, Magistrate Judge Pitman denied summary judgment to Spirit Airlines, which was sued by a pro se passenger who claims to have been improperly booted off a flight for having ignored the exit row briefing.

Judge Pitman noted that the “parties’ versions of the material events are substantially different.”  According to Spirit, the passenger refused to hang up his cell phone when the briefing started, and then became combative.  According to the passenger, he was texting, but stopped when asked.  It was the flight crew that became combative, he claims, and so he left the plane because he was “afraid.”

Judge Pitman concluded that these disputed facts could not be resolved on summary judgment:

Defendants argue . . .  that Spirit did not breach the contract because Spirit ”had the right under the Spirit Contract of Carriage” to remove plaintiff from the flight for interfering with [the flight crew’s] duties. However, this argument presumes that the facts as set forth by defendants are accurate, namely that plaintiff refused to pay attention to [the] exit row briefing and to move to a different seat. According to plaintiff, he did not interfere . . . because he ceased using his cell phone as soon as [the crew] ordered him to stop, and, thus, there was no reason to ask him to change seats. Therefore, there . . . remains a genuine issue of fact as to whether plaintiff complied with the directives of the flight crew.