SMA seeks partial summary judgment in suit against CPA
Although the Federal Aviation Administration has determined that it will not take further action in Star Marianas Airline’s complaint against the Commonwealth Ports Authority, the airline continues to argue their case in the CNMI Superior Court and has sought a partial summary judgment in its favor.
Earlier this week, the FAA issued a letter addressed to Star Marianas president Shaun Christian stating that, based on their review of SMA’s informal complaint regarding CPA’s fee and methodology rate, the FAA has found that CPA is in compliance with federal laws.
Due to these findings, Star Marianas was instructed to resolve all delinquent accounts with CPA and to pay all its past due fees. Star Marianas owes CPA over $3 million in overdue fees dating back to 2014.
However, despite the FAA finding, SMA continues to fight a similar battle against CPA in Superior Court, alleging that CPA has breached the Airline Use Agreement by increasing its fees and failing to provide Star Marianas with a copy of their previous fiscal year budgets.
In a recent court filing with the Superior Court, Star Marianas asked the court to grant them a partial summary judgment.
According to its motion for summary judgment, SMA wants the court to find CPA in breach of the Airline Use Agreement by failing to provide the annual budget and for adjusting their charges appropriately pursuant to the agreement.
However, SMA says the amount has yet to be determined as the airline is unable to make exact calculations as CPA has yet to provide them any information regarding their budget and costs.
CPA has since opposed the motion for summary judgment.
According to Saipan Tribune archives, Star Marianas is suing CPA and five unnamed co-defendants for breach of contract, violation of anti-head tax, and for unreasonable user fees.
The complaint alleges that CPA has never complied with the agreement’s cost accounting and fee adjustment requirements since SMA has been operating as an airline at the airports and commuter terminals.
SMA says that, under federal law, CPA is required to make airports and their associated facilities available to the public and airport users, such as SMA, under reasonable conditions and without unjust discrimination.
Since 2009, SMA alleges that it has been asking CPA to disclose its audited accounting records as mandated by federal regulations and the airline use agreement.
As a result of these alleged breaches of the Airline Use Agreement, SMA claims it has suffered damage in the form of excessive airport and commuter terminal user fees that are greater than the reasonable fees that SMA should have been assessed.
SMA estimates, based on its accounting records, that the amount in fees which have either been paid or which CPA claims remains assessed but unpaid by SMA, are hundreds of thousands of dollars.