Agent Issues Judge in Hall case dismisses suit By Andrew Compart / October 31, 2003 Share 1 -- WASHINGTON -- A federal judge ruled in favor of the airlines and dismissed the Sarah Hall class-action lawsuit, which alleged more than a dozen airlines conspired to reduce and eliminate commissions to U.S. agents. The decision Oct. 30 by W. Earl Britt of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Southern Division, came just a few weeks after he approved a settlement with one of the defendants, Lufthansa.By technicality, the lawsuit was not dismissed against airlines still in bankruptcy, but Britt made his feelings clear about the case's legitimacy, or lack thereof.In a blistering and unflinching attack on the merits of the lawsuit, Britt labeled the various claims of evidence put forth by Hall and the other plaintiffs as "unconvincing," "sheer speculation" and "ludicrous."On the other hand, the airlines "offer overwhelmingly compelling evidence that the commission cuts and caps ... were just as likely the result of competitive conduct and natural changes in the market as of the illegal conspiracy alleged by plaintiffs," the judge said.The economic state of the airline industry may be "the most compelling evidence" to explain the airlines' decisions, he added.As to the airline matches of the cuts, Britt said it is "perfectly legitimate" for an airline to consider what a competitor is paying agents in deciding what to do with its own commission.GET MORE:To read the court's opinion, visit www.twcrossroads.com/specialreports/hallopinion.pdf.To read the court order, visit www.twcrossroads.com/specialreports/hallorder.pdf.(Note: This file requires Adobe Acrobat Reader. To download the latest version, visit www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readermain.html.