Pilot can't sue the drug-testing company that gave false information about him to the FAA

Pasternack v. Lab. Corp. of Am. Holdings, No. 112 (N.Y. June 30, 2016).

Here’s the New York Court of Appeals’ decision in a case I reported on earlier.  

Fred Pasternack is a physician who is also a part-time commercial pilot. He was selected for an FAA-mandated random drug test, to be performed by a company called LabCorp. Pasternack arrived at the testing site, provided urine, but LabCorp told him that he hadn’t provided enough and had to wait. Pasternack was supposed to see a patient soon, though, so he asked whether he could leave and come back. There was no objection. Pasternack left, returned three hours later, and provided a urine sample that tested negative. Later, though, LabCorp determined that when Pasternack left to see a patient, it counted as a “refusal to test.” 

As a result, the FAA revoked Pasternack’s pilot’s license. After years-long litigation with the FAA, Pasternack eventually got his license back. He has also sued LabCorp, the company that caused the mess in the first place by saying, wrongly, that he had refused to be tested. Pasternack asserts claims for fraud and negligence under New York law.

When Pasternack lost in the district court and then appealed, the Second Circuit decided to certify two questions to the New York Court of Appeals. First, did LabCorp owe Pasternack a duty of care, particularly in light of the duties that LabCorp had under federal drug-testing regulations? Second, does Pasternack have a valid fraud claim when it was the FAA, rather than Pasternack himself, that relied on LabCorp’s allegedly false statements?

Today, a divided court answers both questions in the negative. Pasternack appears to be out of luck.