During the test, Hoeper allegedly became angry with the
test administrators because he believed that the test
administrators were deliberately sabotaging his testing.
One administrator, Mark Schuerman, testified at trial
that Hoeper ended the test abruptly, raised his voice at
Schuerman, and used profanity. Schuerman testified that
Hoeper's outburst startled him and that he feared for
his physical safety during the confrontation, but not
after the confrontation ended. Testimony also
established that Hoeper told Schuerman that Hoeper
intended to call the legal representative of the airline
pilots' union to which he belonged.
After Hoeper left the testing facility, Schuerman told
Doyle about the confrontation. Specifically, Schuerman
testified that he told Doyle only that Hoeper blew up at
him and was "very angry with [him]." Schuerman did not
tell Doyle that he or anyone else at the testing center
believed Hoeper would harm them or others. Doyle then
instructed another Air Wisconsin employee who
participated in the failed test to drive Hoeper to the
airport and Doyle booked Hoeper on a flight from
Virginia back to Denver.
Doyle never sought nor received any additional
information about the confrontation from others who were
at the testing center that day or about Hoeper's
demeanor after the confrontation.
that Hoeper was an FFDO pilot. He did not know if Hoeper
had his Government issued firearm with him on the trip
to Virginia, but he knew that Hoeper would have violated
FFDO rules by carrying the firearm as a passenger on the
airplane from Denver to Virginia. He also never sought
nor received any additional information about whether
Hoeper actually brought his firearm to Virginia.
Based upon this information, Doyle called TSA to report
Hoeper as a possible threat. By the time Doyle called
TSA, Hoeper had been at the airport for about two hours
waiting for his flight. After the call, Doyle wrote in
his personal notes that he had told TSA that Hoeper was
"a disgruntled employee (an FFDO who may be armed)" and
that he was "concerned about the whereabouts of Hoeper's
firearm, and his mental stability at that time."
trial, Doyle denied having told TSA anything about
Hoeper's mental stability. He added that he did not have
the ability to assess Hoeper's mental stability. In
court the parties agree that Air Wisconsin was legally
responsible for Doyle's statements.
found that Doyle made two statements to TSA, Hoeper was
an FFDO who may be armed. He was traveling from TAD-DEN
later that day and that they were concerned about his
mental stability and the whereabouts of his firearm
(Unstable pilot in FFDO program was terminated today).
response, TSA officials arrested Hoeper and searched
him. The day after this incident, Doyle made notes about
the meeting with Hoeper that occurred immediately after
the second failed test. Doyle wrote that, after Hoeper
lost his temper, Doyle ended the meeting "for fear of
his own physical harm."
He also noted that "after heated discussion
with Hoeper, and due to his concerns for his safety,"
Doyle did not fully fill out a certain FFA form
regarding the failed test. Doyle later changed these
notes to read "due to my concerns for my safety and the
safety of others at the testing facility."
Hoeper brought this action in Colorado against Air
Wisconsin for defamation under Virginia law, among other
claims. Air Wisconsin moved for summary judgment,
asserting that it was entitled to immunity as a matter
of law under the ATSA. The trial court denied the motion
because it determined that a jury was entitled to
resolve disputed issues of fact. Air Wisconsin also
moved for a directed verdict under the same theory after
the close of evidence, which the trial court also
The trial court instructed the jury on the components of
ATSA immunity and instructed that the jury could not
find for Hoeper on the defamation claim if it determined
that Air Wisconsin was immune under the ATSA. The jury
returned a verdict in favor of Hoeper. The jury found by
clear and convincing evidence that the two statements
were defamatory and that Air Wisconsin made one or more
of the statements "knowing that they were false, or so
recklessly as to amount to a willful disregard for the
Air Wisconsin appealed and the court of appeals
affirmed. It concluded that, under Colorado law, the
trial court properly allowed the jury to determine
whether the ATSA granted Air Wisconsin immunity in this
The court of appeals also determined
that clear and convincing evidence supported the jury's
finding of actual malice and that the statements Doyle
made were not protected as opinion or as substantially
true. Air Wisconsin petitioned for judicial review,
which was granted.
Hoeper eventually won his
case in the Colorado Supreme Court, the court denied Air
Wisconsin immunity from this defamation lawsuit the
court found that Air Wisconsin "overstated" its
concerns. Hoeper won $1.4 million in a jury trial.