O.C. judge sides with former Huntington Beach mayor in Pacific Airshow lawsuit

Former Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr speaks during a State of the City event in 2021.
Former Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr was in court this week as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by Pacific Airshow LLC over the city’s cancellation of the final day of the 2021 Airshow due to an oil spill. She maintained the suit is “frivoulous” and an attempt to defame her.
(File Photo)
Share via

In a ruling Tuesday in the lawsuit Pacific Airshow LLC brought against former Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr, an Orange County judge supported her stance that she was immune from liability when the last day of the 2021 airshow was canceled due to an oil spill.

A lawsuit Pacific Airshow filed against the city of Huntington Beach for canceling that final day of the show was settled for at least $5 million last year. But a separate lawsuit against Carr individually continued.

“This court concludes that Carr’s alleged ‘unilateral decisions’ to cancel the remainder of the 2021 airshow after the oil spill occurred on Oct. 21, 2021 qualifies as a discretionary act within the meaning of [government code],” Orange County Superior Court Judge Jonathan Fish wrote in Tuesday’s ruling.


Fish ruled Pacific Airshow LLC can amend its complaint, so the lawsuit could potentially continue.

“A win is a win,” Carr said in a text message to the Daily Pilot Tuesday afternoon. “It will be interesting to see if they amend their complaint. The ruling was pretty clear.”

Fish is the same judge who ruled last month that Huntington Beach and City Atty. Michael Gates must release the full settlement document with the air show. The state auditor is also expected to examine that settlement.

In its lawsuit against Carr, Pacific Airshow argued the former mayor made a unilateral decision to cancel the final day of the show at least partly out of animosity toward air show operator Kevin Elliott.

Carr has repeatedly said that she did not have the power to unilaterally cancel the air show, and did not do so, indicating that the city manager, police chief and fire chief aided in the decision.

Pacific Airshow LLC attorney Suoo Lee argued during a hearing in the case Monday that any decision should have required a public hearing and a council meeting and vote.

“None of that happened,” Lee said. “This decision to cancel the air show came from the mind of one person only.”

Mark Austin, Carr’s attorney, disputed that Carr canceled their air show on her own. But he said even if she had, she was using her discretion as a mayor in an emergency, not acting outside of her powers.

“They just can’t have it both ways,” he said.

Carr said she believes the lawsuit targeted her to hurt her chances in the 2022 state Senate race in District 36. Carr lost the race to Janet Nguyen.

“This is all an attempt to defame me and to discredit me,” Carr said at the courthouse after Monday’s hearing and before the ruling was announced. “It’s a frivolous lawsuit, it’s baseless. There’s absolutely no reason why my name should have ever been brought into this, and there’s absolutely no reason why this [current] City Council should have settled for anything.”


6:20 p.m. June 11, 2024: This story has been updated to include information about the judge’s ruling Tuesday on the Pacific Airshow lawsuit against the former Huntington Beach mayor and her reaction to the ruling.