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Callahan v. United Airlines Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

September 28, 2017

SYLVIA M. CALLAHAN, an Individual, and DANIEL J. CALLAHAN, JR., an Individual, Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED AIRLINES, INC., a Delaware corporation; UNITED CONTINENTAL HOLDINGS, INC., a Delaware corporation; UNITED EXPRESS, a Delaware corporation; STAR ALLIANCE, a Delaware corporation; JOHN DOE CORPORATIONS 1-99; and JOHN AND/OR JANE DOE 1-10, Unknown Individuals, Defendants.

          ORDER

          VICKI MILES-LaGRANGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is defendants United Airlines, Inc. and United Continental Holdings, Inc.'s (“Moving Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint, filed July 6, 2017. On July 27, 2017, plaintiffs filed their response, and on August 3, 2017, Moving Defendants filed their reply.

         I. Introduction

         On June 20, 2014, plaintiffs were passengers on United Airline Flight UA1017 returning from Cancun, Mexico to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Plaintiffs allege that as the flight landed in Houston, Texas, for a connecting flight, the airplane's landing gear abruptly and unexpectedly struck the runway with such force as to cause plaintiff Sylvia M. Callahan to sustain severe injuries to her spine. Plaintiffs further allege that plaintiff Sylvia M. Callahan subsequently underwent medical treatment and is advised by her healthcare providers that her spinal injury, for which there is no meaningful treatment or cure, is permanent.

         On June 17, 2016, plaintiffs filed the instant action. On June 22, 2017, plaintiffs filed their Amended Complaint alleging the following causes of action: (1) violation of Oklahoma law: negligence; (2) violation of Oklahoma law: gross negligence; (3) violation of Oklahoma law: negligent infliction of emotional distress; (4) violation of Oklahoma law: intentional infliction of emotional distress; (5) violation of Oklahoma law: breach of contract; (6) violation of Oklahoma law: loss of consortium; and (7) claims under the Montreal Convention.[1] Moving Defendants now move this Court, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), to dismiss all of plaintiffs' causes of action on the following grounds: (1) all state law claims are preempted by the Montreal Convention; (2) the conclusory statements in the Amended Complaint are not sufficient to state a claim under the Montreal Convention; (3) plaintiffs have failed to allege facts sufficient to support any causes of action against defendant United Continental Holdings, Inc. (“United Continental”); and (4) plaintiffs have failed to allege facts sufficient to support their causes of action for gross negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Moving Defendants.

         II. Standard for Dismissal

         Regarding the standard for determining whether to dismiss a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the United States Supreme Court has held:

To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. The plausibility standard is not akin to a “probability requirement, ” but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotations and citations omitted). Further, “where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not shown - that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. at 679 (internal quotations and citations omitted). Additionally, “[a] pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement.” Id. at 678 (internal quotations and citations omitted). A court “must determine whether the complaint sufficiently alleges facts supporting all the elements necessary to establish an entitlement to relief under the legal theory proposed.” Lane v. Simon, 495 F.3d 1182, 1186 (10th Cir. 2007) (internal quotations and citation omitted). Finally, “[a] court reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint presumes all of plaintiff's factual allegations are true and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1109 (10th Cir. 1991).

         III. Discussion

         A. Preemption

         Moving Defendants assert that all of plaintiffs' state law causes of action are preempted by the Montreal Convention. The United States is a party to the Montreal Convention, which governs “all international carriage of persons, baggage or cargo performed by aircraft for reward.” S. Treaty Doc. No. 106-45, 1999 WL 33292734, Article 1, Section 2.[2] The Montreal Convention is the successor to the Warsaw Convention. “The Montreal Convention still retains many of [the] original provisions and terms of the Warsaw Convention, and the courts have continued to rely on cases interpreting equivalent provisions in the Warsaw Convention.” Sanches-Naek v. Tap Portugal, Inc., No. 16-cv-1843 (VAB), 2017 WL 1702231, at *3 (D. Conn. May 2, 2017) (internal quotations and citation omitted).

         Article 17, Section 1 of the Montreal Convention addresses the injury of passengers. It provides:

The carrier is liable for damage sustained in case of death or bodily injury of a passenger upon condition only that the accident which caused the death or injury took place on board the aircraft or in the course of ...

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