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BEACH v. UNITED AIRLINES
United States District Court, Central District of Illinois, Springfield Division
May 22, 2002
SAM BEACH, PLAINTIFF,
UNITED AIRLINES, INC., DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, U.S. District Judge:
A question of venue.
Sam Beach is suing over events that occurred on April 26, 2001 as he
was boarding United Airlines Flight 1116 from Chicago, Illinois to
He approached the airplane with the assistance of a wheelchair as both
of his legs had been amputated. At the entrance of the plane, Beach was
told his wheelchair had to be stored and could not be used on the plane.
As a result, he was forced to walk on his hands to his seat.
Upon reaching his seat in the 17th row, he discovered there was no
available seat on the aisle. Beach informed the flight attendant that he
could not crawl into the middle seat. The flight attendant offered him a
seat in the bulkhead — at the front of the airplane. Beach alleges
he was forced to return to the front of the plane and to eventually exit
the plane without any assistance from United Airlines.
Plaintiff Beach alleged that these actions taken by Defendant United
Airlines violated 49 U.S.C. § 41701. United filed a motion to
dismiss in response. But before the Court addressed Defendant's motion,
it wanted to ensure that the Central District of Illinois was the proper
venue to resolve this dispute.*fn1 Accordingly, the Court requested
additional briefing by the parties regarding the issue of venue. All
briefs having been submitted, the Court will quickly resolve this
In his brief, Plaintiff states that on the date in question he flew
from Springfield, Illinois to the Chicago O'Hare Airport aboard a United
Express airplane. Plaintiff alleges that United Express is a division or
subsidiary of United Airlines, Inc. that connects passengers to United
Airlines flights. Plaintiff asserts that both United Express and United
Airlines maintain a regular flight schedule in the Central District of
Illinois. Based on this contact, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant is
subject to personal jurisdiction and could have reasonably anticipated
being haled into court in this District. Plaintiff asserts that since
defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction in this district, venue is
proper here. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c).
Defendant responds that the Northern District of Illinois would be a
proper venue because its principal place of business is located in Cook
County, Illinois. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(1). In addition, some of
the events at issue took place in the Northern District. See
28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2). However, Defendant recognizes that the
Central District may also be an appropriate venue and emphasizes that
proving so is Plaintiff's burden. See Pepsico, Inc. v. Marion Pepsi-Cola
Bottling Co., No. 99 C 3939, 2000 WL 263973 *3 (N.D.Ill. March 6,
When a defendant is a corporation, venue is proper in any "judicial
district in which it is subject to personal jurisdiction at the time the
action is commenced." 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c). If a state has more than
one district in which a corporation would be subject to personal
jurisdiction, "such corporation shall be deemed to reside in any district
in that State within which its contact would be sufficient to subject it
to personal jurisdiction if that district were a separate State." Id.
Therefore, the Court must determine whether United Airlines, Inc. would
be subject to personal jurisdiction within the Central District of
In a federal question case, the court's assertion of personal
jurisdiction must satisfy the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment, which requires that defendant must have "certain minimum
contacts with [the district] such that the maintenance of the suit does
not offend `traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'"
International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945), quoting
Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463 (1940). Defendant may be subject to
personal jurisdiction either by way of general or specific jurisdiction.
See RAR, Inc. v. Turner Diesel, Ltd., 107 F.3d 1272, 1276 (7th Cir.
1997). General jurisdiction is appropriate when the defendant has
"continuous and systematic general business contacts" with the forum.
Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 416
Plaintiff has alleged that United Express, a division or subsidiary of
United Airlines, Inc., and United Airlines fly to and from Springfield,
Illinois on a regular basis. With such continuous and systematic
contacts, Defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction in the Central
District of Illinois. Because Defendant is a corporation that is subject
to personal jurisdiction in the Central District of Illinois, this Court
is a proper venue for the dispute. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c).
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