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WADE v. AMERICAN AIRLINES

August 29, 2003

STACY WADE, PLAINTIFF, VS. AMERICAN AIRLINES, INC., DAN MCNAMARA AND GALE PAULSON, DEFENDANTS


The opinion of the court was delivered by: James Moran, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Stacy Wade brought this action against defendants American Airlines, Inc. (American), Dan McNamara and Gail Paulson (now Gail St. Onge), alleging violations of her civil rights as well as various state law tort claims. Defendants filed a motion for partial summary judgment as to the state law claims: Counts II, III, VII and VIII. For the following reasons, defendants* motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Stacy Wade was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 1199 on May 14, 2000; defendant Gail Paulson, an American employee, was a flight attendant aboard the plane, and defendant Dan McNamara was a customer service representative for American. Plaintiff alleges that Paulson took an instant dislike to her when she boarded the plane. She claims that because she is black Paulson did not believe she was a first class passenger; that Paulson unfairly accused her of breaking an overhead bin on the plane, and that Paulson told the captain that Wade was causing a disturbance. She further alleges that a member of the flight crew called the police, causing her to be arrested. Plaintiff claims that she was wrongly charged with disorderly conduct after Paulson swore out a verified complaint against her. [ Page 2]

Although the charges were dropped on September 18, 2001, because American declined to send a representative to court, Wade claims that the Incident resulted in her losing her job with ShowCase Corporation (ShowCase). She alleges that McNamara, or other American employees, sent a series of faxes to Wade's superiors claiming that she had assaulted a police officer.

Defendants tell a very different story. Paulson, and four passengers who were aboard the plane, testified at their depositions that Wade was extremely aggressive towards Paulson, used abusive language, and left the flight crew no choice but to call the police. Paulson also testified that she never actually saw the complaint or signed it and the defendants deny that any American employees caused faxes containing incorrect information to be sent to Wade's employers.

Only plaintiffs state law claims are subjects of this motion. Count II alleges false imprisonment and malicious prosecution; Count III alleges abuse of process; Count VII alleges tortious interference with economic advantage; and Count VIII alleges intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

DISCUSSION

We begin by noting that our function in ruling on this motion for summary Judgment is not to decide whether the plaintiffs or the defendants' version of the events is closer to the truth. Our function is merely to determine If there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). Only if the evidence on file shows that no such issue exists, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law will we grant the motion. Celotex Corp. v Catrctt, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Bennett v. Roberts, 295 F.3d 687, 694 (7th Cir. 2002). Self-serving affidavits, without evidentiary support, [ Page 3]

are not enough to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Patterson v. Chicago Ass'n for Retarded Citizens, 150 F.3d 719, 724 (7th Cir. 1998).

Plaintiff was, obviously, on-board the aircraft when many of the events allegedly took place and thus has personal knowledge of what happened. Even though her testimony contradicts that of other witnesses, we treat her statements as true for the purposes of this motion. Plaintiff does not, however, have personal knowledge of many of the facts supporting her allegations, nor does she produce evidence other than her testimony to support many of her claims. Her mere speculation is not enough to create a genuine issue of fact Karazanos v. Navistar Int'l Transp. Corp., 948 F.2d 332, 337 (7th Cir. 1991).

Count II — False Imprisonment

To prevail on a claim for false imprisonment plaintiff must show that defendants caused or procured the restraint of her personal liberty without reasonable grounds. Vincent v. Williams, 279 Ill. App.3d 1, 5-6, 664 N.E.2d 650, 654 (1st Dist. 1996). An arrest by a public officer that is procured by a private person is the same as an arrest by that private person. Karow v. Student Inns. Inc., 43 Ill. App.3d 878, 881, 357 N.E.2d 682, 686 (4th Dist 1976). Defendants admit that a member of the flight crew called the police, leading to Wade's arrest While defendants claim that this action was entirely justified under the circumstances, there is a genuine dispute between the parties as to what happened aboard the ...


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