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HANSEN v. DELTA AIRLINES

March 17, 2004.

CHRISTINE HANSEN, Plaintiff,
v.
DELTA AIRLINES, a corporation, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: REBECCA PALLMEYER, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Christine Hansen ("Hansen") filed this action against Defendant Delta Airlines ("Delta") seeking redress under Illinois law for false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Hansen was arrested by officers of the Chicago Police Department at O'Hare Airport, where she had intended to board a Delta flight with a final destination of Manchester, England. Hansen initially filed her complaint in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, and Delta removed to this court.*fn1 Thereafter, Hansen filed an Amended Complaint with this court.

Delta now moves to dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Specifically, Delta asserts that Hansen's state law claims are preempted by (1) the Warsaw Convention, 49 Stat. 3000 (reprinted in 49 U.S.C. § 40105), and (2) the air carrier immunity provisions of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, 49 U.S.C. § 44941, and the Federal Aviation Act, 49 U.S.C. § 44902(b). For the reasons set forth below, Delta's motion is denied. Page 2

  FACTUAL BACKGROUND

  According to the Amended Complaint, on January 7, 2002, Defendant Delta Airlines issued Plaintiff Hansen a round-trip ticket for travel from Chicago, Illinois, to her final destination of Manchester, England. (Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl.") ¶ 7.) The first leg of Plaintiff's trip was to be on Delta Flight No. 555, scheduled to depart from O'Hare Airport in Chicago, Illinois ("O'Hare"), on January 15, 2002. (Id. ¶ 8.)*fn2 On that day, Plaintiff and her husband, James Bottomley ("Bottomley"), approached the first-class Delta ticketing counter at O'Hare, (Id. ¶ 9), and received their boarding passes from the ticketing agents at the check-in counter. (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff asserts that she cooperated with all of the requests and questions of Delta's employees. (Id. ¶ 11.) "[A]t some point after" Plaintiff and Bottomley left the first-class counter, a Delta employee told the authorities that Plaintiff had uttered the word "bomb"; Plaintiff denies that she said that word. (Id. ¶ 12.) Delta employee Teresa Moloney ("Moloney") signed a complaint on behalf of Delta, in which she accused Plaintiff of committing "the offense of disorderly conduct." (Id. ¶ 13.) Specifically, Moloney alleged that Plaintiff "[s]tated the word `bomb' during a conversation with [Moloney] who is an agent for Delta Airlines as the agent asked . . . [Hansen] security question [sic]. This action put people in the area in fear for their safety." (Ex. B to Am. Compl.)

  As Plaintiff and Bottomley "reached the boarding line for flight 555,' two uniformed Chicago Police Department officers detained Plaintiff. (Am. Compl. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff was handcuffed, escorted to a police van, and transported to a Chicago Police station. (Id. ¶ 15.) At the police station, a Chicago Police officer performed a body search of Plaintiff, handcuffed her to a jail cell, and photographed and fingerprinted her. (Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff was released on bail the following day. Page 3 (Id. ¶ 17.) At her March 15, 2002 criminal hearing, all charges against Plaintiff were dropped due to lack of prosecution. (Id. ¶ 18.)

  In Count I of her Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts that Delta's actions resulted in her false imprisonment, (Id. ¶ 19), and that Delta's actions were intentional, willful, wanton, and done with reckless disregard for Plaintiff's rights and without any basis in fact. (Id. ¶ 20.) In Count II, Plaintiff alleges that Delta's actions constituted malicious prosecution, (Id. ¶ 23), and that Delta did not have probable cause for its actions. (Id. ¶ 24.) In Count III, Plaintiff claims that Delta's actions constituted intentional infliction of emotional distress, (Id. ¶ 27), and that Delta's actions were extreme and outrageous, (Id. ¶ 29), as well as intentional, willful, wanton, and done with reckless disregard for Plaintiff's rights and without any basis in fact. (Id. ¶ 28.)

  Plaintiff asserts that she has suffered damages caused by Delta's actions, including, but not limited to: (1) damage to her professional reputation; (2) past and future loss of income; (3) emotional distress; and (4) other economic and consequential damages in an amount in excess of $100,000, plus the cost of this action. (Id. ¶¶ 21, 25, 30.)

  DISCUSSION

 I. Standard of Review

  Delta moves to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to FED. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). When ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, and must draw all reasonable inferences from the facts in favor of the plaintiff. Flannery v. Recording Indus. Ass'n of Am., 354 F.3d 632, 637 (7th Cir. 2004). The court may grant such a motion only if there is "no possible interpretation of the complaint" under which the plaintiff can state a claim. Id. Delta argues that Plaintiff's state law claims are preempted under the Warsaw Convention (the "Convention") and barred by the air carrier immunity provisions of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act and the Federal Aviation Act (Defendant's Motion to Dismiss f Def.'s Motion"), at 1.) Page 4

 II. Does the Warsaw Convention Preempt Plaintiff's Claims?

  Delta argues that the Convention is Plaintiff's exclusive source of remedy and preempts her state law claims for false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Def.'s Motion, at 3.) The Convention is a multilateral treaty that governs liability for personal injury and damage to goods during international flight. Commercial Union Ins. Co. v. Alitalia Airlines, S.p.A., 347 F.3d 448, 456 (2d Cir. 2003). As a treaty to which the United States adheres, the Convention is the supreme law of the land and trumps state and local law when it applies. Commercial Union, 347 F.3d at 456-57 (citing U.S. CONST, art. II, § 2 & art. VI). The Convention governs "all international transportation of persons, baggage, or goods performed by aircraft for hire." Art. 1(1). Article 17 of the Convention defines the scope of an air carrier's liability for personal injuries to passengers:
The carrier shall be liable for damage sustained in the event of the death or wounding of a passenger or any other bodily injury suffered by a passenger, if the accident which caused the damage so sustained took place on board the aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking.
Article 17 imposes strict liability on airlines for personal injuries resulting from an accident that occurs "on board [an] aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking." Eastern Airlines, Inc. v. Floyd, 499 U.S. 530, 552 (1991). Purely mental injuries, unaccompanied by physical injuries, are not compensable under the Convention. Id at 552-53 ("An air carrier cannot be held liable under Article 17 when an accident has not caused a passenger to suffer death, physical injury, or physical manifestation of injury. . . . [W]e express no view as to whether passengers can recover for mental injuries that are accompanied by physical injuries'); Ehrlich v. American Airlines, — F.3d — 2004 WL 419438, at *18 (2d Cir. Mar. 8, 2004) ("Article 17 . . . permits passengers to hold a carrier liable for a mental injury only to the extent that it was caused by a physical injury").

  The Supreme Court has held that "recovery for a personal injury suffered `on board [an] aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking,' if not allowed under Page 5 the Convention, is not available at all." El Al Israel Airlines, Ltd. v. Tseng, 525 U.S. 155, 161 (1999) (quoting Art. 17, 49 Stat. 3018). Where applicable, the Convention "preclude[s] a passenger from maintaining an action for personal injury damages under local law when her claim ...


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