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Joan Holmes v. United Airlines

January 25, 2012

JOAN HOLMES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED AIRLINES, INC., UNITED CONTINENTAL HOLDINGS, INC., AND GOJET AIRLINES, LLC, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Ronald A. Guzman

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

In this diversity suit, plaintiff Joan Holmes has sued United Air Lines, Inc. ("UAL"), United Continental Holdings, Inc. ("UCH") and GoJet Airlines, LLC ("GoJet") for negligence relating to her slip and fall on a metal ladder while deplaning on December 24, 2009. Defendants move to dismiss the complaint arguing that: (1) plaintiff's state law claims are preempted by the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 ("FAA"), 49 U.S.C. §§ 40101-49105, and the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 ("ADA"), 49 U.S.C. § 41713(b)(1); and (2) plaintiff fails to state a claim against UCH because it is a separate legal entity that cannot be liable for the actions of its agent and subsidiary, UAL. For the reasons provided in this Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court denies the motion.

Facts

On December 24, 2009, Holmes was a fee-paying passenger on UAL and GoJet's flight with service from Burlington, Vermont to Chicago, Illinois. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 10-11, 36-37.) UAL and GoJet owned and maintained a metal ladder that it provided as a means for passengers to deplane. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 40.) While utilizing the ladder, Holmes slipped and fell from the ladder.

(Id. ¶ 19.) As a result, Holmes suffered from multiple spine fractures, which required casting, surgery and extensive rehabilitation. (Id. ¶ 20.) Holmes alleges that defendants are liable because they negligently failed to:

(a) provide a safe, suitable, and proper means for Holmes and other passengers to deplane the aforementioned flight;

(b) go to another gate so that Holmes and other passengers could deplane the aforementioned flight by means of a jetway;

(c) wait for another gate to become available so that Holmes and other passengers could deplane the aforementioned flight by means of a jetway;

(d) provide a stairway ramp for use by Holmes and other passengers to deplane the aforementioned flight;

(e) refrain from requiring Holmes and other passengers to deplane by means of the subject ladder when defendants knew or in the exercise of ordinary care should have known that doing so presented a hazard given the weather conditions;

(f) equip the ladder with adequate safeguards, including but not limited to traction tape or other slip protection, when defendants knew or in the exercise of ordinary care should have known that such safety measures were necessary to prevent injury to Holmes and other passengers ("Holmes and others") from slipping while using the ladder;

(g) properly maintain the ladder when defendants knew, or in the exercise of due care should have known that the lack of safeguards on the ladder posed a hazard to Holmes and others using the ladder;

(h) warn Holmes of the hazard posed by the lack of safeguards on the ladder, and the dangerous condition then and there existing, when defendants knew, or in the exercise of ordinary care should have known, that said warning was necessary to prevent injury to Holmes and others using the ladder;

(i) prevent an unnatural accumulation of water to be present on the steps of the ladder, when defendants knew or in the exercise of ordinary care should have known that the presence of water posed a hazard to Holmes and others using the ladder;

(j) prevent an unnatural accumulation of water to be present on the handrails of the ladder, when defendants knew or in the exercise of ordinary care should have known that the presence of water posed a hazard to Holmes and others using the ladder;

(k) correct the hazardous condition posed by the unnatural accumulation of water on the steps of the ladder, when defendants knew or in the exercise of ordinary care should have known that such correction was necessary ...


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