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Pumputiena v. Deutsche Lufthansa, AG

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

January 6, 2017

LILIJA PUMPUTIENA, on behalf of her minor child NERINGA PUMPUTYTE, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
DEUTSCHE LUFTHANSA, AG, a foreign corporation, and UNITED AIRLINES, INC., a domestic corporation, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Gary Feinerman Judge.

         Lilija Pumputiena brought this suit on behalf of herself, her minor child Neringa Pumputyte, and four putative classes against Deutsche Lufthansa, AG and United Airlines, Inc., alleging breach of contract and violation of the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air (“Montreal Convention”) in connection with a June 2015 flight from Chicago, Illinois to Brussels, Belgium, and ensuing travel from Brussels to Vilnius, Lithuania. Doc. 7. Lufthansa moves to dismiss all claims against it, Doc. 15, while United moves to dismiss or strike some of the claims against it, Doc. 8. Lufthansa's motion is granted, and United's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         Background

         In resolving a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court assumes the truth of the operative complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations, though not its legal conclusions. See Zahn v. N. Am. Power & Gas, LLC, 815 F.3d 1082, 1087 (7th Cir. 2016). The court must also consider “documents attached to the complaint, documents that are critical to the complaint and referred to in it, and information that is subject to proper judicial notice, ” along with additional facts set forth in Pumputiena's brief opposing dismissal, so long as those additional facts “are consistent with the pleadings.” Phillips v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 714 F.3d 1017, 1020 (7th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks omitted). The facts are set forth as favorably to Pumputiena as those materials allow. See Pierce v. Zoetis, 818 F.3d 274, 277 (7th Cir. 2016). In setting forth those facts, the court does not vouch for their accuracy. See Jay E. Hayden Found. v. First Neighbor Bank, N.A., 610 F.3d 382, 384 (7th Cir. 2010).

         On or about June 7, 2015, Pumputyte (as noted, Pumputiena's minor child) held tickets on United flight UA 8804 from Chicago to Brussels and then on a flight from Brussels to Vilnius. Doc. 7 at ¶ 2. The Chicago-to-Brussels flight was delayed, causing Pumputyte to arrive late in Brussels. Id. at ¶¶ 3-4. Although the Brussels-to-Vilnius flight had also been delayed, making it possible for Pumputyte to make that flight despite arriving late in Brussels, she was not allowed to board due to United's amending her travel itinerary. Id. at ¶ 5. She instead was scheduled on a different itinerary to Vilnius, consisting of Lufthansa flights from Brussels to Frankfurt and then from Frankfurt to Vilnius. Id. at ¶ 6. The Brussels-to-Frankfurt flight was Lufthansa flight LH 1015, which was cancelled. Id. at ¶ 9. Pumputyte was rescheduled again, and she landed in Vilnius ten hours after her originally scheduled arrival time. Id. at ¶ 10. During the delay, she spent approximately €200 on necessities. Id. at ¶ 12.

         Pumputiena later served “Notices of Claims” on United and Lufthansa for damages allegedly caused by the delay. Id. at ¶ 13. After the notices did not result in payment, she filed this suit. Id. at ¶¶ 14-18. The complaint brings a claim against Lufthansa under Article 19 of the Montreal Convention (Count I); a claim against United under Article 19 (Count II); a claim against United “Pursuant to Article 19 of the Montreal Convention as Self-Imposed Voluntarily Assumed Contractual Duty” (Count III); a claim against United under Regulation No. 261/2004 (“EU 261”) of the European Parliament and European Counsel (Count IV); and a breach of contract claim against United (Count V). Id. at ¶¶ 198-298. The EU 261 claim was dismissed without prejudice by stipulation. Doc. 26.

         In addition, the complaint seeks to certify these four classes:

1. All persons residing in the United States who: (1) had a confirmed reservation on flight No. LH 1015 operated by Lufthansa on June 8, 2015 from Brussels to Frankfurt; (2) had a confirmed reservation on any international flights between countries - signatories to the Montreal Convention as operated by Lufthansa since June of 2015; (3) had such flight delayed or cancelled for a reason other than extraordinary circumstances; (4) were not adequately informed by Lufthansa of the delay or cancellation less than seven days before the scheduled time of departure and were not offered meaningful re-routing, allowing them to depart no more than one hour before the scheduled time of departure and to reach their final destination less than two hours after the scheduled time of arrival; (5) were affected by said delay or cancellation for at least three hours; (6) had not received advance notice of cancellation of Lufthansa flight No. 1015 as scheduled to depart from Brussels to Vilnius on June 8, 2015; (7) had not received advance notice of cancellation of any and all international flights operated by Lufthansa since June 8, 2015. (“The 1015 Class”).
2. All persons residing in the United States who: (1) had a confirmed reservation on flight No. UA 8804 operated by United on June 7, 2015 from Chicago to Brussels; (2) had a confirmed reservation on any international flights between countries - signatories to the Montreal Convention as operated by United since August of 2014; (3) had such flight delayed or cancelled for a reason other than extraordinary circumstances; (4) were not adequately informed by United of the delay or cancellation less than seven days before the scheduled time of departure and were not offered meaningful re-routing, allowing them to depart no more than one hour before the scheduled time of departure and to reach their final destination less than two hours after the scheduled time of arrival; (5) were affected by said delay or cancellation for at least three hours; (6) did not received advance notice of cancellation of United flight No. 8804 as scheduled to depart from Chicago, Illinois to Brussels on June 7, 2015; (7) did not received advance notice of cancellation of any and all international flights operated by United since August 24, 2014. (“The 8804 Class”).
3. All persons residing in the United States who: (1) had a confirmed reservation on any international flight operated by Lufthansa to and from the United States since June 8, 2015; (2) had such flight delayed or cancelled for a reason other than extraordinary circumstances; (3) were affected by said delay or cancellation for at least three hours; (4) were not provided by Lufthansa the compensation mandated by Articles 19 and 22(2) of Montreal Convention; and (5) were not provided by Lufthansa with compensation mandated by Articles 5, 9 and 14 of EU 261/2004. (“The General Lufthansa Class”).
4. All persons residing in the United States who: (1) had a confirmed reservation on any international flight operated by United to and from the United States since June 7, 2015; (2) had such flight delayed or cancelled for a reason other than extraordinary circumstances; (3) were affected by said delay or cancellation for at least three hours; (4) were not provided by United with compensation of economic damages mandated by Articles 19 and 22(2) of Montreal Convention; and (5) were not provided by United with compensation mandated by Articles 5, 6, 9 and 14 of EU 261/2004. (“The General United Class”).

Id. at ¶¶ 173-174 (slightly edited by the court).

         Discussion

         I. Claim Against Lufthansa (Count I)

         As noted, Pumputiena's sole claim against Lufthansa lies under Article 19 of the Montreal Convention.

         A. Whether the Complaint Violates Rule 8(a)(2)

         Lufthansa seeks dismissal under Civil Rule 8(a)(2), which requires the complaint to contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief ….” According to Lufthansa, Pumputiena's 75-page complaint is “incomprehensible” and “repeatedly quotes and references European case law, international law, and other items in a disjointed fashion, such that it is impossible to determine their legal significance.” Doc. 16 at 7. In Lufthansa's view, the complaint is so poorly written that it “fails to give [Lufthansa] fair notice of what [Pumputiena's] claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Id. at 8 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Although “[f] at in a complaint can be ignored, ” Bennett v. Schmidt, 153 F.3d 516, 518 (7th Cir. 1998), where excessive length “make[s] a complaint unintelligible, by scattering and concealing in a morass of irrelevancies the few allegations that matter, ” dismissal is appropriate. United States ex rel. Garst v. Lockheed-Martin Corp., 328 F.3d 374, 378 (7th Cir. 2003); see also Cincinnati Life Ins. Co. v. Beyrer, 722 F.3d 939, 946 (7th Cir. 2013) (where “neither the adverse party nor the court can make out the essence of the claims dismissal of a complaint on the ground that it is unintelligible is unexceptionable”); Srivastava v. Daniels, 409 F. App'x 953, 955 (7th Cir. 2011) (affirming dismissal under Rule 8(a) where the “complaint's length and disjointed nature made it impossible for the district court to identify the specific allegations against each defendant and therefore impossible to determine whether any claims had potential merit”); Griffin v. Milwaukee Cnty., 369 F. App'x 741, 743 (7th Cir. 2010) (same). That said, “a district court is not authorized to dismiss a complaint merely because it contains repetitious and irrelevant matter.” Cincinnati Life Ins. Co., 722 F.3d at 946 (alteration omitted).

         Here, Pumputiena's complaint is way too long, riddled with typographical and other errors, laced with irrelevant material, and poorly organized. However, it is sufficient to give notice of the contours of her claims, as demonstrated by Lufthansa's ability to identify those claims and make arguments in support of dismissal on the merits. A Rule 8(a) dismissal therefore is unjustified.

         B. Whether Lufthansa Is Liable Under Article 19 for the Cancellation of LH 1015

         On the merits, Lufthansa seeks dismissal on the ground that Pumputyte's delayed arrival in Vilnius was not caused by anything having to do with the cancellation of LH 1015. Doc. 16 at 5-6. In support, Lufthansa offers the declaration of Lawrence Mullins, its General Counsel, who avers that a Passenger Name Record (“PNR”) shows that after the LH 1015 Brussels-to-Frankfurt flight was cancelled, Pumputyte was rebooked on LH 1017, which departed one hour later and arrived one hour and thirty-five minutes before the scheduled Frankfurt-to-Vilnius flight was to depart. Doc. 16-1 at ¶¶ 5, 9-12. Mullins further avers that Pumputyte in fact made the scheduled Frankfurt-to-Vilnius flight, and thus arrived in Vilnius precisely when her original Lufthansa itinerary scheduled her to arrive. Id. at 12. In Lufthansa's view, it caused no delay in Pumputyte's arrival in Vilnius; rather, the only consequence of cancelling LH 1015 was that Pumputyte spent one extra hour in Brussels and one fewer hour in Frankfurt.

         Pumputiena argues that the court may not consider the PNR and the Mullins declaration because they fall outside the pleadings. Doc. 29 at 9. Lufthansa replies that the court may take judicial notice of the PNR and the facts in the Mullins declaration. Doc. 31 at 4-5.

         Civil Rule 12(d) states: “If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) … matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56. All parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion.” There is a “narrow exception” to this rule for facts subject to judicial notice. Doss v. Clearwater Title Co., 551 F.3d 634, 640 (7th Cir. 2008). “Judicial notice merits the traditional caution it is given, and courts should strictly adhere to the criteria [established] by the Federal Rules of Evidence before taking judicial notice of pertinent facts.” Ibid. (internal quotation marks omitted). Federal Rule of Evidence 201(b) allows a court to take judicial notice of a fact that “is not subject to reasonable dispute because it: (1) is generally known within the trial court's territorial jurisdiction; or (2) can be accurately and readily determined from sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned.”

         The PNR and the facts in the Mullins declaration do not meet these requirements. The facts set forth in those materials are not “generally known within” this court's jurisdiction. And although there may be little reason to doubt the PNR on its face, the court would be hard-pressed to say that its accuracy “cannot reasonably be questioned.” It is possible that there were errors in generating the PNR, or that for some other reason it does not accurately reflect Pumputyte's actual itinerary. So, because the court may not take judicial notice of the PNR and the facts in the Mullins declaration, it has two options: ignore those materials, or convert Lufthansa's motion to one for summary judgment. Because dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is warranted even putting aside those materials, the court will disregard them.

         The complaint alleges that the United Chicago-to-Brussels flight (UA 8804) was delayed and that, as a result, Pumputyte arrived late in Brussels. The complaint further alleges that Lufthansa cancelled the Brussels-to-Frankfurt flight (LH 1015) on which Pumputyte was initially rebooked. Finally, the complaint alleges that Pumputyte arrived in Vilnius ten hours after her originally scheduled arrival time. The ...


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