United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
BRIAN HUGHES, individually and on behalf, of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO., Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
L. Ellis United States District Judge
February 11, 2018, Defendant Southwest Airlines Co.
(“Southwest”) canceled Plaintiff Brian
Hughes' flight from Phoenix, Arizona, to Chicago,
Illinois, because it ran out of de-icer fluid. Hughes ended
up flying to Omaha, Nebraska, and incurred additional costs
for lodging, food, and parking, before flying to Chicago the
next day. Hughes subsequently brought this putative class
action lawsuit alleging breach of contract and negligence and
seeking consequential damages on behalf of all Southwest
customers whose flights were similarly canceled on that date,
as well as on December 8, 24, and 28, 2017, and January 12
and 15, 2018. This Court previously dismissed Hughes'
negligence claim with prejudice in its March 26, 2019,
Opinion and Order, on the basis of preemption by the Airline
Deregulation Act (“ADA”), 49 U.S.C. §
41713(b)(1). The Court dismissed Hughes' breach
of contract claim without prejudice for failure to state a
claim after finding that Hughes had not identified the
specific contractual duty that Southwest breached. Hughes
then filed an amended complaint re-alleging breach of
contract, and Southwest now moves to dismiss. Because Hughes
has again failed to sufficiently plead the elements necessary
to assert a breach of contract, the Court finds that Hughes
has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted,
and that further leave to amend the complaint would be
futile. Therefore, the Court grants
Southwest's motion to dismiss and dismisses the amended
complaint with prejudice.
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the
sufficiency of the complaint, not its merits. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6); Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510,
1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion
to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts
in the plaintiff's complaint and draws all reasonable
inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor.
AnchorBank, FSB v. Hofer, 649 F.3d 610, 614 (7th
Cir. 2011). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint
must not only provide the defendant with fair notice of a
claim's basis but must also be facially plausible.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct.
1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009); see also Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d
929 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
argues that Hughes' amended complaint must be dismissed
for two reasons. First, Southwest argues that Hughes has
failed to plead the elements of his breach of contract claim.
Specifically, Southwest contends that Hughes has failed to
identify a contractual duty that Southwest breached, and that
Hughes has not pleaded damages because the Contract of
Carriage (the “Contract”) explicitly precludes
consequential damages. Second, Southwest argues that both the
ADA and the Federal Aviation Act (“FAA”), 49
U.S.C. § 40101 et seq., preempt his claim. The
Court first addresses the sufficiency of Hughes' claim.
Because this analysis is determinative, the Court concludes
this Opinion by explaining why preemption under the ADA and
FAA does not apply in this case.
Breach of Contract
Breach of Duty
assert a claim for breach of contract under Texas
a party must allege: “(1) the existence of a valid
contract; (2) performance or tendered performance by the
plaintiff; (3) breach of the contract by the defendant; and
(4) damages to the plaintiff resulting from that
breach.” Wells v. Minn. Life Ins. Co., 885
F.3d 885, 889 (5th Cir. 2018) (citation omitted). In his
amended complaint, Hughes asserts that Southwest's duty
to stock sufficient amounts of de-icer is, in essence, an
implied term of the Contract. To support his claim, Hughes
first points to § 4 of the Contract to assert that, as a
ticket holder, he was entitled to transportation to Chicago:
(1) No person shall be entitled to transportation except upon
presentation of a valid Ticket or proof of identification
acceptable to Carrier to confirm that transportation has been
purchased. Such Ticket shall entitle the Passenger to
transportation subject to this Contract of Carriage
and, in particular, certain terms and conditions as follows.
Doc. 31-1 at 13. Section 4 also contains the following
provision regarding what would happen if Southwest canceled a
(4) Delays or Involuntary Cancellations. If a Passenger's
scheduled transportation is canceled, terminated, or delayed
before the Passenger has reached his final destination as a
result of a flight cancellation, Carrier-caused missed
connection, flight delay, or omission of a scheduled stop,
Carrier will either transport the Passenger at no additional
charge on another of Carrier's flights, refund the fare
for the unused transportation in accordance with the ...