Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Moore v. Alaska Airlines, Inc.

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

November 5, 2019

LINDA S. MOORE, as Independent Executor of the Estate of Kathleen S. Williams, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
ALASKA AIRLINES, INC., ALASKA AIR GROUP, and JOHN DOE, an Alaska Airlines, Inc. agent, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Robert W. Gettleman, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Linda S. Moore, as independent executor of the Estate of Kathleen S. Williams, deceased (“Williams”), has brought a one count complaint against defendants Alaska Airlines, Inc. (“Alaska Airlines”), and Alaska Air Group, Inc. (“Alaska Group”) (jointly as “Alaska Air”), and John Doe, an Alaska Airlines' agent[1], for negligently causing Williams to fall out of her wheelchair at the Milwaukee Mitchell Airport (“Milwaukee”), which led to her death eight days later. Alaska Air has moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted.

         BACKGROUND

         On May 2, 2018, Williams boarded Alaska Airlines Flight 1232 (“AS 1232”) in Los Angeles scheduled to fly into O'Hare International Airport in Chicago (“O'Hare”). Williams - who was 75 years old - was returning to her residence in Aurora, Illinois, after being released with the approval of her doctors from treatment in California. She intended to continue treatment with her internist in Aurora after arriving in Chicago. When purchasing her ticket online, Williams arranged with Alaska Airlines to provide the highest level of care, including wheelchair services for boarding and deplaning Williams.

         During the flight on May 2, 2018, AS 1232 was diverted to Milwaukee because of bad weather. Williams was talking, laughing, and fully communicating with her travel companions during the flight. Additionally, Williams was alert, feeding herself, able to adjust herself, and had control of her hands, arms, legs, and feet. Upon arrival in Milwaukee, an agent of Alaska Airlines, John Doe, came aboard the aircraft and, at the direction of Alaska Airlines, placed Williams in an aisle wheelchair to take her off the aircraft. At the junction between the aircraft doorway and the jetway, John Doe unbuckled Williams from the aisle chair. After unbuckling her, John Doe allegedly “carelessly and negligently shoved or jerked the aisle wheelchair and caused [Williams] to fall from the aisle wheelchair.” Williams hit her head on a metal portion of the jetway or aircraft, landing in the jetway.

         Immediately after falling on the left side of her head, Williams began to bleed profusely from her head, became non-responsive, and could not focus her eyes. She was transported from the airport to Froedtert hospital in Milwaukee. During her stay at the hospital, physicians diagnosed her with acute encephalopathy, head trauma, cerebral edema, metastatic chondrosarcoma, and a concussion. Additionally, physicians noted Williams had athetoid movements of her limbs. On May 4, 2018, two days after the fall, Williams, was discharged from Froedtert Hospital and was driven by ambulance to her home in Aurora, Illinois. At the time of her discharge, Williams had garbled speech, was not able to fully communicate fully, could not feed herself, could not control her body movements, and was bedridden because of her head injury. Between May 4, 2018, and May 10, 2018, Williams's condition did not improve. On May 10, 2018, Williams died in her home in Aurora, Illinois.

         DISCUSSION

         Alaska Air argues that plaintiff has failed to allege facts that establish a prima facie case for personal jurisdiction over them. “Whether a forum's courts can bind defendants to their judgments depends on principles of due process.” Murray v. Cirrus Design Corp., 339 F.Supp.3d 783, 786 (N.D. Ill. 2018). “Those principles require that defendants ‘have certain minimum contacts with [the forum] such that . . . the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'" International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 66 S.Ct. 154, 158 (1945). When defendants have those minimum contacts, the forum's courts have personal jurisdiction. Id.

         Although a defendant's physical presence in the forum State is not required, there must exist sufficient minimum contacts such that the defendant “should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there.” Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 105 S.Ct. 2174, 2183 (1985) quoting World-Wide Volkswagen Corp., 100 S.Ct. 559, 567 (1980). The exercise of personal jurisdiction by a federal court sitting in diversity turns on the law of the forum state. Kipp v. Ski Enterprise Corp., 783 F.3d 695, 697 (7th Cir. 2015). Illinois's long-arm statute allows personal jurisdiction on any basis allowed by the United States Constitution, so "there is no operative difference between [the] two constitutional limits." Mobile Anesthesiologists Chicago, LLC v. Anesthesia Associates of Houston Metroplex, P.A., 623 F.3d 440, 443 (7th Cir. 2010) (citing 735 ILCS 5/2-209(c)). The question thus merges into "whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction would violate federal due process." Id. Under federal due process principles, personal jurisdiction comes in two types: general and specific. Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 2855 (2011). Plaintiff has the burden to show personal jurisdiction, but because there has been no evidentiary hearing, plaintiffs' showing need only be prima facie. Northern Grain Marketing., LLC v. Greving, 743 F.3d 487, 491-92 (7th Cir. 2014).

         Alaska Air argues that plaintiff has failed to establish general jurisdiction. Plaintiff counters that general jurisdiction exists because Alaska Air is “at home” in Illinois because of Alaska Air's daily, continuous, and substantial billion-dollar business activities in Illinois. “The paradigm all-purpose forums for general jurisdiction are a corporation's place of incorporation and principal place of business.” Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 2854 (2011); Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 760 (2014). In Daimler AG, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that general jurisdiction exists in any state in which a corporation “engages in a substantial, continuous, and systematic course of business.” Daimler AG, 134 S.Ct. at 761. The Court instead held that general jurisdiction exists only where the defendant is “fairly regarded at home, ” and for a corporation, “the place of incorporation and the principal place of business are paradigm bases for general jurisdiction.” Id. at 760. “Those affiliations have the virtue of being unique - this is, each ordinarily indicates one place - as well as easily ascertainable.” Id. Although the Court recognized there may be a rare situation where a corporation is subject to general jurisdiction in a state other than the state of its incorporation or principal place of business, it stated that it would have to be an “exceptional case.” Id. at 761 n. 19.

         The correct inquiry for general jurisdiction “is not whether a foreign corporation's in-forum contacts can be said to be in some sense continuous and systematic, it is whether that corporation's affiliations with the State are so continuous and systematic as to render [it] essentially ‘at home' in the forum State.” Id. at 761. In rejecting the notion that a corporation is subject to general jurisdiction “in every State in which a corporation engages in a substantial, continuous, and systematic course of business, ” the Court held that such a standard would be “unacceptably grasping, ” because “[a] corporation that operates in many places can scarcely be deemed at home in all of them. Id. at 761, 762 n. 20. Thus, the standard for general jurisdiction is a high one.

         In the instant case, Illinois is neither the state of incorporation nor the principal place of business of Alaska Air. Specifically, Alaska Group is a Delaware corporation and has its principal place of business in Seattle, Washington. Alaska Airlines is an Alaskan corporation and also has its principal place of business in Seattle, Washington. As Daimler AG makes clear, because Illinois is neither the place of incorporation nor the principal place of business of Alaska Air, general jurisdiction over Alaska Air would require this to be an exceptional case. Plaintiff presents no unique facts before this court that support such an exceptional conclusion. Rather, Alaska Air's limited business activities in Illinois actually support the opposite conclusion: that Alaska Air is not “at home” in Illinois. Just because plaintiff alleges that Alaska Airlines operates many, if not hundreds, of flights to and from O'Hare, advertises in Chicago, and maintains offices at O'Hare, this does rise to Alaska Air being “at home” in Illinois.

         Alaska Airlines cannot be deemed “at home” in every state that in which it operates, especially because Alaska Airlines also provides air services to more than 100 destinations world-wide, and more than ninety-seven percent of Alaska Airlines' scheduled air services occur outside of Illinois. Further, more than ninety-seven percent of Alaska Airlines' revenue is generated outside of Illinois, more than ninety nine percent of Alaska Airlines' employees work outside of Illinois, and more than ninety-seven percent of Alaska Airlines' advertising occurs outside of Illinois.[2] Contrary to plaintiff's position, the same allegations regarding Alaska Air's activities in Illinois would apply to any other state where Alaska Air provides air services. Consequently, Alaska is not “at home” in Illinois.

         Plaintiff next argues that even if Alaska Air is not subject to general personal jurisdiction in Illinois, they are subject to specific personal jurisdiction. Plaintiff's complaint alleges that specific jurisdiction exists over Alaska Air because Williams' injury was related to Alaska Airs' extensive Illinois business activities. Additionally, plaintiff's complaint alleges that Williams would have never been on the Alaska Airlines' plane had Alaska Airlines not arranged flights into Illinois, not allowed for the purchase of online tickets, and not paid the City of Chicago for the right to operate out of O'Hare. In ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.