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Kalick v. Northwest Airlines Corp.

August 7, 2009

ANDREW P. KALICK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NORTHWEST AIRLINES CORPORATION & NORTHWEST AIRLINES, INC., DEFENDANTS.



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

HON. JEROME B. SIMANDLE

OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Andrew P. Kalick, proceeding pro se, filed this action against Defendants Northwest Airlines Corporation and Northwest Airlines, Inc. ("Northwest"), alleging that Northwest acted unlawfully when it oversold a flight for which Plaintiff had purchased a ticket, "bumped" Plaintiff from the flight, and failed to provide him with "a written statement explaining the terms, conditions, and limitations of denied boarding compensation" in accordance with Department of Transportation ("DOT") regulations. 14 C.F.R. § 250.9(a). Plaintiff asserts a claim pursuant to the DOT regulations, and also asserts common law claims for breach of contract and fraud, seeking $163,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment [Docket Item 24]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment as to Plaintiff's claim premised upon the DOT regulations (which do not give rise to a private cause right of action) and Plaintiff's claim for punitive damages (which is federally preempted by the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978). In addition, the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's remaining state law claims (which are held not to be federally preempted), and will dismiss such claims without prejudice to his right to pursue those claims in a court of competent jurisdiction.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

The facts underlying this dispute are as follows. On July 17, 2007, Plaintiff purchased from the website CheapTickets.com a round-trip ticket on Northwest Airlines between Kansas City, Missouri and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with a layover in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. (Kalick Dep. Ex. 1 at 1.) Plaintiff, who resides in Mt. Ephraim, New Jersey, planned to drive his brother's car from New Jersey to Kansas City, where his brother lives, on July 18, 2007, to leave the car with his brother in Kansas City, and to fly to Philadelphia from Kansas City on July 19, 2007. (Kalick Dep. at 4, 12, 15.)

After dropping off his brother's car at the Kansas City airport, Plaintiff arrived at the Northwest passenger check-in area at around 12:00 p.m., nearly two hours before the scheduled departure of his 1:50 p.m. flight. (Id. at 18; Kalick Dep. Ex. 1 at 1.) When Plaintiff reached the front of the line, the Northwest agent asked him what flight he was on, and when he informed her that he was traveling to Philadelphia with a layover in Minneapolis-St. Paul, the agent stated that "the flight is full" and that Northwest was "not able to put [him] on the flight." (Kalick Dep. at 23-24.) Without providing Plaintiff with a written statement on the DOT's regulations concerning the compensation of passengers bumped off of oversold flights, see 14 C.F.R. § 250.9, the Northwest agent advised Plaintiff that she had instead booked him on an American Airlines flight to Philadelphia with a layover in Dallas, which was scheduled to depart from Kansas City at 1:15 p.m.*fn1 (Kalick Dep. at 25.) The agent printed out an itinerary for the American Airlines flight and sent Plaintiff to the American Airlines ticket counter to check in. (Id.)

Plaintiff arrived at the American Airlines check-in area at 12:30 p.m. and went to the back of the line behind approximately twenty-five people. (Id. at 27.) By the time he reached the front of the line, it was 1:00 p.m., and the American Airlines ticket agent informed him that he would not be able to make the 1:15 p.m. flight; instead, she printed out a ticket for the next flight to Dallas, which was scheduled to depart at 2:40 p.m. (Id. at 31-32.) Plaintiff boarded the 2:40 p.m. flight, which arrived in Dallas at around 4:15 p.m., about five or ten minutes late. (Id. at 35.)

Although his flight from Dallas to Philadelphia was scheduled to depart at 4:55 p.m., see Note 1, supra, meaning that Plaintiff had forty minutes from the time of his arrival in Dallas to make his connection, Plaintiff missed his flight from Dallas to Philadelphia for reasons that are not entirely apparent from the record. (Kalick Dep. at 37-40.) Plaintiff spoke with multiple American Airlines employees, attempting to secure a later flight to Philadelphia, but, according to Plaintiff, these employees "gave [him] the cold shoulder." (Id. at 40.) Eventually, American Airlines booked Plaintiff on the flight to Philadelphia leaving at 6:40 a.m. the next morning. (Id. at 44.)

Plaintiff spoke with an American Airlines agent about receiving a voucher for a hotel room, but the agent denied his request. (Id. at 51.) While at the Dallas airport, Plaintiff had no contact with anyone from Northwest Airlines. (Id. at 52.) Plaintiff spent the evening in the airport, boarded the 6:40 a.m. flight to Philadelphia the following morning, and arrived in Philadelphia at approximately 11:00 a.m. on July 20, 2007. (Id. at 54.)

According to the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff wrote to Northwest CEO Douglas Steenland to "demand . . . compensation" for his experience. (Am. Compl. at 2.) Plaintiff was offered a travel voucher for $300, which he deemed "unacceptable." (Id.)

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed this action against Northwest on June 16, 2008 [Docket Item 1] and filed an Amended Complaint [Docket Item 4] shortly thereafter. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated DOT regulations concerning the compensation of passengers bumped from oversold flights, see 14 C.F.R. § 250.9, and asserts common law claims for breach of contract and fraud.

Following discovery, Defendants moved for summary judgment [Docket Item 24], arguing that Plaintiff had failed to adduce evidence sufficient to support any of his claims. In a Letter Order dated June 23, 2009, the Court wrote to the parties to request supplemental briefing on the "threshold issue . . . [of] whether the DOT regulations upon which Plaintiff's federal claim is based provide for a federal right of action." (Docket Item 28 at 1.) The Court further noted that "if no private right of action exists for Plaintiff's claim based upon the DOT's regulations (upon which Plaintiff asserts that federal question jurisdiction over this dispute ...


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