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Kennedy v. American Airlines Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 14, 2018

ENVOY AIRLINES INC. and JOHN DOE 1-10, Defendants.



         This matter comes before the Court by way of four related motions: Defendant Envoy Airlines Inc.'s (hereinafter, “Envoy”) motion to dismiss the Third Amended Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) [Docket Item 28]; pro se Plaintiff William Henry Kennedy's (hereinafter, “Plaintiff”) motion to amend the Third Amended Complaint [Docket Item 29]; Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration of the Court's July 20, 2016 Order [Docket Item 43]; and Plaintiff's motion to add a party [Docket Item 44.] For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion will be granted and Plaintiff's motions will be denied. The Court finds as follows:

         1. Factual Background.[1]

         Plaintiff initially brought this action against Envoy, American Airlines Inc., and John Doe 1-10 (collectively, “Defendants”) after he was fired as a flight attendant for failing two on-the-job breathalyzer tests. [See generally Docket Items 1 & 9.] In the operative Third Amended Complaint, [2] Plaintiff avers that, on March 3, 2014, he accidentally overslept and reported late to work, “unshaven, unwashed and with his hair disheveled, with his hypertension setting in, coming in from the outside on one of the coldest days of the year.” [Third Amended Complaint, Docket Item 25 at ¶ 9.] Running through the airport and short of breath, Plaintiff was briefly stopped by TSA agents who performed a thorough search and questioned Plaintiff about his appearance. [Id. at ¶¶ 10-11.] Shortly thereafter, the TSA agents turned Plaintiff over to Breath Alcohol Technician Terry Fritz. [Id. at ¶ 11.]

         2. At 9:19 A.M. that morning, Ms. Fritz performed the first of two breathalyzer tests on Plaintiff, which reported he had a blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) of .135. [Id. at ¶ 13.] Fifteen minutes later, Ms. Fritz performed a confirmation test, which revealed a BAC of .083. [Id.] Ms. Fritz then wrote on a Department of Transportation form that Plaintiff “had impermissibly consumed alcohol in [a] breakroom for agents in the Pittsburg [sic] airport.” [Id. at ¶ 15.]

         3. After terminating Plaintiff's employment later that day, Envoy employee Ellyn Kravette offered Plaintiff two options: remain terminated indefinitely or enter Envoy's “rehabilitation facility.” [Id. at ¶¶ 15, 17.] Plaintiff states that he was “coerced” into choosing the second option because he “needed his job, ” “relied upon the free and low-cost flights he was able to take as his mother was from Guatemala, ” and “because [Kravette] demanded an immediate answer.” [Id. at ¶ 19.]

         4. Once admitted to the rehabilitation facility, Plaintiff claims he was forced into acknowledging he had an “alcohol problem” and to take “unnecessary, harmful pharmaceuticals.” [Id. at ¶ 18.] Due to alleged “medical issues” that arose while he was in treatment, Plaintiff left the facility early and did not complete the rehabilitation program. [Id.] Plaintiff alleges he was not offered an alternative treatment program, despite the fact that Envoy apparently had a “true alcohol rehabilitation facility [that] was reserved for pilots with alcoholism.” [Id.]

         5. On April 26, 2014, Ms. Kravette issued a “DOT non-compliance, ” thereby permanently terminating Plaintiff from his employment at Envoy. [Id.] In the aftermath of his discharge, Plaintiff applied for, but was initially denied, New York unemployment benefits. [Ex. A to Docket Item 25 at 3.] Plaintiff subsequently appealed the denial of unemployment benefits, which was granted by the Honorable Alison Ferrara of the New York State Labor Board Unemployment Hearing Department based upon concerns over the accuracy of the breathalyzer machine, and because the breathalyzer technician's testimony proved, by itself, “insufficient to establish” Plaintiff's intoxication for purposes of denying unemployment benefits.[3] [Id. at 5-6.] According to Plaintiff, he has been “able to collect a small amount of unemployment benefits.” [Docket Item 25 at ¶ 25.]

         6. Procedural Background.

         Defendants initially moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). [Docket Item 12.] On July 20, 2016, the Court granted Defendants' motion and dismissed all claims in the Second Amended Complaint against American Airlines Inc. with prejudice, Counts I, II, III, XIII, and XIV as to Envoy with prejudice, and Counts IV, V, VI, VIII, IX, X, XI, and XII as to Envoy without prejudice. [Docket Item 24.] In an accompanying twenty-six-page Opinion, the Court explained that Plaintiff was permitted to file a Third Amended Complaint within thirty (30) days provided that Plaintiff “take note of the claim elements and deficiencies outlined in this Opinion relative to Counts IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, and XII, and then to re-assert only those claims for which he can allege the necessary facts in support of each essential element.” [Item 23 at 25-26] (emphasis in original). Plaintiff timely filed a Third Amended Complaint, in which he alleged a single count of fraud [Docket Item 25], which Envoy moved to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) [Docket Item 28] and Plaintiff seeks to amend again pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). [Docket Item 29.]

         7. On December 29, 2016, Plaintiff requested that this case be stayed pending arbitration of his discharge from Envoy pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement. [Docket Item 36.] By Order of April 4, 2017 [Docket Item 37], the Court granted a temporary stay pending resolution of Plaintiff's grievance process through his former union, and ordered that Envoy's motion to dismiss [Docket Item 28] and Plaintiff's motion to amend the Third Amended Complaint [Docket Item 29] be administratively terminated pending the outcome of those administrative proceedings. On August 2, 2017, Plaintiff, in compliance with the Court's prior Order, filed a status report, which indicated that Plaintiff's union representative had informed him that his grievance could not proceed as long as the DOT considered him ineligible to perform safety-sensitive functions (i.e., he could not pursue arbitration until DOT overturned his status). [Ex. E to Docket Item 38 & Docket Item 40.] On August 21, 2017, the Court dissolved the stay and restored the case to active status. [Docket Item 41.] Plaintiff subsequently filed a motion for reconsideration of the Court's July 20, 2016 Order [Docket Item 43] and a motion to add parties to the Third Amended Complaint. [Docket Item 44.] The four pending motions are now ripe for decision and will be addressed by the Court in turn.

         8. Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration.

         Plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration of the Court's July 20, 2016 Order granting Defendants' motion to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint in its entirety and permitting Plaintiff to file a Third Amended Complaint to cure the deficiencies noted in the Court's Opinion. [Docket Item 43.] For the following reasons, Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration will be denied.

         9. First, Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration was not timely filed. Local Civil Rule 7.1(i) requires that any motion for reconsideration shall be served and filed within fourteen (14) days following entry of the Order on the motion at issue. Here, the time for seeking reconsideration expired on August 4, 2016, four months before this case was stayed. Plaintiff ultimately filed his motion on October 31, 2017, which was nearly sixteen (16) months after entry of the July 20, 2016 Order. Therefore, the Court finds that Plaintiff's motion can be denied on that ground ...

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