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Dilldine v. American Airlines Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division, Dayton

June 19, 2019

AMERICAN AIRLINES, INC., et al., Defendants.

          Thomas M. Rose District Judge.


          Sharon L. Ovington United States Magistrate Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Andrew I. Dilldine flew from Dayton, Ohio to North Carolina on a regional jet operated by Defendant PSA Airlines, Inc. Defendant PSA is a wholly owned subsidiary of Defendant American Airlines, Inc. Dilldine's flight did not go well. Defendants allegedly damaged his personal property-including his medications-and allegedly caused him serious and permanent personal injury that required hospitalization.

         Dilldine's Complaint advances two claims: negligence and breach of a contract of carriage. Notably, his negligence claim rests on his assertion that Defendants “owed specific duties to [him] from the Air Carrier Access Act…, ” and related regulations. (Doc. #2, PageID #31, ¶15).

         Defendants contend-and Dilldine disagrees-that dismissal of Dilldine's claims is warranted under Fed R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).

         II. Rule 12(b)(6) [2]

         Dismissal of a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate when it “lacks ‘sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Brent v. Wayne Cnty. Dep't of Human Services, 901 F.3d 656, 675-76 (6th Cir. 2018) (quoting Marie v. Am. Red Cross, 771 F.3d 344, 361 (6th Cir. 2014) (citation omitted). Facial plausibility is present if the moving party “pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678.

         Generally, where “matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, ” a Rule 12(b)(6) motion must be converted to a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d). Yet in limited situations, the Court may take into account materials outside the complaint such as public records, exhibits attached to the complaint or to a defendant's motion to dismiss, and “items appearing in the record of the case ….” Bassett v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 528 F.3d 426, 430 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing Amini v. Oberlin Coll., 259 F.3d 493, 502 (6th Cir. 2001)). This extra-pleading study is permissible-and conversion to summary-judgment is unnecessary-when public records, exhibits, or other items are “referred to in the Complaint and are central to the claims contained therein.” Id.

         Defendants have attached to their Rule 12(b)(6) Motion a document referred to as “the American Airlines Conditions of Carriage …” that was in effect on the date (May 4, 2017) Dilldine flew to North Caroline with his ill-fated medications. (Doc. #12, PageID #102, ¶2). The Complaint refers to this document, and the parties agree that it is central to Dilldine's claim for breach of contract of carriage. (Doc. #12, PageID #86; Doc. #13, PageID #153). It is therefore proper to consider it as part of Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) Motion without converting it into a motion for summary judgment. See Bassett, 528 F.3d at 430.

         Because Defendants seek dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court accepts as true the Complaint's factual allegations, construes the Complaint in Dilldine's favor, and draws all reasonable inferences in his favor. Bickerstaff v. Lucarelli, 830 F.3d 388, 396 (6th Cir. 2016). Reading his Complaint in the above manner and considering its attached documents reveals the following.

         III. Dilldine's Complaint

         Dilldine purchased a ticket for an American Airlines flight that departed on May 4, 2017 from Dayton International Airport and traveled to Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina. He boarded his flight with his “life sustaining assistive devices, specifically multiple sterile Total Parenteral Nutrition bags, and multiple vials of liquid vitamins and other medications [], all of which are medications essential to [his] ability to function and receive nourishment.” (Doc. #2, PageID #30). The Complaint does not identify Dilldine's medical problems. Defendants state that he “is a severely immunocompromised cancer patient who, at the time of his flight, had only recently been discharged from the hospital after a serious bout of pancreatitis.” (Doc. #15, PageID #169).

         Dilldine stored his medication and ice packs in a clean cooler that complied with the size and weight restrictions for carry-on items. His medication cooler was also secured in compliance with the procedures mandated by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)-it was marked as “medical supplies” and had been inspected by TSA and taped shut. (Doc. #2, PageID #s 30-31).

         Despite taking these steps, Dilldine encountered a problem when he reached the boarding gate: An American Airlines or PSA employee told him that his cooler would not fit in the aircraft's overhead compartments “and would have to be checked.” Id. at 31. Dilldine informed the employee that he was disabled and that his cooler contained life-sustaining assistive devices and needed to be kept clean and cold. Dilldine followed the employee's instructions. The employee tagged his cooler, and he watched other American Airlines and PSA employees load the cooler onto the aircraft. This solved the immediate problem about where to store Plaintiff's cooler and medication. But another problem soon arose.

         Upon Dilldine's arrival in North Carolina, his cooler was empty. It had been “manually opened and/or unzipped, the tape removed, the plastic bags were missing.” Id. at 31. Most significantly, his “multiple bags and vials of Medication and ice packs were strewn throughout the baggage storage area of the aircraft, baggage cart, and/or on the unloading equipment, such that they were not maintained in a cold, sterile environment and were contaminated.” Id.

         The haphazard storage of the cooler and its contents-and the resulting contamination of Dilldine's medication-caused him to “sustain[ ] property damage and severe personal injuries, including a severe infection requiring hospitalization….” Id. He consequently “incurred medical expenses, physical pain, and mental anguish.” Id.

         IV. Discussion

         A. ...

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