Delta Airlines v. Cook

Decision Date19 October 2004
Docket NumberNo. 49A02-0401-CV-77.,49A02-0401-CV-77.
PartiesDELTA AIRLINES, Atlantic Coast Airlines, Globe Security Services, Inc., Appellants and Cross-Appellees, v. Bryan L. COOK and Jennifer L. Cook, Appellees and Cross-Appellants.
CourtIndiana Appellate Court

Bruce L. Kamplain, Joseph P. Maguire, Norris Choplin and Schroeder, Indianapolis, IN, Attorneys for Appellant.

Bryan L. Cook, Jennifer L. Cook, Indianapolis, IN, pro se.

John D. Papageorge, Sommer Barnard Ackerson, Indianapolis, IN, Attorney for Cross-Appellee.

OPINION

NAJAM, Judge.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

Bryan Cook and Jennifer Cook filed a complaint against Atlantic Coast Airlines ("ACA"), Delta Airlines ("Delta"), and Globe Security Services, Inc. ("Globe")1 (collectively "the Defendants"), alleging negligent infliction of emotional distress and breach of contract. ACA appeals the trial court's partial denial of its motion for summary judgment and presents the following issues for our review:

1. Whether the Cooks' claims are preempted by federal law.
2. Whether the trial court erred when it concluded that the Cooks have stated a claim upon which relief can be granted.
3. Whether the trial court erred when it concluded that the Cooks' appeal of the Small Claims Court's decision was timely.
4. Whether the trial court abused its discretion when it granted the Cooks' motion to compel discovery.

The Cooks cross-appeal and present the following issues for our review:

1. Whether the trial court erred when it concluded that neither Delta nor ACA breached their contracts with the Cooks.
2. Whether the trial court erred when it entered summary judgment in favor of Delta on the Cooks' negligence claims.

We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On February 8, 2002, the Cooks arrived at the Indianapolis International Airport and proceeded to the designated gate for Delta flight number 6116, which was a direct flight to New York City operated by ACA.2 As the Cooks sat at the gate, waiting to board the plane, Mr. Cook observed a man run towards the gate and stop abruptly. That man, later identified as Frederic Girard, a French national traveling alone, then obtained a cash refund for one of the two tickets he had purchased for flight number 6116. Girard "exhibited erratic behavior," such as shifting from one foot to another and "constantly taking off his sunglasses and jacket and putting them back on." Appellant's App. at 593. In addition, Girard's eyes were red, bloodshot, and glassy, and his face was red. Mr. Cook believed that Girard was either intoxicated or mentally unfit.

Girard was the last passenger to board the plane prior to departure, and he "was unruly in the manner in which he boarded." Id. at 594. Girard "ran quickly and jumped up the steps leading into the plane like a gymnast. He sprung [i]nto the plane and attempt[ed] to s[i]t in a seat nearest the cockpit. He was ordered to the back of the plane by ... [flight attendant] Mark Dickerhoff[.]" Id. Girard's boarding pass indicated that he was to sit in the eighth row, but Dickerhoff instructed him to sit in the last row, row twelve. Prior to take-off, Girard's erratic behavior continued, and he pressed the attendant call button and light switch above his head repeatedly. Also prior to take-off, Mr. Cook approached Dickerhoff and expressed his concern that Girard was a "security threat." Id. Dickerhoff told Mr. Cook that Girard was a "possible security threat" and that he had ordered Girard to sit in the rear of the plane "so he could keep an eye on him." Id.

As the plane taxied towards the runway, Girard disregarded Dickerhoff's instructions to remain seated with his seatbelt fastened. Then, after take-off, Girard lit a cigarette, despite having been warned that smoking was prohibited on board. Dickerhoff instructed Girard to extinguish his cigarette, but Girard retained his cigarettes and lighter. At that point, Mr. Cook approached three male passengers on board and asked for their assistance in "protect[ing] the flight if [Girard's] behavior grew worse." Id. at 595. Girard's behavior "continued to be erratic, furtive, and unruly." Id. He began moving around the plane, sitting in different vacant seats. When Girard walked up the aisle towards the cockpit, Mr. Cook stood up in the aisle to block his way and instructed Girard to sit down. Girard complied, but he lit another cigarette once he was seated in the back row. Dickerhoff confronted Girard, telling him to extinguish the cigarette, and Girard demonstrated "even more aggressive behavior." Id. Girard stood up and began yelling "Get back! Get back!" Id.

Mr. Cook then enlisted the help of the other male passengers to help him block the aisle, and they approached Girard at the rear of the plane. Mr. Cook told Dickerhoff that he and the other men "were there to back him up." Id. at 595-96. When one of the passengers asked Girard to sit down, Girard responded by showing an "evil grin" and stomping his feet on the floor. Id. at 596. Girard then shouted, "Get back! World Trade Center! Americans! New York City!" Id. And Girard began muttering in French. Eventually, two Delta employees on board approached Girard and said something to him in French, which led to Girard taking his seat. The pilot diverted the flight to land in Cleveland, where police officers met the plane and arrested Girard. The flight then left Cleveland and flew to New York City as planned.

The Cooks filed a small claim in Marion County against ACA, Delta, and Globe, and the court entered judgment in favor of the Defendants. The Cooks then appealed to the Marion Superior Court3 and filed a complaint against the Defendants alleging negligent infliction of emotional distress and breach of contract. The Cooks maintained in relevant part that ACA and Delta were negligent in permitting Girard to board the flight despite his display of erratic behavior prior to boarding. The Cooks subsequently filed a motion to compel discovery, alleging that the Defendants had failed to produce a requested copy of the passenger manifest for the flight at issue. The trial court granted that motion.

ACA filed a motion for summary judgment alleging that it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law because: (1) the Cooks' claims are preempted by federal law; (2) their complaint is barred for failure to timely file their appeal with the Marion Superior Court; and (3) the Cooks are not entitled to damages under Indiana's modified impact rule. Delta and Globe also filed a joint motion for summary judgment alleging that they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law because: (1) the Cooks are not entitled to damages under Indiana's modified impact rule; (2) the undisputed evidence shows that there was no breach of contract; and (3) the undisputed evidence shows that Delta and ACA are not partners, as the Cooks alleged in their complaint.

Following a hearing, the trial court entered partial summary judgment in favor of each of the Defendants and denied their motions in part. In particular, the trial court concluded, as a matter of law, that neither Delta nor ACA breached any contract with the Cooks, that federal law does not preempt the Cooks' claims, that Delta is not liable to the Cooks on their negligence claims, and that the Cooks' claims are not precluded under Indiana's modified impact rule. This interlocutory appeal and cross-appeal ensued.

DISCUSSION AND DECISION
Standard of Review

When reviewing summary judgment, this court views the same matters and issues that were before the trial court and follows the same process. Estate of Taylor ex rel. Taylor v. Muncie Med. Investors, L.P., 727 N.E.2d 466, 469 (Ind.Ct.App.2000),trans. denied. We construe all facts and reasonable inferences to be drawn from those facts in favor of the non-moving party. Jesse v. American Cmty. Mut. Ins. Co., 725 N.E.2d 420, 423 (Ind.Ct.App.2000),trans. denied. Summary judgment is appropriate when the designated evidence demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Ind. Trial Rule 56(C). The purpose of summary judgment is to terminate litigation about which there can be no material factual dispute and which can be resolved as a matter of law. Zawistoski v. Gene B. Glick Co., Inc., 727 N.E.2d 790, 792 (Ind.Ct.App.2000).

We note that the trial court entered findings and conclusions in support of summary judgment. Although we are not bound by the trial court's findings and conclusions, they aid our review by providing reasons for the trial court's decision. See Ledbetter v. Ball Mem'l Hosp., 724 N.E.2d 1113, 1116 (Ind.Ct.App.2000),

trans. denied. If the trial court's entry of summary judgment can be sustained on any theory or basis in the record, we must affirm. Id.

Issue One: Federal Preemption

ACA first contends that the trial court erred when it concluded that the Cooks' claims are not preempted under federal law. In particular, ACA maintains that the claims are implicitly preempted under the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 ("the FAA") and explicitly preempted under the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 ("the ADA"). We cannot agree. As this is a case of first impression in Indiana, we look to other jurisdictions for guidance.

Article VI of the United States Constitution provides in relevant part that the laws of the United States "shall be the supreme Law of the Land; ... any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding." Consideration of issues arising under the Supremacy Clause "start[s] with the assumption that the historic police powers of the States [are] not to be superseded by ... Federal Act unless that [is] the clear and manifest purpose of Congress." McCartin McAuliffe Mechanical Contractor, Inc. v. Midwest Gas Storage, Inc., 685 N.E.2d 165, 168-69 (Ind.Ct.App.1997) (quoting Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp., 331 U.S....

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