Vinnick v. Delta Airlines, Inc., No. B143427.

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtArmstrong
Citation113 Cal.Rptr.2d 471,93 Cal.App.4th 859
PartiesArlene VINNICK, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. DELTA AIRLINES, INC., Defendant and Respondent.
Docket NumberNo. B143427.
Decision Date07 November 2001
113 Cal.Rptr.2d 471
93 Cal.App.4th 859
Arlene VINNICK, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
DELTA AIRLINES, INC., Defendant and Respondent.
No. B143427.
Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 5.
November 7, 2001.
Review Denied February 13, 2002.

[113 Cal.Rptr.2d 472]

[93 Cal.App.4th 860]

Magana, Cathcart & McCarthy, Richard L. Bisetti, Los Angeles, and Ann L. Mezzacappa, for Plaintiff and Appellant.

[93 Cal.App.4th 861]

Reily & Jeffery, David H. Reily, Janine K. Jeffery, Los Angeles; and Jeffrey J. Ellis, for Defendant and Respondent.

ARMSTRONG, J.


This case presents an issue concerning federal preemption of state negligence claims against airlines. More specifically, the claim at issue alleges injury related to the storage of baggage in an overhead bin. Similar questions have been litigated throughout the country, with various results. There is, for instance, a twenty-one page American Law Reports note entitled "Liability of Air Carrier for Injury to Passenger Caused by Fall of Object from Overhead Baggage Compartment." (Annot.(1995) 32 A.L.R.5th 1; see also Kelly, Federalism in Flight: Preemption Doctrine and Air Crash Litigation (2000) 28 Trans. L.J. 107.) After a review of the relevant statutes and case law, we conclude that the plaintiff and appellant here, Arlene Vinnick, can proceed on her negligence claim against respondent Delta Airlines, Inc. The judgment is thus reversed.

FACTS

Vinnick boarded a Delta plane at about 6:30 a.m. She took her seat, an aisle seat. She fell asleep, but woke when another passenger's soft-sided luggage hit her on the head. She sued Delta and the other passenger, Karen Ballard, for negligence, alleging that they "negligently placed, stored and stowed and allowed to be placed, stored and stowed luggage in the overhead compartment, and said luggage fell upon plaintiff."1

As to Delta, Vinnick alleged a breach of California's common carrier standard of care under Civil Code section 2100.2 Delta moved for summary judgment on the

113 Cal.Rptr.2d 473

ground that there was no evidence that it had violated that standard of care, that the state standard did not apply because the matter was preempted by federal law, and that Vinnick had not alleged a breach of the federal standard of care.

At summary judgment, both parties submitted Ballard's deposition testimony describing the accident. Ballard was a stand-by passenger. She got on the plane with a book bag, which she was told could go under her seat, and

93 Cal.App.4th 862

a carry-on bag. She looked for overhead storage for her carry-on bag. As she opened the door of an overhead bin, a bag in that bin began to fall out. She reached up to prevent that bag from falling, and her own bag, which she was holding at about head-height, slipped and made contact with Vinnick. Ballard was then able to put her bag in the overhead compartment, where it fit without difficulty. She did not ask a flight attendant for assistance at any time during the flight.

In addition to the facts just described, Delta proposed as undisputed that Ballard's carry-on bag was within the size and weight limitations for carry-on baggage. That proposed fact was supported by Ballard's testimony regarding the bag's weight, and by a portion of her deposition in which counsel measured the bag and determined that it was 15 inches wide, 12¾ inches tall, and 6-¼ inches thick. These facts were also supported by the declaration of Gary Corn, Delta's Manager of Airport Passenger Services at Los Angeles International Airport, and portions of the Delta Standard Practice Manual, which generally hold that Delta employees should size carry-on baggage to ensure that no bag is larger than the "Size Wise" box, which measures 24 by 16 by 10 inches, and that carry-on bags may weigh no more than 40 pounds each.

Vinnick proposed as undisputed that Delta was a common carrier subject to Civil Code section 2100, and that Delta's own guidelines imposed a duty of care for ensuring the proper storage of all carry-on baggage. She based that fact on another portion of Delta's Standard Practice Manual, headed "Proper Stowage of Carry On Baggage and Cargo in the Cabin." In pertinent part, it reads: "The [flight crew] is responsible for ensuring the proper stowage of all carry-on baggage."3

The trial court found that Delta was entitled to summary judgment because the field of airline safety was preempted by federal law, and because Vinnick failed to allege the correct federal standard of care or to introduce evidence of a violation of that standard.

93 Cal.App.4th 863
DISCUSSION

Preemption

"Under the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution (art. VI, cl.2), federal law preempts state law where Congress so intends. (Fidelity Federal Sav. & Loan Assn. v. de la Cuesta (1982) 458 U.S. 141, 153 [102 S.Ct. 3014, 3022, 73 L.Ed.2d 664, 675]....) Since M'Culloch v. State of Maryland (1819) 17 U.S. (4

113 Cal.Rptr.2d 474

Wheat) 316 [4 L.Ed. 579], the United States Supreme Court has consistently held that federal preemption of state laws requires a clear congressional intent. Thus, preemption exists only where there is a `"clear and manifest purpose of Congress"' to foreclose a particular field to state legislation. (Jones v. Rath Packing Co. (1977) 430 U.S. 519, 525 [97 S.Ct. 1305, 51 L.Ed.2d 604], quoting Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp. (1947) 331 U.S. 218, 230 [67 S.Ct. 1146, 1152, 91 L.Ed. 1447, 1459].)" (Fenning v. Glenfed, Inc. (1995) 40 Cal. App.4th 1285, 1290-1291, 47 Cal.Rptr.2d 715.) "Courts are reluctant to infer preemption, and it is the burden of the party claiming that Congress intended to preempt state law to prove it." (Elsworth v. Beech Aircraft Corp. (1984) 37 Cal.3d 540, 548, 208 Cal.Rptr. 874, 691 P.2d 630.) A preemption analysis begins with the presumption that federal statutes do not supersede the historic police powers of the state unless Congress has manifested a clear intent to do so. (Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc. (1992) 505 U.S. 504, 516, 112 S.Ct. 2608, 2617, 120 L.Ed.2d 407.)4 We do not believe Delta carried its burden here.

We begin our analysis with an examination of the relevant federal statute and the two United States Supreme Court cases on which the jurisprudence in this area depends, Morales v. Trans World Airlines, Inc. (1992) 504 U.S. 374, 112 S.Ct. 2031, 119 L.Ed.2d 157 and American Airlines, Inc. v. Wolens (1995) 513 U.S. 219, 115 S.Ct. 817, 130 L.Ed.2d 715.

93 Cal.App.4th 864

The federal statute

The United States Supreme Court has explained that "Until 1978, the Federal Aviation Act of 1958(FAA), 72 Stat. 731, as amended, 49 U.S.C.App. § 1301 et seq. (1988 ed. and Supp. V), empowered the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) to regulate the interstate airline industry. Although the FAA, pre-1978, authorized the Board both to regulate fares and to take administrative action against deceptive trade practices, the federal legislation originally contained no clause preempting state regulation. And from the start, the FAA has contained a `saving clause,' § 1106, 49 U.S.C.App. § 1506, stating: `Nothing ... in this chapter shall in any way abridge or alter the remedies now existing at common law or by statute, but the provisions of this chapter are in addition to such remedies.' [¶] In 1978, Congress enacted the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA), 92 Stat. 1705, which largely deregulated domestic air transport. `To ensure that the States would not undo federal deregulation with regulation of their own,' Morales v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., [supra,] 504 U.S. 374, 378 [112 S.Ct. 2031, 119 L.Ed.2d 157] (1992), the ADA included a preemption clause which read in relevant part: [¶] `[N]o State ... shall enact or enforce any law, rule, regulation, standard, or other provision having the force and effect of

113 Cal.Rptr.2d 475

law relating to rates, routes, or services of any air carrier....' 49 U.S.C.App. § 1305(a)(1)." (American Airlines, Inc. v. Wolens, supra, 513 U.S. 219, 222-223, 115 S.Ct. 817, 130 L.Ed.2d 715, fn. omitted.)

"The ADA also contains a savings clause which provides that `[a] remedy under this part is in addition to any other remedies provided by law.' 49 U.S.C. § 40120(c). This provision is a re-codification of FAA § 1506, which provided that `"[n]othing ... in this chapter shall in any way abridge or alter the remedies now existing at common law or by statute, but the provisions of this chapter are in addition to such remedies."` [Citations.]" (Lewis v. Continental Airlines, Inc. (S.D.Tex.1999) 40 F.Supp.2d 406, 410.) The United States Supreme Court has described this clause as a "general saving clause," which is "a relic of the pre-ADA/no pre-emption regime," and which cannot supersede the specific substantive preemption provision. (Morales v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., supra, 504 U.S. at p. 385, 112 S.Ct. 2031, see Hodges v. Delta Airlines, Inc. (5th Cir.1995) 44 F.3d 334, 337 fn. 7 [Morales accounted the savings clause "of marginal significance"].)

Morales and Wolens

The federal cases relevant to the issue before us depend on two United States Supreme Court cases which considered preemption under these statutes, Morales v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., supra, 504 U.S. 374, 112 S.Ct. 2031, 119 L.Ed.2d 157 ("Morales") and American Airlines, Inc. v. Wolens, supra, 513 U.S. 219, 115 S.Ct. 817,130 L.Ed.2d 715.

93 Cal.App.4th 865

In Morales, the airline industry sought to enjoin state attorneys general from enforcing guidelines adopted by the National Association of Attorneys General, purporting to govern airline fare advertising. The opinion focused on the "relate to" language of the ADA's preemption clause. Reasoning from both the ordinary meaning and from case law interpreting similar language in the ERISA preemption clause, the Court found that "the words thus express a broad pre-emptive purpose" (id. at p. 383, 112 S.Ct. 2031), and that the proposed state enforcement actions "related to" fares and were preempted.5 Importantly, the...

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5 practice notes
  • Fitz-Gerald v. Skywest Airlines, Inc., No. B187795.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 19, 2007
    ...and effect of law related to a price, route, or service" of an air carrier. (Ibid.; see Vinnick v. Delta Airlines, Inc. (2001) 93 Cal.App.4th 859, 864, 113 Cal. Rptr.2d 471.) In two cases the United States Supreme Court has held that claims under a state unfair business practices statu......
  • Aquino v. Asiana Airlines, No. A098122.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 31, 2003
    ...at page 1261, has since overruled Harris on this point. The Second District Court of Appeal in Vinnick v. Delta Airlines, Inc. (2001) 93 Cal. App.4th 859, 113 Cal.Rptr.2d 471, again found a state law tort claim not preempted by the Act. There, a passenger who had been injured by luggage fal......
  • Fitz-Gerald v. Skywest Airlines, Inc., 2d Civil No. B187795 (Cal. App. 9/19/2007), 2d Civil No. B187795
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 19, 2007
    ...and effect of law related to a price, route, or service" of an air carrier. (Ibid.; see Vinnick v. Delta Airlines, Inc. (2001) 93 Cal.App.4th 859, 864.) In two cases the United States Supreme Court has held that claims under a state unfair business practices statute are preempted by th......
  • Ahmadi v. United Cont'l Holdings, Inc., 1:14-cv-00264 LJO JLT
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • August 10, 2015
    ...World Airlines, 937 F. Supp. 897, 902 (N.D. Cal. 1996) (only addressed express preemption by ADA); Vinnick v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 93 Cal. App. 4th 859, 871 (2001) (same); Smith v. Am. Airlines, Inc., No. C 09-02903 WHA, 2009 WL 3072449, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 22, 2009) (negligence claims ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • Fitz-Gerald v. Skywest Airlines, Inc., No. B187795.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 19, 2007
    ...force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service" of an air carrier. (Ibid.; see Vinnick v. Delta Airlines, Inc. (2001) 93 Cal.App.4th 859, 864, 113 Cal. Rptr.2d 471.) In two cases the United States Supreme Court has held that claims under a state unfair business practices stat......
  • Aquino v. Asiana Airlines, No. A098122.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 31, 2003
    ...at page 1261, has since overruled Harris on this point. The Second District Court of Appeal in Vinnick v. Delta Airlines, Inc. (2001) 93 Cal. App.4th 859, 113 Cal.Rptr.2d 471, again found a state law tort claim not preempted by the Act. There, a passenger who had been injured by luggage fal......
  • Fitz-Gerald v. Skywest Airlines, Inc., 2d Civil No. B187795 (Cal. App. 9/19/2007), 2d Civil No. B187795
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 19, 2007
    ...force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service" of an air carrier. (Ibid.; see Vinnick v. Delta Airlines, Inc. (2001) 93 Cal.App.4th 859, 864.) In two cases the United States Supreme Court has held that claims under a state unfair business practices statute are preempted by t......
  • Ahmadi v. United Cont'l Holdings, Inc., 1:14-cv-00264 LJO JLT
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • August 10, 2015
    ...World Airlines, 937 F. Supp. 897, 902 (N.D. Cal. 1996) (only addressed express preemption by ADA); Vinnick v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 93 Cal. App. 4th 859, 871 (2001) (same); Smith v. Am. Airlines, Inc., No. C 09-02903 WHA, 2009 WL 3072449, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 22, 2009) (negligence claims ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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