Vumbaca v. Terminal One Grp. Ass'n L.P., No. 11–CV–5535.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
Writing for the CourtJACK B. WEINSTEIN
Citation859 F.Supp.2d 343
PartiesVivian VUMBACA, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff, v. TERMINAL ONE GROUP ASSOCIATION L.P., Defendant.
Docket NumberNo. 11–CV–5535.
Decision Date20 April 2012

859 F.Supp.2d 343

Vivian VUMBACA, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
TERMINAL ONE GROUP ASSOCIATION L.P., Defendant.

No. 11–CV–5535.

United States District Court,
E.D. New York.

April 20, 2012.


[859 F.Supp.2d 351]


Thatcher A. Stone, New York, NY, Timothy N. Mathews, Steven A. Schwartz Chimicles & Tikellis, Haverford, PA, for the plaintiff.

Michael J. Holland, Marissa Nicole Lefland, Condon & Forsyth, LLP, New York, NY, for the defendant.


MEMORANDUM, ORDER, & JUDGMENT

JACK B. WEINSTEIN, Senior District Judge:
+---------------------------------------------------+
                ¦I. ¦Introduction and Synopsis ¦351 ¦
                +---+------------------------------------------+----¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦
                +---+------------------------------------------+----¦
                ¦II.¦Facts ¦353 ¦
                +---------------------------------------------------+
                
+------------------------------------------------------------------+
                ¦ ¦A. ¦Parties ¦353 ¦
                +----+---+--------------------------------------------------+------¦
                ¦ ¦B. ¦Terminal's Contractual Rights and Responsibilities¦354 ¦
                +----+---+--------------------------------------------------+------¦
                ¦ ¦C. ¦Terminal's Snow Plan ¦354 ¦
                +----+---+--------------------------------------------------+------¦
                ¦ ¦D. ¦Snowstorm of December 2010 ¦355 ¦
                +----+---+--------------------------------------------------+------¦
                ¦ ¦E. ¦Understaffing ¦355 ¦
                +----+---+--------------------------------------------------+------¦
                ¦ ¦F. ¦Failure to Warn ¦356 ¦
                +----+---+--------------------------------------------------+------¦
                ¦ ¦G. ¦Trapped Passengers ¦357 ¦
                +----+---+--------------------------------------------------+------¦
                ¦ ¦H. ¦Conditions at Other Facilities ¦358 ¦
                +------------------------------------------------------------------+
                
+----------------------------------------------------+
                ¦ ¦ ¦1.¦International at JFK ¦358 ¦
                +---+---+--+------------------------------------+----¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦2.¦Domestic at JFK ¦358 ¦
                +---+---+--+------------------------------------+----¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦3.¦Nearby Airports ¦359 ¦
                +----------------------------------------------------+
                
+------------------------------------------+
                ¦ ¦I.¦Effect of Incident on Plaintiff¦359 ¦
                +------------------------------------------+
                
+--------------------------------------------------------------------+
                ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦
                +----+--------------------------------------------------------+------¦
                ¦III.¦Jurisdiction ¦359 ¦
                +----+--------------------------------------------------------+------¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦
                +----+--------------------------------------------------------+------¦
                ¦IV. ¦Summary Judgment Standard ¦360 ¦
                +----+--------------------------------------------------------+------¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦
                +----+--------------------------------------------------------+------¦
                ¦V. ¦Choice of Law ¦360 ¦
                +----+--------------------------------------------------------+------¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦
                +----+--------------------------------------------------------+------¦
                ¦VI. ¦International Law ¦361 ¦
                +--------------------------------------------------------------------+
                
+-----------------------------------------------------------------------------+
                ¦ ¦A. ¦Montreal Convention Preempts Claims Against Carriers and ¦361 ¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦Their Agents ¦ ¦
                +----+----+-----------------------------------------------------------+-------¦
                ¦ ¦B. ¦Terminal is an Agent of Air Carriers ¦363 ¦
                +----+----+-----------------------------------------------------------+-------¦
                ¦ ¦C. ¦Articles 17 and 19 Do Not Permit Claims for Emotional and ¦364 ¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦Dignitary Harm ¦ ¦
                +-----------------------------------------------------------------------------+
                
+----------------------------------------------------+
                ¦ ¦ ¦1.¦Article 17 ¦364 ¦
                +---+---+--+------------------------------------+----¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦2.¦Article 19 ¦366 ¦
                +----------------------------------------------------+
                
+------------------------------------------+
                ¦ ¦D.¦No Recovery Under Convention ¦368 ¦
                +------------------------------------------+
                
+--------------------------------------------------------------------+
                ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦
                +----+--------------------------------------------------------+------¦
                ¦VII.¦New York State Law ¦368 ¦
                +--------------------------------------------------------------------+
                
+------------------------------------------+
                ¦ ¦A.¦Negligence ¦368 ¦
                +------------------------------------------+
                
+----------------------------------------------------+
                ¦ ¦ ¦1.¦Standard ¦369 ¦
                +---+---+--+------------------------------------+----¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦2.¦Terminal Had a Duty to Plaintiff ¦369 ¦
                +---+---+--+------------------------------------+----¦
                ¦ ¦ ¦3.¦Liability for Emotional Distress ¦372 ¦
                +----------------------------------------------------+
                
+----------------------------------------------------------+
                ¦ ¦B. ¦Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress¦377 ¦
                +---+---+--------------------------------------------+-----¦
                ¦ ¦C. ¦False Imprisonment ¦378 ¦
                +---+---+--------------------------------------------+-----¦
                ¦ ¦D. ¦No Recovery Under New York Law ¦381 ¦
                +----------------------------------------------------------+
                
+-----------------------------------------------------------------------------+
                ¦ ¦ ¦ ¦
                +-----+---------------------------------------------------------------+-------¦
                ¦VIII.¦Conclusion ¦381 ¦
                +-----------------------------------------------------------------------------+
                

I. Introduction and Synopsis

Plaintiff alleges that she was kept locked in an aircraft on the ground without food, water, or adequate sanitary facilities for seven hours, suffering mental distress. Hers is a most appealing case. Yet the law can only give her sympathy, not monetary

[859 F.Supp.2d 352]

compensation. An international treaty and New York law bar recovery.

From December 26th to 27th, 2010, during the height of the holiday travel season, the New York metropolitan area was—somewhat unexpectedly—blanketed with over a foot of snow. John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) was closed to air traffic for the worst of the storm. When it reopened, there were continuing problems. Passengers on arriving flights were forced to endure substantial waits after landing before they were able to disembark. Difficulties appear to have been particularly severe at terminals serving international flights. The events sparked a federal investigation and new regulations that forbid foreign air carriers from permitting international flights to remain on the tarmac at a United States airport for more than four hours without allowing passengers to deplane. SeeEnhancing Airline Passenger Protections, 76 Fed.Reg. 23110, 23110 (Apr. 25, 2011) (extending existing regulations, which applied to domestic carriers, to foreign carriers).

Plaintiff Vivian Vumbaca was one of the stranded passengers. Trapped for most of the night aboard an Alitalia flight from Rome that had arrived at Terminal One, she was forced to endure, as she put it, “cramped, uncomfortable, malodorous conditions, without food, water and sanitation” for nearly seven hours. Pl.'s Mem. of Points and Authorities in Opp. to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. 1, Doc. Entry 22, Jan. 31, 2012 (“Pl.'s Summ. J. Mem.”). This resulted, according to her, in “severe emotional distress.” Compl. ¶ 19, Doc. Entry 1, Nov. 10, 2011 (“Compl.”).

She sued Terminal One Group Association, L.P. (TOGA), which operates Terminal One, and seeks to represent similarly situated passengers claiming emotional harms resulting from negligence, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. See generally Compl. She initially pled simple state law causes of action for negligence, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and prima facie tort (presumably under New York law). She now concedes that the prima facie tort claim should be dismissed. Pl.'s Summ. J. Mem. 22.

Defendant moves to dismiss all of plaintiffs claims on the ground that plaintiff failed to state a claim under New York law. Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim, Doc. Entry 12, Dec. 9, 2011.

At the court's direction, the motion directed at the pleadings was converted to one for summary judgment. Order, Doc. Entry 14, Dec. 20, 2011. Briefing was also ordered on the applicability and effect of the Montreal Convention, an international treaty governing the liability of air carriers and their agents. Order, Doc. Entry 33, Feb. 16, 2011; see The Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, May 28, 1999, reprinted inS. Treaty Doc. No. 106–45, 1999 WL 33292734 (2000) (“Montreal Convention”). Following a hearing, ordered were supplemental discovery and briefing on the issue of what, if any, harms plaintiff suffered. See Order, Doc. Entry. 41, Feb. 24, 2012.

Plaintiff initially only claimed tort damages under New York State law for “hunger, thirst, foul air, and the absence of sanitary facilities.” Compl. ¶ 19. After the court pointed out legal difficulties in her original claim due to her lack of physical injury, she sought, in effect, to amend her complaint through her brief. She now claims that the Montreal Convention permits her to recover for the harms initially alleged. She also says she is “entitled to recover, under the ... Montreal Convention, damages for: delay and inconvenience including economic losses ... [and] out-of-pocket losses for delay of baggage.”

[859 F.Supp.2d 353]

Pl.'s Mem. of L. Addressing Questions Raised by the Court As to Compensable Injury 1, Doc. Entry 45, Apr. 2, 2012 (“Pl.'s Injury Mem.”). She has not requested leave to add these new claims for delay of baggage and economic loss in an amended complaint.

Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, only “a short and plain statement of [the facts of] the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief is required, not legal analysis.” Plaintiff's original statement of the facts in her complaint supports her legal theory and claim for emotional and dignitary harms under the Convention. This new theory of relief will be considered.

There is no reason to permit plaintiff to go forward on her...

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41 practice notes
  • Berlin v. Jetblue Airways Corp., 18-CV-1545 (MKB) (LB)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • January 30, 2020
    ...is the only source of liability for [d]efendant."), aff'd , 578 F. App'x 51 (2d Cir. 2014) ; Vumbaca v. Terminal One Grp. Ass'n L.P. , 859 F. Supp. 2d 343, 362–63 (E.D.N.Y. 2012) ("The remedy the Convention provides against international air carriers and their agents is exclusive."); Montre......
  • Best Payphones, Inc. v. Dobrin, 01-CV-3934 (LDH) (ST)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • September 27, 2019
    ...omitted).310 Schoolcraft v. City of N.Y. , 103 F. Supp. 3d 465, 512 (S.D.N.Y. 2015) (quoting Vumbaca v. Terminal One Grp. Ass'n L.P. , 859 F. Supp. 2d 343, 380 (E.D.N.Y. 2012) ).311 See Nagle , 663 F.3d at 111 ; Cioffi , 444 F.3d at 168.312 Williams v. Regus Mgmt. Grp., LLC , 836 F. Supp. 2......
  • Kruger v. Virgin Atl. Airways, Ltd., No. 11–CV–2954 (NGG)(RER).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • September 30, 2013
    ...Id. at 81 (citing In re Koreag, Controle et Revision S.A., 961 F.2d 341, 350 (2d Cir.1992)); Vumbaca v. Terminal One Group Ass'n L.P., 859 F.Supp.2d 343, 360–61 (E.D.N.Y.2012). An interest analysis suggests two options for the law governing the contract, neither of which is New York law. Th......
  • Douyon v. N.Y. Med. Health Care, P.C., No. CV 10–3983(AKT).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • September 28, 2012
    ...was “subjected to fear of physical injury as a direct result of the tortious conduct.” See Vumbaca v. Terminal One Group Ass'n L.P., 859 F.Supp.2d 343, 375 (E.D.N.Y.2012) (citing Howard v. Lecher, 42 N.Y.2d 109, 397 N.Y.S.2d 363, 366 N.E.2d 64 (1977)). In the absence of fear of injury, the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
41 cases
  • Berlin v. Jetblue Airways Corp., 18-CV-1545 (MKB) (LB)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • January 30, 2020
    ...is the only source of liability for [d]efendant."), aff'd , 578 F. App'x 51 (2d Cir. 2014) ; Vumbaca v. Terminal One Grp. Ass'n L.P. , 859 F. Supp. 2d 343, 362–63 (E.D.N.Y. 2012) ("The remedy the Convention provides against international air carriers and their agents is exclusive."); Montre......
  • Best Payphones, Inc. v. Dobrin, 01-CV-3934 (LDH) (ST)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • September 27, 2019
    ...omitted).310 Schoolcraft v. City of N.Y. , 103 F. Supp. 3d 465, 512 (S.D.N.Y. 2015) (quoting Vumbaca v. Terminal One Grp. Ass'n L.P. , 859 F. Supp. 2d 343, 380 (E.D.N.Y. 2012) ).311 See Nagle , 663 F.3d at 111 ; Cioffi , 444 F.3d at 168.312 Williams v. Regus Mgmt. Grp., LLC , 836 F. Supp. 2......
  • Kruger v. Virgin Atl. Airways, Ltd., No. 11–CV–2954 (NGG)(RER).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • September 30, 2013
    ...Id. at 81 (citing In re Koreag, Controle et Revision S.A., 961 F.2d 341, 350 (2d Cir.1992)); Vumbaca v. Terminal One Group Ass'n L.P., 859 F.Supp.2d 343, 360–61 (E.D.N.Y.2012). An interest analysis suggests two options for the law governing the contract, neither of which is New York law. Th......
  • Douyon v. N.Y. Med. Health Care, P.C., No. CV 10–3983(AKT).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • September 28, 2012
    ...was “subjected to fear of physical injury as a direct result of the tortious conduct.” See Vumbaca v. Terminal One Group Ass'n L.P., 859 F.Supp.2d 343, 375 (E.D.N.Y.2012) (citing Howard v. Lecher, 42 N.Y.2d 109, 397 N.Y.S.2d 363, 366 N.E.2d 64 (1977)). In the absence of fear of injury, the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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