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DUCOMBS v. TWA

July 22, 1996

KATHERINE DUCOMBS, Plaintiff,
v.
TRANS WORLD AIRLINES, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SMITH

 ISSUE

 Trans World Airlines' ("TWA" or "defendant") motion for summary judgment requires the Court to determine whether plaintiff Katherine Ducombs' ("plaintiff") negligence complaint is preempted under the Federal Aviation Authority Authorization Act ("FAAAA"), 49 U.S.C. ยง 41713(b). For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that plaintiff's claims are not preempted and denies defendant's motion for summary judgment.

 BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff was a passenger aboard TWA flight 79 from Newark, New Jersey to St. Louis, Missouri on June 15, 1994. As the passengers were exiting and removing their carry-on items from the overhead compartment, a lap-top computer that was stored in the overhead compartment fell and struck plaintiff's head, causing her serious injury.

 Plaintiff filed suit against defendant alleging the following: (1) that defendant negligently operated and maintained TWA Flight No. 79 when it permitted a lap-top computer to be placed in the overhead compartment; and (2) that defendant was negligent in failing to take reasonable precautions to warn or protect plaintiff from a known, dangerous condition created by objects stored in overhead compartments.

 DISCUSSION

 I. Legal Standard

 A. Summary Judgment

 To withstand a motion for summary judgment, the opposing party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact in dispute. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). A dispute about a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). If the non-moving party fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial, "the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986).

 In opposing summary judgment, plaintiff is not entitled to rely on allegations in her complaint. She "must produce at least some significant probative evidence tending to support the complaint.'" T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987) (quoting First Nat'l Bank v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 290, 20 L. Ed. 2d 569, 88 S. Ct. 1575 (1968)).

 B. Preemption

 The general test for preemption is whether Congress intended that federal regulation supersede state law. Louisiana Public Serv. Comm'n v. Federal Communications Comm'n, 476 U.S. 355, 106 S. Ct. 1890, 1899, 90 L. Ed. 2d 369 (1986). "The task of statutory construction must in the first instance focus on the plain wording of the clause, which necessarily entails the best evidence of Congress' preemptive intent." CSX Transp., Inc. v. Easterwood 507 U.S. 658, 113 S. Ct. 1732, 1737, 123 L. Ed. 2d 387 (1993). The FAAAA provides that a state "may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of an air ...


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