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BROWNSTEIN v. AMERICAN AIRLINES

November 7, 2005.

LEE BROWNSTEIN, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
AMERICAN AIRLINES, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOSEPH SPERO, Magistrate Judge

I. INTRODUCTION

On Friday, October 28, 2005, the following motions came on for hearing: 1) Motion to Dismiss by Defendant American Airlines, Inc. to [sic] Relevant Portions of Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint ("the Motion to Dismiss"); and 2) Motion to Strike by Defendant, American Airlines, Inc., to [sic] Relevant Portions of the First Amended Complaint for Damages by Plaintiffs, Lee and Lana Brownstein ("the Motion to Strike"). For the reasons stated below, the Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. The Motion to Strike is DENIED.

II. BACKGROUND

  A. Facts*fn1

  This action arises out of events that occurred on June 27, 2004, when Plaintiffs, Lee and Lana Brownstein, were scheduled to fly from New York — Kennedy International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport on American Airlines Flight 241. First Amended Complaint ("FAC") at 2, ¶¶ 5, 9.*fn2 When Plaintiffs boarded the plane and went to their assigned seats, they found that the third seat in the row of three was occupied by "an exceedingly large man whose bulk was too great for the single seat he had paid for" such that he occupied not only his own seat but also a "significant portion" of the seat next to him. Id. Plaintiffs asked the man to lower the armrest, but he refused to do so. Id. They sought assistance from the flight attendant but were "rebuffed." Id. The man then traded seats with a passenger in the row behind Plaintiffs, and Plaintiffs were able to take their seats. Id. After they had done so, however, an American Airlines employee approached Plaintiffs and told them that the gate agent had requested that they leave the aircraft. Id. Plaintiffs left the aircraft, at which point the gate agent called the police, who removed Plaintiffs from the terminal. Id.

  When Plaintiffs tried to re-book their flight, the same gate agent "blocked them." Id. Later in the day, however, another gate agent permitted Plaintiffs to book a flight to Long Beach Airport. Id. When Plaintiffs arrived in Long Beach, they had to take a taxi home as their car was parked at Los Angeles International Airport. Id. They also had to retrieve their car the next day, which "interfered with business meetings and other previously scheduled activities and created substantial inconvenience and anxiety" for Plaintiffs. Id.

  Plaintiff Lee Brownstein is a Platinum Member of American Airlines' frequent flyer program, which promises members "greater comfort, ease, security, speed check-in and transfer, improved baggage handling, extra service and attention during flights, upgrades, and other things" to make the airline more attractive to flyers. FAC at 4, ¶ 8.

  Plaintiffs do not know the identity of the various American Airlines employees involved in the incident but instead sue them as DOES 1-25. As to these Defendants, Plaintiffs make the following allegation:
Each defendant was the agent, coventurer and employee of each and every remaining defendant, and, in doing the things alleged in this complaint, each defendant was acting within the course and scope of that agency, joint venture and employment with the advance knowledge, acquiescence or subsequent ratification of each and every remaining defendant, such that each defendant is vicariously liable for the acts or omissions of each and every remaining defendant.
FAC at 2, ¶ 4.

  B. Procedural Background

  On June 8, 2005, Plaintiffs filed an action in the Superior Court for the County of Alameda. On August 19, 2005, Plaintiffs filed the First Amended Complaint. In the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs assert six claims: 1) Negligent and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress; 2) False Imprisonment; 3) Defamation; 4) Breach of Contract; 5) Violation of California's Unfair Competition Law, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 17200 et seq.; and 6) Remedies under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act. As part of Claim Five (Unfair Competition), Plaintiffs seek and award of attorneys' fees. In addition, in their prayer for relief, Plaintiffs seek general and punitive damages as well as attorneys' fees and costs.

  Defendant, American Airlines, removed the action to this Court on August 24, 2005, and subsequently filed the instant Motions.

  C. The Motions

  1. The Motion to Dismiss

  Defendant asserts that Plaintiffs fail to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as to Claim One (Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress); Claim Two (False Imprisonment); Claim Four (Breach of Contract); Claim Five (Unfair Competition); and Claim Six (Consumer Legal Remedies Act). With respect to Claim One, Defendant asserts that Plaintiffs fail to allege any conduct by Defendant that can be considered "outrageous," as is required under California law to prevail on this claim. As to Claim Two, Defendant argues that whether Plaintiffs were denied access to the aircraft, or even the entire terminal, this is not a sufficient violation of Plaintiffs' liberty to constitute false imprisonment under California law. Defendant argues that Claim Four, for Breach of Contract, fails because Plaintiffs have failed to attach the contract or set forth the relevant terms. Finally, Defendant challenges Claims Five and Six on the basis that they are preempted under the Airline Deregulation Act, 49 U.S.C. App. §§ 1301 et seq. In their Opposition, Plaintiffs assert that the conduct alleged is "outrageous" in light of the heightened duty of care owed by common carriers to their passengers. Plaintiffs reject Defendant's position that they were not falsely imprisoned, arguing that by preventing Plaintiffs from flying out of Kennedy Airport on an American flight they were sufficiently restrained to constitute false imprisonment. With respect to the Breach of Contract claim, Plaintiffs assert that they have adequately alleged a breach, even though they have not attached a contract or incorporated the terms of the contract, because the contract is part written and part implied. Plaintiffs note that although the ticket is evidence of the existence of a contract, it ...


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