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Robert Segalman v. Southwest Airlines Co

June 19, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge


Plaintiff Robert Segalman ("Plaintiff") initiated this action on July 8, 2011. Presently before the Court are Defendant Southwest Airline's ("Defendant") Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint ("Defendant's Motion") and Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint ("Plaintiff's Motion"). For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion is GRANTED and Defendant's Motion is DENIED as moot.*fn1


According to Plaintiff, who has Cerebral Palsy and can neither walk nor talk aloud, he has been injured on multiple occasions by Defendant airline's improper stowage and transport of his power wheelchair during the course of his various flights. For example, in one instance, Plaintiff arrived at his destination terminal to find his chair's seat belt broken. Plaintiff subsequently fell out of the chair and broke his shin in two places. On other occasions, Plaintiff's chair was returned to him with no power, so he was forced to utilize a manual wheelchair with the assistance of an attendant for extended periods of time. Accordingly, by way of his currently operative First Amended Complaint ("FAC"), Plaintiff alleges three causes of action against Defendant for: 1) violation of the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 ("ACAA"), 49 U.S.C. § 41705; 2) discriminatory practices in public accommodations, California Civil Code §§ 51, 52, 54, 54.1, 54.3; and 3) negligence.

Defendant has now moved to dismiss Plaintiff's FAC arguing first that Plaintiff's state law claims are preempted by the ACAA and, second, that Plaintiff has no private right of action under federal law. Plaintiff opposed Defendant's Motion and filed his own Motion seeking leave to amend. According to Plaintiff, "[w]hile it is true the ACAA preempts state law disability discrimination claims as to liability informing conduct and the standard of care as to negligence, it does not in every instance preempt state law remedies." Plaintiff's Opposition, 5:4-6 (emphasis in original).

Plaintiff thus "requests leave to amend to remove [those] allegations, to remove the ACAA claim and to add an ADA claim." Id., 5:8-9. Plaintiff nonetheless still argues that "dismissal of the state law remedies is improper." Id., 5:9-10.

For its part, Defendant opposes Plaintiff's Motion "because an amended pleading would be futile, and the complaint would be subject to dismissal." Defendant's Opposition, 2:12-13. More specifically, Defendant contends Plaintiff's state law claims as alleged in the proposed SAC, like those in the FAC, are still preempted by the ACAA and that airlines are excluded from the ADA's reach. Id., 2:13-18. For the following reasons, the Court rejects Defendant's arguments as premature and hereby GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion.


"The court should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires." Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). "This policy is to be applied with extreme liberality." Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1051 (internal citations and quotations omitted). Indeed, absent "undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant,...undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, [or] futility of the amendment...," leave to amend should be granted. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Eminence Capital, 316 F.3d at 1052 (listing the Foman factors as those to be considered when deciding whether to grant leave to amend).

Denying leave to amend is proper only if it is clear that "the complaint could not be saved by any amendment." Intri-Plex Techs., Inc. v. Crest Group, Inc., 499 F.3d 1048, 1056 (9th Cir. 2007) (internal citations and quotations omitted).

Having considered all of the above factors, the Court now holds that leave to amend is warranted. First, there is no evidence before the Court, nor does Defendant argue, that Plaintiff filed his instant Motion in bad faith or with a dilatory motive. In addition, the fact Plaintiff's claims are of great import not just to him but to the public further supports granting leave to amend here. Moreover, given that this litigation is in its infancy, Defendant will suffer no prejudice if Plaintiff is permitted to amend. Perhaps recognizing as much, Defendant's only argument in opposition to Plaintiff's Motion is that amendment would be futile. See Plaintiff's Opposition, 7:2-5. This Court is unwilling, however, to make that determination on less than a full record. Accordingly, for the reasons just stated, Plaintiff's Motion to Amend is GRANTED.


For the reasons just stated, Plaintiff's Motion to Amend (ECF No. 17) is GRANTED, and Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 16) is DENIED as moot. Plaintiff shall file his Second Amended Complaint not later than five (5) days ...

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