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Shapiro v. Lundhal

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 7, 2017

ERIC LUNDAHL, et al., Defendants.


          MARIA-ELENA JAMES United States Magistrate Judge.


         Defendant Eric Lundahl moves to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 12(b)(6). Plaintiff Lawrence Shapiro filed an Opposition (Dkt. No. 35) and Defendant filed a Reply (Dkt. No. 36). The Court finds this Motion is suitable for disposition without oral argument and vacates the July 13, 2017 hearing. See Civ. L.R. 7-1(b); Fed.R.Civ.P. 78. Having considered the parties' positions, the relevant legal authority, and the record in this case, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion for the following reasons.


         A. Dismissed Pleadings

         This action arises out of an airplane crash that occurred on November 5, 2014 in San Felipe, Mexico. Shapiro was traveling in a private plane piloted and owned by Lundahl; he alleges that Lundahl's actions and omissions caused the crash, resulting in catastrophic injuries to Plaintiff. The Court has twice held Shapiro failed to allege facts sufficient to show the existence of federal jurisdiction over his claims and dismissed the Original and First Amended Complaints on that basis.

         1. Original Complaint

         On November 4, 2016, Shapiro filed the original Complaint in this Court. He alleged three claims for violations of Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) regulations. See Compl., Dkt. No. 1. He named as defendants Lundahl, as well as a number of entities related to Baja Pirates.[1]Lundahl moved to dismiss the Complaint on the ground it failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See First MTD, Dkt. No. 6. The Court dismissed the Complaint, holding that the “FAA creates an extensive administrative scheme[, ] but the Ninth Circuit has concluded, repeatedly and without equivocation, that it does not create a private right of action.” First Order at 3 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted), Dkt. No. 25. The Court allowed Plaintiff to file an amended complaint. Id. at 4.

         2. First Amended Complaint

         Shapiro timely filed his First Amended Complaint (“FAC”), which Lundahl once more moved to dismiss. See FAC, Dkt. No. 26; Second MTD, Dkt. No. 27. Shapiro for the most part reasserted the allegations he had included in the Original Complaint, adding a few more details regarding the basis for his claims. See FAC. In relevant part, the FAC alleged Lundahl was negligent in deciding to plan the trip without any intermediate stops for refueling despite the availability of refueling stops (id. ¶ 16); not becoming familiar with all available information concerning the flight, including fuel requirements (id. ¶ 26); not having enough fuel in the plane when beginning the flight (id. ¶ 28); refusing to land to refuel at Loreto International Airport (id. ¶ 20); and failing to land the plane at San Felipe International Airport (id. ¶ 22-24). Based on these allegations, Plaintiff asserted claims based on violations of FAA regulations (claims 1-3) and general negligence (claim 4). He asserted federal jurisdiction existed based on admiralty. Id. ¶ 5.

         The Court again dismissed the claims based on FAA regulations. See Second Order at 4, Dkt. No. 31. The Court also found Plaintiff failed to allege facts sufficient to show admiralty jurisdiction existed:

[T]he FAC alleges no facts sufficient to show the negligent acts that allegedly caused the crash occurred over navigable water. On the contrary, Plaintiff alleges Defendant was negligent in planning the trip in La Paz (on dry land), in refusing [to] land the plane to refuel at Loreto (on dry land), and in crashing the plane in San Felipe (on dry land). . . . The only allegation suggesting this action has any connection to water is that the plane flew over the Sea of Cortez at some point before the accident. This is insufficient to confer admiralty jurisdiction.

Id. at 5. The Court also noted the FAC did not appear to allege facts sufficient to show the accident bore “a significant relationship to traditional maritime activity” as it only alleged Lundahl was transporting friends or business associates up the Coast of Baja. Id. at 6-7. It granted Shapiro a final opportunity to amend. Id. at 7.

         B. Factual Allegations of the SAC

         Baja Pirates is a sports-fishing business owned by Lundahl, and is based in La Paz, Mexico. SAC ¶¶ 12-15, 18, Dkt. No. 32. Lundahl and Shapiro traveled to La Paz to promote Baja Pirates. Id. ¶¶ 15, 19. On November 5, 2014, Shapiro and Lundahl left La Paz in a Cessna model 182K aircraft, with the ultimate destination of Palo Alto, California. Id. ¶¶ 1-2, 19-20. Baja Pirates owned the Cessna; the only people on the plane were Lundahl, Shapiro, and Shapiro's wife and daughter. Id. ¶¶ 8, 13, 15, 20.

         Although Shapiro “has been a pilot licensed to act as a Pilot in Command (‘PIC') with passengers for most of his life[, ]” he alleges that on November 5, 2014, he was a passenger, and that Lundahl acted as PIC of the plane. Id. ¶¶ 2, 11. Shapiro alleges Lundahl calculated he had enough fuel to fly for 4.9 hours, which, assuming no wind and no deviation from the straight line trajectory, the plane could have reached the planned destination of Calexico with less than 30 minutes of flight time remaining. Id. ¶¶ 3-4; see also id. ¶ 21 (Lundahl decided to fly direct from La Paz to Calexico, California, after consulting flight software program). While flying over the Sea of Cortez, due to headwinds that reduced the plane's ground speed, Lundahl should have known it was impossible to reach Calexico with the amount of fuel remaining on board. Id. ¶¶ 5, 26. Shapiro asked Lundahl to land at Loreto airport to refuel and allow the passengers a break; Lundahl vehemently refused to land. Id. ¶ 25. After flying over San Felipe, Mexico, Lundahl decided to turn around and stop at San Felipe International Airport in Mexico to refuel the plane. Id. ¶¶ 6-7, 27. “On the descent to the airport, the plane encountered turbulence and with only seconds remaining before landing, ” Lundahl ...

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