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Cardenas v. American Airlines, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. California

July 8, 2019

MACHELLE CARDENAS, an individual, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN AIRLINES, INC., a Texas corporation; AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP, INC., a publicly traded Delaware corporation; Tony LNU, an individual; and DOES 1 through 100, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION [DKT. NO. 45.]

          HON. GONZALO P. CURIEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant American Airlines, Inc. filed a motion for reconsideration of the Court's order granting in part and denying in part its motion for summary judgment filed on April 3, 2019, (Dkt. No. 44). (Dkt. No. 45.) Plaintiff Machelle Cardenas filed an opposition and Defendant replied. (Dkt. Nos. 48, 49.) The Court finds that the matter is appropriate for decision without oral argument pursuant to Local Civ. R. 7.1(d)(1). Based on the reasoning below, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendant's motion for reconsideration.

         Background[1]

         On April 30, 2018, Plaintiff Machelle Cardenas (“Plaintiff”) filed the operative first amended complaint (“FAC”) against Defendants American Airlines, Inc. (“Defendant” or “AA”) and American Airlines Group, Inc.[2] alleging wrongful refusal to transport pursuant to the Federal Aviation Act, 49 U.S.C. § 44902(a)(1), breach of contract, negligence, assault and battery, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress for excluding her from a flight at the Dallas/Fort Worth (“DFW”) airport and then cancelling future flight reservations and temporarily barring her from buying any tickets without justification. (Dkt. No. 18, FAC.)

         On August 27, 2017, Plaintiff and her son were traveling on an American Airlines flight from San Diego, CA to Washington D.C. with a connection at the DFW airport. (Dkt. No. 43, P's Suppl. Response to SSUF, Nos. 1, 7.) During the flight from San Diego to DFW, passengers were told the airport had shut down due to a hurricane coming in and their flight was in a holding pattern until they were able to land. (Id., No. 2.) The flight arrived about 2 hours late and Plaintiff and her son missed their connecting flight. (Id., No. 3; Dkt. No. 40-2, Menck Decl., Ex. A, Cardenas Depo. at 17:2-12.)

         While Plaintiff and her son were waiting in line at DFW to rebook their connecting flight, an American Customer Service Manager, Tony Redelfs (“Redelfs”), was passing out cards to passengers in line instructing them to call the number to get help to get on the next flight out. (Dkt. No. 43, P's Suppl. Response to SSUF, No. 7.) Plaintiff called the number and was booked on the next flight. (Id., No. 8.) The person on the phone that re-booked the flight told Plaintiff to remain in line so she could make sure AA knew where her luggage was going. (Id., No. 9.) Plaintiff claims she stood in line for 30 to 45 minutes before leaving the line to approach Redelfs. (Id., Nos. 10.) Plaintiff testified she approached the counter at Gate A-20 where Redelfs was helping another customer. (Id., No. 11.)

         At this point, the parties' facts differ on how Plaintiff approached Redelfs. Plaintiff testified she waited for a break while Redelfs was helping a customer and then touched Redelfs on the shoulder to get his attention, saying, “[e]xcuse me, can you help me?” (Id., No. 12.) She continued with, “You said you would send over some agents and nobody's came (sic). It's been 45 minutes. Can you help us?” (Dkt. No. 40-2, Menck Decl., Ex. A, Cardenas Depo. at 31:12-19.) While she was talking, Redelfs did not look up, kept typing and asked if she had a ticket. (Id. at 31:19-24.) Plaintiff then gave him her ticket and he said, “You're no longer flying on American. You just assaulted me.” (Id.) He also said “See all these cameras? You're getting videotaped. And you just assaulted me.” (Id. at 32:7-9.) Redelfs told the agent next to him to “[c]all security” but the female agent looked up, looked at him, looked at Plaintiff and went back to what she was going. (Id. at 32:4-6.) Redelfs turned to the agent again and said “I told you to call security” and she slowly picked up the phone and called security. (Id. at 32:4-6; 12-15.) Redelfs told her, “You cannot go anywhere. You need to stay right here. You're getting arrested.” (Id. at 33:2-4.) Plaintiff stated that she begged him and cried stating she was traveling with her son. (Id. at 32:16-19.) Two minutes later security arrived. (Id. at 33:23-25.) Plaintiff testified that nobody told her that she was not flying because it would be inimical to the safety of the aircraft or that she was unfit to fly. (Id. at 55:13-23.)

         In contrast, Redelfs testified that Plaintiff approached his left side, grabbed his arm, spun him to face her and said “you lied to me; You said you were going to get more people here.” (Dkt. No. 40-2, Menck Decl., Ex. B, Redelfs Depo. at 56:11-17.) He said that he next asked for her boarding pass and then he told her she would not be flying with AA because what she did constituted assault. (Id. at 56:19-21.) Redelfs testified that he did not call the DFW police and it was the agent at the gate with him that called on her own. (Id. at 23:13-25.)

         The Passenger Name Record, (“PNR”), written by Redelfs contemporaneously or shortly after the incident states, “Customer became irate and approached me and shoved me due to being upset at the service center line. Reservation cancelled.” (Dkt. No. 40-2, Menck Decl., Ex. B at 207[3]; id., Ex. B., Redelfs Depo. at 50:20-22.)

         Plaintiff's reservation was canceled and her ticket was subsequently placed in “no-go” status which means she could not use her ticket any more but she could have gotten another ticket to fly out of DFW. (Dkt. No. 40-2, Menck Decl., Ex. B, Redefls Depo. at 32:1-7; 91:14-20; Dkt. No. 43, P's Supp. Response to SSUF, No. 33.) Redelfs explained that he has the authority to cancel a flight but is unable to put somebody on the no-go list; instead, he needs approval from the System Customer Service Manager, (“SCSM”) who is in DFW but not on the airport property. (Dkt. No. 40-2, Menck Decl., Ex. B, Redelfs Depo. at 58:11-21; 59:19-60:1.) During the incident, Redefls called and told the SCSM what happened. (Id. at 60:2-25.) The SCSM also reviewed the PNR that Redelfs wrote. (Id.) After hearing what happened from Redelfs and reviewing the PNR, the SCSM put Plaintiff's ticket in no-go status. (Id.) At his deposition, Redelfs testified that he believed that she was dangerous to other passengers because she could not control her emotions or behavior. (Id. at 75:19-24.)

         In an incident report dated October 5, 2017, a little over a month after the incident, Redelfs wrote,

Customer was in line at the A service center. After handing out the RICAP cards, I assisted another customer at the front of the line with her connection through London to Frankfurt. I asked her to come with me to the A20 gate counter to get her information. While I was working with her reservation, Mrs. Cardenas grabbed my left arm and spun me around to face her, put her finger in my face, and yelled at me. She said that I lied to her, and that I said I would bring more agents over, but did not. Instead, she alleged I was just bringing random people over to A20 to help them and letting people jump the line. At that point, I explained that she would not be travelling, as what she had done constituted assault. She began to cry and sat down in the gate area. DPS responded and spoke to her, but to my knowledge, did not make a report. Customer apologized profusely, but I still did not let her travel. I called the SCSM and had her ticket placed in No Go Status.

(Dkt. No. 40-2, Menck Decl., Ex. B at 226.)

         A couple of minutes after the incident, two female officers from the Dallas Fort Worth Police Department arrived at the scene. (Dkt. No. 43, P's Suppl. Response to SSUF, No. 19.) The officers were cordial and did not ask for Plaintiff's Id. (Id., No. 20.) Plaintiff testified that she told the officers her story and they said they were going to speak with Redelfs. (Id., No. 21.) Plaintiff testified that the two officers left her to speak with Redelfs and they were gone for two to three minutes. (Id., No. 22.) Plaintiff testified that after speaking with Redelfs, the police told her, "He's not going to have you arrested, but you're not going to fly on that flight. You're not flying on American.” (Id., No. 23.) Plaintiff testified that the officers told her, “go to the gate with your son. See if you can get on the plane, explain to the gate agent what happened or to another customer service . . . .” (Id., No. 24.) When Plaintiff arrived at the gate at Terminal C with her son, she testified that she was told that the agent could not get into her record and her whole itinerary was cancelled. (Id., No. 25.) The agent told her to exit security, go downstairs and buy another ticket on the flight as there were plenty of seats. (Dkt. No. 40-2, Menck Decl., Ex. A, Cardenas Depo. at 43:6-22.) Plaintiff then went downstairs to buy another ticket but the agent there told her that her account was locked out. (Id. at 44:1-4.) The agent made a phone call to Redelfs and told her “You're not going to be flying tonight. And I can't get you a ticket for tomorrow either. Your account's locked, and the agent's not changing his mind.” (Id. at 44:5-14.)

         Plaintiff then called to buy another ticket with another airline but was not successful as there no more flights to Washington D.C. that evening. (Dkt. No. 40-2, Menck Decl., Ex. A, Cardenas Depo at 46:3-22.) She went to a hotel and could not sleep and around 2:00 a.m. she was able to login to her AA account, booked a flight at 6:00 a.m. and successfully boarded the flight and arrived in Washington D.C. (Id. at 47:19-48:16.)

         On April 3, 2019, the Court granted in part and denied in part Defendant's motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 44.) Specifically, the Court granted summary judgment on the causes of action for violation of 49 U.S.C. § 44902(b) of the Federal Aviation Act (“FAA”), breach of contract, and assault and battery but denied summary judgment on the claims for negligence, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress as not field preempted by the FAA and punitive damages. (Id. at 18[4].)

         Discussion A.

         Legal Standard on Motion for Reconsideration

         A motion for reconsideration, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), is “appropriate if the district court (1) is presented with newly discovered evidence; (2) clear error or the initial decision was manifestly unjust, or (3) if there is an intervening change in controlling law.” Sch. Dist. No. 1J, Multnomah County, Or. V. ACandS, Inc., 5 F.3d 1255, 1263 (9th Cir. 1993); see also Ybarra v. McDaniel, 656 F.3d 984, 998 (9th Cir. 2011).

         The Court has discretion in granting or denying a motion for reconsideration. Fuller v. M.G. Jewelry, 950 F.2d 1437, 1441 (9th Cir. 1991). A motion for reconsideration “may not be used to raise arguments or present evidence for the first time when they could reasonably have been raised earlier in the litigation.” Kona Enters., Inc. v. Estate of Bishop, 229 F.3d 877, 890 (9th Cir. 2000) (emphasis in original).

         Defendant moves for reconsideration on the Court's order on summary judgment arguing the Court committed clear error in holding that the state law claims are not preempted by 49 U.S.C. § 44902(b) of the FAA and denying summary judgment on the issue of punitive damages.

         B. FAA Preemption of ...


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