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Agasino v. American Airlines Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Francisco Division

July 26, 2019

ISMAEL AGASINO, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN AIRLINES INC., Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR IMPROPER VENUE BUT GRANTING MOTION TO TRANSFER CASE UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 1404 RE: ECF NO. 12

          LAUREL BEELER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Ismael Agasino, who does not live in California and does not allege any connection to California, brings this lawsuit against defendant American Airlines, Inc., which is not a citizen of California, for injuries he suffered on a flight that had no connection to California. American Airlines moved to dismiss for improper venue under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3) or, in the alternative, to transfer the case under 28 U.S.C. § 1404.

         The court can decide this motion without oral argument. N.D. Cal. Civ. L.R. 7-1(b). The court denies American Airlines's motion to dismiss but finds that transfer is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1404 and transfers this case to the Northern District of Texas.

         STATEMENT

         Plaintiff Ismael Agasino is a citizen and resident of the United States.[1] Mr. Agasino does not allege that he is a citizen or resident of California.[2] Mr. Agasino does not allege that he has any connection to California.[3]

         Defendant American Airlines is a citizen of Texas, where it maintains its principal business offices.[4] More specifically, American Airlines maintains its principal offices in Fort Worth, Texas.[5] Fort Worth is in the Northern District of Texas.

         Mr. Agasino booked a flight on American Airlines Flight 60, flying on June 1, 2018.[6] Flight 60 flew from Tokyo, Japan to Dallas, Texas.[7] Dallas is in the Northern District of Texas. On that flight, a bag fell from an overhead storage compartment and hit Mr. Agasino in the head.[8] Mr. Agasino lost consciousness and suffered injuries, including a concussion, cervical strain, and cognitive impairment.[9] Mr. Agasino makes a claim under the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, Treaty No. 106-45 (the “Montreal Convention”), against American Airlines for not less than $400, 000.[10]

         Mr. Agasino does not allege that he booked his flight from California.[11] Mr. Agasino does not allege that the flight departed from, arrived in, had a layover in, or otherwise had any connection to California.[12] Mr. Agasino alleges that American Airlines generally operates numerous flights into and out of San Francisco International Airport (“SFO”), leases space at SFO, has hundreds of employees at SFO, and regularly solicits business from citizens in the Northern District of California[13] - but he does not allege that he, his flight, or any allegations relating to his claim have any connection to California.[14]

         ANALYSIS

         1. Montreal Convention

         Mr. Agasino contends that venue for this case is governed by the Montreal Convention. He argues that the Convention contains its own venue rules and that those rules supersede the general venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1391.[15] Not so. The Convention does not govern venue within the United States.

         The Convention states:

1. An action for damages must be brought, at the option of the plaintiff, in the territory of one of the States Parties, either before the court of the domicile of the carrier or of its principal place of business, or where it has a place of business through which the contract has been made or before the court at the place of destination.
2. In respect of damage resulting from the death or injury of a passenger, an action may be brought before one of the courts mentioned in paragraph 1 of this Article, or in the territory of a State Party in which at the time of the accident the passenger has his or her principal and permanent residence and to or from which the carrier operates services for the carriage of passengers by air, either on its own aircraft, or on another carrier's aircraft pursuant to a commercial agreement, and in which that carrier its business of carriage of passengers by air from premises leased or owned by the carrier itself or another carrier with which it has a commercial agreement.

         Montreal Convention ch. 3, art. 33. Courts have held that the Montreal Convention (and its predecessor, the Warsaw Convention) does not govern venue within a signatory “State Party.” Avalon Techs., Inc. v. EMO-Trans, Inc., No. 14-14731, 2015 WL 1952287, at *5 (E.D. Mich. Apr. 29, 2015) (“Numerous courts have considered the proper interpretation of Article 33 of the Montreal Convention and its predecessor under the Warsaw Convention. The consensus appears to be that Article 33 confers jurisdiction on the courts of a nation-state, rather than a particular court within that nation-state.”) (citing cases). As the Ninth Circuit explained in connection with the Montreal Convention's predecessor, the Warsaw Convention, [16] the Convention “does not . . . affect whether venue is proper and convenient in a particular federal court” or “alter a federal court's power to transfer a case within the United States pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).” Hosaka v. United Airlines, Inc., 305 F.3d 989, 1004 (9th Cir. 2002) (emphasis in original) (citing In re Air Crash Disaster Near New Orleans, 821 F.2d 1147, 1161 n.21 (5th Cir. 1987) (en banc), vacated on other grounds sub nom. Pan Am. World Airways, Inc. v. Pampin Lopez, 490 U.S. 1032 (1989)). A “‘[p]laintiff's choice of forum within [a] country is governed by the internal law [of that country], with all its intricacies and complexities, not by the [] Convention. Once a plaintiff files suit in a country with jurisdiction over his or her claims, that country's procedural rules govern venue.'” Avalon, 2015 WL 1952287, at *5 (quoting Mertens v. Flying Tiger Line, Inc., 341 F.2d 851, 855 (2d Cir. 1965), abrogated on other grounds by Chan v. Korean Air Lines, Ltd., 490 U.S. 122 (1989)).

         The Montreal Convention does not vest venue in this district.[17]

         2. 28 U.S.C. § 1391

         Venue is nonetheless proper in this district under the United States's standard procedural rules.

         Within the United States, venue for civil actions filed in federal court is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1391, ...


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