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Banks v. American Airlines

United States District Court, N.D. California

October 29, 2019

AMERICAN AIRLINES, et al., Defendants.



         Michele Banks alleges that American Airlines discriminated against her based on her race. She also brings a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress. American moves to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction and alternatively, 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.[1] After consideration of the parties' briefing and having had the benefit of oral argument on October 10, 2019, the Court GRANTS American's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. As Ms. Banks' claims do not arise from American's contacts with California, Ms. Banks has not met her burden of showing a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction over American in California.


         A. Complaint Allegations

         Ms. Banks is a flight attendant for American. On August 22, 2017, as Ms. Banks was preparing a flight from Charlotte, North Carolina to Miami, Florida for boarding, she noticed several Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) violations, which she reported to the gate agents. (Dkt. No. 12 at ¶ 12.) The gate agents reported the violations to the supervisor, who then came onto the plane and confronted Ms. Banks in a “threatening manner” about reporting the violations. (Id.) After the passengers had boarded the plane, the pilot removed Ms. Banks from the flight, announcing over the intercom that she was the reason for the delay in take-off and that she was being removed from her assignment. (Id.)

         The pilot prepared a report regarding Ms. Banks' removal from the flight, indicating that she was removed for “no reason.” (Id. at ¶ 13.) Ms. Banks believes that she was removed from duty and was intentionally embarrassed by the pilot because of her race. (Id.) When Ms. Banks complained about the discrimination, American continued to discriminate against her, in part by subjecting her to more drug tests than before, causing her to suffer such emotional distress she had to be out on leave. (Id. at ¶ 14.)

         Ms. Banks filed a written complaint with “her Supervisor, her Supervisor's Supervisor, her union representative, and American['s] Human Resources department” (“HR”) detailing American's discriminatory treatment. (Id. at ¶ 15.) After reporting the incident to HR, it took several months for Ms. Banks to receive a response. (Id. at ¶ 16.) HR ultimately represented that “it had conducted and completed a full investigation and found no discrimination”; however, HR's response was brief and offered no explanation as to how they reached their conclusion. (Id. at ¶17.) Further, none of the crew members who were present on the August 22 flight were contacted by HR about the incident. (Id.) As a result of the incident, Ms. Banks developed and was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and high blood pressure and had to take medical leave from work until early January 2018. (Id. at ¶¶ 19, 24.)

         In November 2017, “the Phoenix base manager of American Airlines, Barbara Trellia, ” met with Ms. Banks, her union representative, and the San Francisco base manager in Phoenix. (Id. at ¶ 20.) Ms. Trellia told Ms. Banks that “she needed to forget what happened and come back to work.” (Id. at ¶ 20 (internal quotation marks omitted).) Ms. Banks “flew home that night distraught, ” and was so upset that “it caused her to have an automobile accident.” (Id.) Ms. Banks returned to work in January 2018, and on May 8, 2018, Ms. Bank's supervisor and an HR staff member questioned Ms. Banks for two and a half hours about a letter from her previous attorney. (Id. at ¶ 25.) Prior to filing the instant complaint, Ms. Banks filed an administrative complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) and received a “right-to-sue letter” from DFEH and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (Id. at ¶ 27.)

         B. Procedural Background

         Ms. Banks filed her original complaint in California state court, and American removed that complaint to this Court based on diversity of citizenship pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (See Dkt. No. 1 at 3.)[2]

         American moved to dismiss the original complaint, (see Dkt. No. 10), and Ms. Banks filed an amended complaint. (Dkt. No. 12). The amended complaint asserts claims for race discrimination in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), California Government Code § 12940(a), and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Dkt. No. 12 at ¶¶ 28-45.) American filed the instant Motion to Dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction or alternatively, failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. (Dkt. No. 19 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2); 12(b)(6)).) The motion is fully briefed and came before the Court for a hearing on October 10, 2019. (Dkt. Nos. 19, 27, 33.)


         American moves to dismiss on the grounds that the Court has no personal jurisdiction over it because American is subject to neither general nor specific jurisdiction in California. Alternatively, American moves to dismiss each count pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. As discussed below, the Court finds that it does not have personal jurisdiction over American Airlines, and thus, need not reach the merits of the Rule 12(b)(6) contention.

         I. Rule ...

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