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Jablonski v. Pan American World Airways Inc.

filed: December 14, 1988.

ALLAN J. JABLONSKI, APPELLANT,
v.
PAN AMERICAN WORLD AIRWAYS, INC.



Appeals from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, D.C. Civil Nos. 87-5337, 88-1866.

Seitz, Stapleton and Cowen, Circuit Judges.

Author: Seitz

SEITZ, Circuit Judge.

Appellant, Allan J. Jablonski, appeals from final orders entered in two civil actions granting defendant Pan American World Airlines, Inc.'s (Pan Am's) motions for judgment on the pleadings. Jablonski also appeals from the district court's order denying his motion to amend the original complaint in one of these actions. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

I. FACTS

On January 24, 1984, Jablonski was a passenger on Pan Am's flight #362 from Tampa, Florida to Newark, New Jersey and was injured when the aircraft made a rough landing in New Jersey. On January 31, 1986, over two years later, Jablonski filed a writ of summons against Pan Am in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. On July 10, 1987, he filed a complaint ("the tort action") in that court alleging that his injuries were caused by Pan Am's negligence in landing the aircraft.

On January 22, 1988, within four years of the incident, Jablonski filed a second complaint ("the contract action") in the Court of Common Pleas alleging that Pan Am negligently breached its contract to provide due care during the flight. In both complaints, Jablonski sought only to recover damages for personal injuries, including physical injury, pain and suffering, mental anguish, medical expenses and lost wages. Pan Am filed an answer in each action alleging that the tort and negligent breach of contract claims were barred by Pennsylvania's two-year statute of limitations applicable to tort actions.

Pan Am subsequently removed both the tort and contract actions to federal court under the court's diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. In both cases, Pan Am filed a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings based on the statute of limitations defense.

In response to Pan Am's motion in the tort action, Jablonski filed a motion to amend the complaint to allege negligent breach of contract. The district court denied Jablonski's motion to amend in the tort action and granted Pan Am's motion for judgment on the pleadings in both cases. Jablonski's appeal, at No. 88-1428, of the order granting Pan Am's motion for judgment on the pleadings in the tort action was consolidated with his appeal, at No. 88-1429, of the order denying the motion to amend in the tort action. Jablonski also appealed, at No. 88-1586, the order granting Pan Am's motion for judgment on the pleadings in the contract action.

II. DISCUSSION

On appeal, Jablonski contends that (A) the district court erred in granting Pan Am's motions for judgment on the pleadings because Jablonski's contract action was commenced timely under Pennsylvania's four year contract limitation period; and (B) the district court erred in denying the motion to amend the complaint in his tort action to state a contract claim.

A.

Our standard of review of a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) is plenary. Under Rule 12(c), judgment will not be granted "unless the movant clearly establishes that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Society Hill Civic Association v. Harris, 632 F.2d 1045, 1054 (3d Cir. 1980)(citation omitted). In reviewing the grant of a Rule 12(c) motion, we must "view the facts presented in the pleadings and the inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Id.

Jablonski contends that the district court erred in entering judgment on the pleadings because his contract action was commenced timely within Pennsylvania's four year limitation period applicable to contract actions, 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5525.*fn1 According to Pan Am, Pennsylvania's two year tort limitation period, 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5524(2), governs in these cases because Jablonski seeks damages for personal injuries. Pan Am contends that it is the nature of the relief requested, rather than the form of the pleading, which determines which statute of limitation will apply, citing Spack v. ...


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