The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, District Judge.
This is an action against Lineas Aereas Allegro S.A. de C.V.
("Allegro"), a foreign airline, by the passengers on a flight from
Cancun, Mexico to Newark, New Jersey, based on the allegedly extreme and
inhumane conditions suffered by the passengers during the flight. The
complaint alleges violations of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices
and Consumer Protection Law ("UTPCPL"), Pa. Stat. Ann. tit. 73, §
201-1 et seq., misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, intentional
infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, and negligence
under Pennsylvania law, and sundry violations of the Mexican Civil Code.
The case was initially filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware
County, and was timely removed to this court. Jurisdiction for removal
was predicated on the presence of a federal question based upon the
provisions of the Warsaw Convention. The Warsaw Convention, inter alia,
establishes a system for regulating the liability of a carrier for
personal injuries suffered by passengers in international flights. The
United States is a signatory of the Convention.
For the reasons that follow, the court concludes that the Warsaw
Convention preempts all of plaintiffs' state law claims, including those
based on wilful misconduct. Accordingly, the court will dismiss for lack
of subject matter jurisdiction plaintiffs' claims based on violations of
the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, and
on violations of the Mexican Civil Code. The court also will dismiss
plaintiffs' state law claims of misrepresentation, unjust enrichment,
intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, and
negligence with leave to amend their complaint to state causes of
action, if appropriate, under the Warsaw Convention.
The Warsaw Convention*fn2 applies to "all international transportation
of persons, baggage, or goods performed by any aircraft for hire." Note
following 49 U.S.C. § 40105. The Convention sets forth a
comprehensive scheme that defines the liability of international air
carriers for personal injuries, damage and loss of baggage and goods, and
damage caused by delay. Recognizing "the advantage of regulating in a
uniform manner the conditions of . . . the liability of the carrier,"
id., one of the Convention's overarching purposes is "to accommodate or
balance the interests of passengers seeking recovery for personal
injuries, and the interests of [international] air carriers seeking to
limit potential liability." El Al Israel Airlines, Inc. v. Tseng,
525 U.S. 155, 170 (1999).
The Supreme Court has concluded that, "[g]iven the Convention's
comprehensive scheme of liability rules and its textual emphasis on
uniformity, [the Court] would be hard put to conclude that the delegates
at Warsaw meant to subject air carriers to the distinct, nonuniform
liability rules of the individual signatory nations." Id. at 169.
Consequently, "recovery for a personal injury suffered `on board [an]
aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking and
disembarking,' . . . if not allowed under the [Warsaw] Convention, is not
available at all." Id. at 161.
Article 17 of the Convention establishes carrier liability for "damage
sustained in the event of the death or wounding of a passenger or any
other bodily injury suffered by a passenger, if the accident which caused
the damage took place on board the aircraft or in the course of any of
the operations of embarking and disembarking." Note following
49 U.S.C. § 40105. Under the 1966 modifications to the Convention
worked by the Montreal Interim Agreement, a private accord among
international air carriers with connecting points in the United
provision "subjects international carriers to strict
liability for Article 17 injuries sustained on flights connected with the
United States." Eastern Airlines, Inc. v. Floyd, 499 U.S. 530,
552 (1991); see also In re Air Disaster at
Lockerbie, Scotland, 928 F.2d 1267, 1286 (2d Cir. 1991) (overruled on
other grounds by Zicherman v. Korean Air Lines Co., Ltd., 516 U.S. 217
(1998), as recognized in Brink's Ltd. v. South African Airways,
93 F.3d 1022, 1029 (2d Cir. 1996) ("The framers . . .
saw Article 17 as a means of creating liability or at the very least
shifting the burden of proof to the carrier.").
While under the Warsaw Convention, strict liability for personal injury
is the rule, the impact of the rule is cushioned by correspondingly
limiting the damages that may be awarded to $75,000 per passenger.*fn4
The limitation on damages is not applicable, however, where damages are
caused by a carrier's "wilful misconduct." Note following
49 U.S.C. § 40105.
B. The Preemptive Effect of the Warsaw Convention
As a general rule, state law claims "are barred by the Warsaw
Convention, because the Convention provides the exclusive cause of action
for injuries suffered during international flights." Waters v. Port
Auth. of N.Y. and NJ, 158 F. Supp.2d 415, 422 (D.N.J. 2001) (citing
Tseng, 525 U.S. at 161). Accordingly, once a court determines that the
action is one for personal injury within the scope of the Warsaw
Convention, it must dismiss all state law claims as ...