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Bomanski v. US Airways Group

June 4, 2009

IRENE BOMANSKI PLAINTIFF,
v.
US AIRWAYS GROUP, INC. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Slomsky, J.

OPINION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant US Airways Group, Inc. seeking to dismiss a personal injury claim filed by Plaintiff Irene Bomanski, an airline passenger on board a US Airways flight operated by Defendant.*fn1 Plaintiff was struck in the head by another passenger's luggage which fell out of an overhead storage compartment prior to the aircraft's departure. Plaintiff alleges that as a result of Defendant's negligence, she has sustained serious, painful and permanent injuries. Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment seeking to dismiss Plaintiff's claims on several grounds (Docket No. 13). Plaintiff filed a Response (Docket No. 14) and Defendant filed a Reply (Docket No. 17). There are three issues raised in the Motion for Summary Judgment and subsequent briefing which the Court must resolve:

1. Whether federal law preempts state law on the subject of air safety;

2. If so, whether Plaintiff's claims arise under an identified federal standard; and

3. Whether Plaintiff has provided facts that Defendant operated the aircraft in breach of an identified federal standard of care.

For the reasons stated below, the Court will grant Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

II BACKGROUND*fn2

On March 1, 2006, Plaintiff was a passenger on US Airways Flight 346, scheduled to travel from Orlando, Florida to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Comp. (Docket No. 1) at ¶ 4). After boarding the aircraft, Plaintiff sat in her aisle seat towards the rear of the aircraft. (Bomanski Dep. Oct. 14, 2008, Def. Motion for Summary Judgment, Ex. C at 47: 21-23, 48:23-24, 52:11-12). At no time did Plaintiff look inside the overhead compartment above her seat or place any of her belongings in the compartment. (Id. at 51:20-23, 73:12-22). When Plaintiff took her seat, the engine was on but the aircraft remained parked at the gate. (Id. at 57:2-9). Plaintiff described the aircraft as "full" and "slightly chaotic" during the boarding process. (Id. at 44:14-23).

Patrick Lenahan was a ticketed passenger on board the same flight as Plaintiff. (Lenahan Dep. Jan. 6, 2009, Def. Motion for Summary Judgment, Ex. D at 14:1-9). Mr. Lenahan had an aisle seat, one row behind and across from Plaintiff. (Id. at 28:10-12). Upon boarding the flight, Mr. Lenahan placed his suit jacket in the overhead compartment located directly above Plaintiff's seat because the overhead compartments above and across from his seat were full. (Id. at 27:18-20). According to Mr. Lenahan, there was still room in the compartment after he placed his jacket there. (Id. at 31:24-32:1-2). Mr. Lenahan left the compartment door open and took his assigned seat. (Id. at 28:10-12). Mr. Lenahan recalls that Defendant's flight attendants were present in the front and back of the aircraft but did not have any contact with the overhead compartment where he had placed his jacket. (Id. at 73:2-74:9).

After Mr. Lenahan took his seat, another male passenger boarded the aircraft and placed a bag in the same overhead compartment above Plaintiff's seat and shut the compartment door. (Id. at 33:11-16). The male passenger had no difficulty storing his item or closing the overhead compartment. (Id. at 70:20-71:2). Defendant's flight attendants did not handle the item the passenger had loaded into this overhead compartment. (Id. at 71:7-12). No representative of Defendant had approached the overhead compartment anytime after Mr. Lenahan had placed his jacket there. (Id. at 77:11-20).

Moments after the passenger closed the compartment door, Mr. Lenahan stood up to rearrange his jacket. (Id. at 37:6-7). Upon opening the latch, the bag placed in the compartment by the male passenger fell and struck Plaintiff on the top of the head. (Bomanski Dep. at 66:10-12). In her deposition, Plaintiff estimated that the bag was twenty inches long. Id. Plaintiff admitted that she never handled the bag and could not determine its weight. Id.

Plaintiff concedes that the aircraft had not disembarked from the gate at the time of her injury. (Id. at 97:14-18). Flight attendants quickly responded to the accident and within ten to fifteen minutes, paramedics had arrived on board. (Id. at 74:22-75:1, 78:15). Plaintiff refused the paramedics' offer to provide further treatment and decided to remain on board the aircraft for its departure and flight to Philadelphia. (Id. at 80:13-24). Plaintiff alleges that as a result of the bag striking ...


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