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Olivette Smith-Ligpn and George Smith v. British Airways Worldwide

April 20, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.


Plaintiffs bring this breach-of-contract action for damages stemming from the delay of an international flight and loss of baggage. Defendant moved to dismiss on the ground that the Montreal Convention*fn1 preempts Plaintiffs' claim, which is, in turn, time-barred by the Convention's two-year statute of limitations. For the foregoing reasons, the Court will grant the motion to dismiss.


Olivette Smith-Ligpn and George Smith ("Plaintiffs") arranged to travel by airplane on a flight operated by British Airways ("Defendant"), on December 7, 2007, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to London, England, and ultimately to Freetown, Sierra Leone, for a wedding. Compl. ¶ 6, ECF No. 1. When they arrived at the Philadelphia Airport, a British Airways representative informed them that, due to delay, they would have twenty minutes to make the connecting flight in London. Id. ¶ 7. Plaintiffs asked the representative to hold the connecting flight to allow them time to make the transfer. Id.

By the time Plaintiffs arrived in London (1.5 hours late), the connecting flight to Freetown left without them. Id. ¶ 9. And because no new flights left for Freetown for two weeks, Plaintiffs instead flew to Casablanca, Morocco, and took ground transportation to Freetown. Id. ¶¶ 10-11. Plaintiffs lost their luggage, which contained valuables in excess of $5,000, and George Smith's diabetes medication. Id. ¶¶ 12-13. The loss of his medication exacerbated his condition, which twice required hospitalization, and caused him to incur expenses in excess of $100,000. Id. ¶¶ 13-14. Since the incident, Mr. Smith's diabetes has been "essentially out of control" and causes severe medical problems. Id. ¶ 16.


On December 2, 2011, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint against Defendant alleging breach of contract and seeking compensatory damages in the amount of $150,000.

On January 9, 2012, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Mot. to Dismiss 1, ECF No. 2. Plaintiffs responded. Pls.' Resp. 1, ECF No. 6. And Defendant moved for leave to reply and attached a reply brief to the motion. Def.'s Reply 1, ECF No. 7. On April 17, 2012, the Court held a hearing with counsel for the parties and now rules on the motion.*fn3


A party may move to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). When considering such a motion, the Court must "accept as true all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." DeBenedictis v. Merrill Lynch & Co., 492 F.3d 209, 215 (3d Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks removed). To withstand a motion to dismiss, the complaint's "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). This "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. Although a plaintiff is entitled to all reasonable inferences from the facts alleged, a plaintiff's legal conclusions are not entitled to deference and the Court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986).

The pleadings must contain sufficient factual allegations so as to state a facially plausible claim for relief. See, e.g., Gelman v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 583 F.3d 187, 190 (3d Cir. 2009). "'A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'" Id. (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)). In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court limits its inquiry to the facts alleged in the complaint and its attachments, matters of public record, and undisputedly authentic documents if the complainant's claims are based upon these documents. See Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994); Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993).


Defendant moves to dismiss Plaintiffs' claim because it is time-barred by the Montreal Convention's two-year statute of limitations. The U.S. Senate ratified the Montreal Convention on July 31, 2003, making the agreement the supreme law of the land.*fn4 See 149 Cong. Rec. 20,813 (2003); U.S. Const. art. VI, cl.

2. First, the Court must determine whether Plaintiffs' claim falls within the scope of the Montreal Convention. Second, if the Montreal Convention applies, the Court must determine whether ...

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