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Lee v. AMR Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 18, 2015

SANGMI LEE, Plaintiff,
v.
AMR CORPORATION, aka/dba AMERICAN AIRLINES, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

RONALD L. BUCKWALTER, District Judge.

Currently pending before the Court is Plaintiff Sangmi Lee's Motion to Remand. For the following reasons, the Motion is denied.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

According to Plaintiff's Statement of Claim filed with the Philadelphia Municipal Court:

Plaintiff, Sangmi LEE, purchased a ticket in Philadelphia on American Airlines, departing from the United States to Ladyville, Belize. Employees of American Airlines refused to allow Ms. Lee to board her plane, based on a misinterpretation of the immigration laws of Belize, resulting in Ms. Lee missing her flight to Belize and forcing her to take a flight to Guatemala, instead. Based on Defendant American Airlines [sic] failure to allow Ms. Lee to board her flight to Belize, she was forced to incur expenses in the amount of five thousand three hundred sixty one dollars and seventy six cents ($5361.76).... These expenses were only necessary based on the failure of American Airlines employees to allow Ms. Lee to board her plane as arranged. Plaintiff has made every possible effort to resolve the matter with American Airlines only to be ignored and misled further.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff demands judgement [sic] in the amount of $5361.76, plus costs and attorney's fees, and any other relief this Court deems necessary and just.

(Def.'s Mot. to Remand, Ex. A.)

On April 17, 2015, Plaintiff sued Defendant AMR Corporation aka/dba American Airlines ("AMR") in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Municipal Court (Civil) for financial damages. On May 14, 2015, Defendant removed this case based upon federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1441, arguing that this case is governed entirely by the Montreal Convention. Plaintiff filed the current Motion to Remand on May 14, 2015, and Defendant Responded on May 28, 2015. The Motion is now ripe for judicial review.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a), a defendant may remove a civil action filed in a state court if the federal court would have had original jurisdiction over the action. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). A defendant seeking removal of an action must file a petition for removal with the district court within thirty days of plaintiff's service of the complaint upon defendant. See 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b). "The defendants bear the burden of establishing removal jurisdiction and compliance with all pertinent procedural requirements." Winnick v. Pratt, No. Civ.A.03-1612, 2003 WL 21204467, at *1 (E.D. Pa. May 20, 2003) (citing Boyer v. Snap-On Tools Corp., 913 F.2d 108, 111 (3d Cir. 1990)); see also Palmer v. Univ. of Med. and Dentistry of N.J., 605 F.Supp.2d 624, 627 (D.N.J. 2009) ("A party opposing remand must show that removal was proper.").

Once an action is removed, a plaintiff may challenge removal by moving to remand the case back to state court. Cook v. Soft Sheen Carson, Inc., No. Civ.A.08-1542, 2008 WL 4606305, at *1 (D.N.J. Oct. 15, 2008) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c)). Remand to the state court is appropriate for "(1) lack of district court subject matter jurisdiction or (2) a defect in the removal procedure." PAS v. Travelers Ins. Co., 7 F.3d 349, 352 (3d Cir. 1993). Remand is mandatory and can occur at any time during the litigation if the court determines that it lacks federal subject matter jurisdiction. Kimmel v. DeGasperi, No. Civ.A.00-143, 2000 WL 420639, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 7, 2000) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c)). A motion to remand the case on the basis of any defect in the removal procedure, however, must be submitted within thirty days after filing of the notice of removal under section 1446(a). 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c); N. Penn Water Auth. v. Bae Sys. Aerospace Elec., Inc., No. Civ.A.04-5030, 2005 WL 1279091, at *5 (E.D. Pa. May 25, 2005). Upon a motion to remand, "[i]t is always the removing party's burden to prove the propriety of removal, and any doubts about the existence of federal jurisdiction must be resolved in favor of remand." Lumbermans Mut. Cas. Co. v. Fishman, No. Civ.A.99-929, 1999 WL 744016, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Sep. 22, 1999) (citing Batoff v. State Farm Ins. Co., 977 F.2d 848, 851 (3d Cir. 1992)); see also Boyer, 913 F.2d at 111 ("The removal statutes are to be strictly construed against removal and all doubts should be resolved in favor of remand.'") (quoting Steel Valley Auth. v. Union Switch & Signal Div., 809 F.2d 1006, 1010 (3d Cir. 1987)).

III. DISCUSSION

The Montreal Convention[1] is a treaty of the United States, effective November 4, 2003, which governs the rights and liabilities of international air carriers and passengers. Schaefer-Condulmari v. U.S. Airways Grp., Inc., No. Civ.A.09-1146, 2009 WL 4729882, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 8, 2009) (citing Sompo Japan Ins. Co. v. Nippon Cargo Airlines Co., Ltd., 522 F.3d 776, 779-781 (7th Cir. 2008) (discussing the history of the Warsaw and Montreal Conventions)). The Montreal Convention supersedes and replaces the earlier Warsaw Convention, is largely substantively unchanged from its predecessor treaty, and is interpreted using case law construing the Warsaw Convention. Buckwalter v. U.S. Airways, No. Civ.A.12-2586, 2014 WL 116264, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 13, 2014). The Montreal Convention "applies to all international carriage of persons, baggage or cargo performed by aircraft for reward." Montreal Convention, art. 1(1). "[I]nternational carriage" is defined as:

any carriage in which, according to the agreement between the parties, the place of departure and the place of destination, whether or not there be a break in the carriage or a transshipment, are situated either within the territories of two States Parties, or within the territory of a single State Party if there is an agreed stopping ...

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