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ABDU-BRISSON v. DELTA AIR LINES

May 16, 1996

MARK ABDU-BRISSON, et al., Plaintiffs, against DELTA AIR LINES, INC., and the AIR LINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION, INTERNATIONAL (joined pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 19), Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: BAER

 HAROLD BAER, JR., District Judge:

 Currently before the Court are defendant Delta Air Lines, Inc.'s motions to dismiss the complaint and for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss is granted. Accordingly, it is unnecessary to reach the motion for summary judgment.

 II. Background

 Plaintiffs are 488 of the approximately 774 former pilots for Pan Am World Airways, Inc. who were hired by Delta in the fall of 1991 in connection with Delta's purchase of certain Pan Am assets. Plaintiffs allege that Delta discriminated against them in the terms and conditions of their employment based on their age in violation of the New York State Human Rights Law (State HRL), N.Y. Exec. Law § 296 and the New York City Human Rights Law (City HRL), N.Y. City Admin. Code §§ 8-107(1)(a) and (c), 8-107(17). Specifically, plaintiffs challenge the manner in which they were integrated into the Delta pilots' seniority list, Delta's requirement that they serve for ten years before they become eligible for full post-retirement medical benefits, and the manner in which their pay is increased over a three-year period to reach parity with existing Delta pilots.

 II. Discussion

 This action was filed in New York Supreme Court. Delta removed the case to this Court on the ground that plaintiff's complaint "arises under" the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. § 101 et seq. because it seeks to modify the Delta Medical Benefits Plan. This Court has supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiffs' state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Delta's motion to dismiss challenges this Court's jurisdiction pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1).

 In adjudicating pendent state law claims, "a federal court acts essentially as a state court." Baker v. Coughlin, 77 F.3d 12, 15 (2d Cir. 1996). Therefore, if a state court lacks jurisdiction over a cause of action, the federal court is also deprived of jurisdiction. See id. ("'If a state would not recognize a plaintiff's right to bring a state claim in state court, a federal court exercising pendent jurisdiction, standing in the shoes of a state court, must follow a state's jurisdictional determination and not allow that claim to be appended to a federal law claim in federal court.'" (quoting Promisel v. First American Artificial Flowers, Inc., 943 F.2d 251, 257 (2d Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 1060, 117 L. Ed. 2d 110, 112 S. Ct. 939 (1992))).

 Delta argues that this Court has no jurisdiction on several grounds. Most importantly, Delta contends that plaintiffs' complaint is preempted by the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA), 49 U.S.C. § 41713(b)(1). The ADA provides that:

 
[A] State [or a] political subdivision of a State . . . may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route or service of an air carrier . . . .

 49 U.S.C. § 41713(b)(1). *fn1" I agree that this federal law preempts plaintiffs' age discrimination claims and dismiss the complaint on this ground only.

 The Supreme Court considered the predecessor to § 41713(b)(1) in two recent opinions. In Morales v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 504 U.S. 374, 119 L. Ed. 2d 157, 112 S. Ct. 2031 (1992), the Court interpreted the term "relating to" as used in the ADA. The Court adopted the interpretation it had applied to the "relates to" language used in ERISA and held that a state law is related to rates, routes or services if it has "a connection with or reference to" them. Id. at 384. The Court followed its ERISA jurisprudence and noted the expansive reach of the ERISA preemption Id. (citing cases). Preemption does have its limits, however, where the effects of the state law are "'too tenuous, remote, or peripheral.'" Id. at 390 (quoting Shaw v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 463 U.S. 85, 100 n.21, 77 L. Ed. 2d 490, 103 S. Ct. 2890 (1983)).

 The Court next addressed ADA preemption in American Airlines, Inc. v. Wolens, 130 L. Ed. 2d 715, 115 S. Ct. 817 (1995), where it considered the words "enact or enforce any law." Wolens sued American for violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act and breach of contract after the airline retroactively amended its frequent flyer program. The Supreme Court held that the ADA preempted the Consumer Fraud Act claim, but not the breach of contract claim. In making this distinction, the Court found that the Illinois statute was a prescriptive rule of state public policy and thus an action based on it involved the enforcement of state law. 115 S. Ct. at 823-24. In contrast, state court adjudication of an action based on a private contract did not involve a sufficient imposition of state policy on air carrier operations to warrant preemption. Id. at 824.

 Read together, Morales and Wolens create a two-part test for ADA preemption of state law claims. First, the state law claim must involve the enforcement of a state law. Second, the state law must have a connection with or relation to airline prices, routes, or services. See Travel All Over The World v. Saudi Arabia, 73 F.3d 1423, 1432 (7th Cir. 1996); ...


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