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PERRI v. DELTA AIR LINES

July 21, 2000

JANINE PERRI, PLAINTIFF,
V.
DELTA AIR LINES, INC. AND AEROVIAS DE MEXICO, S.A. DE C.V., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gershon, District Judge.

ORDER

Plaintiff Janine Perri brings this action against defendants Delta Air Lines Inc. ("Delta") and Aerovias de Mexico S.A. de C.V. ("Aeromexico") to recover the value of two pieces of luggage that were lost while she was traveling on vacation from New York to Mexico. Plaintiff claims that the bags and their contents were worth approximately $16,000. Plaintiff and defendants have now filed cross-motions for partial summary judgment. The defendants' liability under the Warsaw Convention*fn1 is not contested. The issue presented in the parties' motions is whether, as defendants claim, the Convention limits their liability to $20.00 per kilogram, or $9.07 per pound, of baggage. Plaintiff alleges that the defendants failed to comply with certain technical prerequisites under the Convention — namely, that they failed to indicate the weight of plaintiff's luggage on her baggage claim check — and that she may, therefore, recover the full value of her lost belongings.

FACTS

Unless otherwise indicated, the following facts are undisputed.

On July 17, 1998, plaintiff left for a Mexican vacation on a flight that departed from John F. Kennedy International Airport ("JFK") in Jamaica, New York. She caught a connecting Aeromexico flight in Mexico City.*fn2 When she arrived at her final destination, Oaxaca, Mexico, she discovered that the two bags that she had checked with Delta in New York were missing. Plaintiff never found her luggage, and she now claims that the two bags and their contents, consisting primarily of clothing and jewelry, were worth slightly over $16,000.*fn3

When plaintiff checked her luggage at the Delta counter in JFK, she received an Aeromexico baggage claim stub for each piece of her luggage. The Delta ticket agents weighed plaintiff's bags and recorded the total weight of 30 kilograms on the manifest for plaintiff's flight. The ticket agents did not write the weight of plaintiff's luggage directly on her claim stubs or on her passenger ticket, a practice that Delta admits was "routine check-in procedure[]."

The passenger ticket that was issued to plaintiff by Delta contained a summary of the limited liability provisions of the Warsaw Convention. Printed under the heading "Notice of Baggage Liability Limitations," the following warning appeared: "Liability for loss, delay or damage to baggage is limited as follows unless a higher value is declared in advance and additional charges are paid: (1) for most international travel (including domestic portions of international journeys) to approximately $9.07 per pound ($20.00 per kilo) for checked baggage." Plaintiff did not declare the value of her luggage to the Delta ticket agents nor did she pay an additional charge when she checked her two bags.

In addition to the above-described notice, a sign at the Delta check-in counter directed passengers to copies of the tariffs that defendants had filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation. The tariffs for both defendant airlines provide that the carriers' liability for lost luggage is limited to $20.00 per kilogram unless a higher value is declared in advance and additional charges are paid. The tariffs also state that for the purposes of calculating the carriers' liability under the Convention, the weight of each piece of checked baggage is deemed to be the maximum allowable weight for each piece (i.e., 32 kilograms), unless the weight is otherwise stated on the baggage check.

On July 27, 1998, plaintiff wrote to Aeromexico, describing her loss, and on July 30, 1998, she completed a Delta claim form. She commenced this action on or about November 17, 1998 in the Civil Court of the City of New York, Kings County. Defendants removed the case to this court on December 7, 1998.

DISCUSSION

I. The Standard For Summary Judgment

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment should be granted if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The moving party must demonstrate the absence of any material factual issue genuinely in dispute. See id. A material fact is one whose resolution would "affect the outcome of the suit under governing law," and a dispute is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The court must view the inferences to be drawn from the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). However, the non-moving party may not "rely on mere speculation or conjecture as to the true nature of the facts to overcome a motion for summary judgment." Knight v. U.S. Fire Ins. Co., 804 F.2d 9, 12 (2d Cir. 1986). The party must produce specific facts sufficient to establish that there is a genuine factual issue for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548.

Here, the relevant facts are not in dispute. Based on those facts, plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment is granted ...


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