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In Re: Air Crash Near Clarence Center v. Colgan Air

March 25, 2012

IN RE: AIR CRASH NEAR CLARENCE CENTER,
NEW YORK, ON FEBRUARY 12, 2009,
NEIL J. PRISCO, JR., INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF DONNA LYNN PRISCO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COLGAN AIR, INC., PINNACLE AIRLINES CORP., BOMBARDIER, INC., BOMBARDIER AEROSPACE CORP., CONTINENTAL AIRLINES, INC., AND FLIGHTSAFETY INTERNATIONAL, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny Chief Judge United States District Court

This document relates to:

DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Presently before this Court is Defendant Colgan Air, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's complaint against it as barred by workers' compensation law.*fn1 (Docket No. 53.*fn2 ) For the reasons explained below, Colgan's motion is denied.

II. BACKGROUND

This case arises out of the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 on February 19, 2009, in Clarence Center, N.Y. The crash killed all 49 people on board the aircraft and one person on the ground. By order entered October 6, 2009, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred all then-pending actions concerning the crash of Flight 3407 to this Court for coordinated or consolidated pretrial proceedings, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407. In Re Air Crash Near Clarence Ctr., N.Y., on Feb. 12, 2009, 655 F. Supp. 2d 1355, 1356 (J.P.M.L. 2009). Subsequently-filed actions have also been transferred here.

Plaintiff's decedent, Donna Prisco, died in the crash of Flight 3407 en route from Newark, N.J., to Buffalo, N.Y. (Complaint, Docket No. 1, ¶¶ 1, 17.) She was employed by Colgan as a flight attendant. (Complaint, ¶¶ 13, 45.) Plaintiff asserts a number of causes of action against the defendants, including that Colgan negligently caused Donna Prisco's death. (Complaint, ¶¶ 46-55.)

As is pertinent here, Plaintiff alleges that Colgan violated its duty not to jeopardize its employees' health and lives and was "negligent, careless, reckless, willful and wanton" in the violation of this duty. (Complaint, ¶ 46.) Plaintiff alleges that "Colgan knew, or in the exercise of ordinary care should have known, that the negligent, careless, reckless, willful and wanton acts . . . would result in injury or death to their [sic] employees, to a substantial certainty." (Complaint, ¶ 47.) Plaintiff further alleges that "[t]he death of Donna Prisco was more than the mere fact of life or industrial employment and was the result of the Defendant Colgan's negligent, careless, reckless, willful and wanton conduct . . . ." (Complaint, ¶ 48.)

III. DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS

A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

Rule 12(b)(6) allows dismissal of a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." FED. R. CIV. P. 12 (b)(6). Federal pleading standards are generally not stringent: Rule 8 requires only a short and plain statement of a claim. FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2). But the plain statement must "possess enough heft to show that the pleader is entitled to relief." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,127 S.Ct. 1955, 1966, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007).

When determining whether a complaint states a claim, the court must construe it liberally, accept all factual allegations as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Goldstein v. Pataki, 516 F.3d 50, 56 (2d Cir. 2008); ATSI Commc'ns, Inc. v. Shaar Fund, Ltd., 493 F.3d 87, 98 (2d Cir. 2007). Legal conclusions, however, are not afforded the same presumption of truthfulness. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) ("the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions").

"To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1945 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Labels, conclusions, or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Facial plausibility exists when the facts alleged allow for a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct charged. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. The plausibility standard is not, however, a probability requirement: the pleading must show, not merely allege, that the pleader is entitled to relief. Id. at 1950; FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2). Well- pleaded allegations in the complaint must nudge the claim "across the line from conceivable to plausible." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

A two-pronged approach is thus used to examine the sufficiency of a complaint, which includes "any documents that are either incorporated into the complaint by reference or attached to the complaint as exhibits." Blue Tree Hotels Inv. (Can.), Ltd. v. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., 369 F.3d 212, 217 (2d Cir. 2004). This examination is context specific, and requires that the court draw on its judicial experience and common sense. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. First, statements that are not entitled to the presumption of truth - such as conclusory allegations, labels, and legal conclusions - are identified and stripped away. See Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. Second, well-pleaded, non-conclusory factual allegations are presumed true and examined to determine whether they ...


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