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Dogbe v. Delta Air Lines, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

August 27, 2013

SAMUEL K. DOGBE, Plaintiff,
DELTA AIR LINES, INC., JOHN DOE, KONINKLIJKE LUCHTVAART MAATSCHAPPIJ, N.V. aka KLM ROYAL DUTCH AIRLINES, PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY, JANE DOE 1, in her individual and official capacities, and JANE DOE 2, in her individual and official capacities, Defendants

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For Samuel K. Dogbe, Plaintiff: Steven A. Grant, LEAD ATTORNEY, Attorney at Law, New York, NY.

For Delta Airlines, Inc., Defendant: John O. Brennan, LEAD ATTORNEY, Ryan & Brennan LLP, Floral Park, NY.

For Port Authority Of New York And New Jersey, Defendant: David Robert Kromm, LEAD ATTORNEY, The Port Authority of N.Y. & NJ, New York, NY.


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Kiyo A. Matsumoto, United States District Judge.

On December 23, 2011, plaintiff Samuel K. Dogbe (" plaintiff" ) filed the instant action against defendants Delta Air Lines, Inc. (" Delta" ), Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij, N.V., also known as KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (" KLM" ), the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (" the Port Authority" ), John Doe, Jane Doe 1, and Jane Doe 2. (ECF No. 1, Compl.) On April 16, 2012, plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 13, Am. Compl.) In his Amended Complaint, plaintiff seeks money damages and declaratory and injunctive relief to redress his alleged false arrest, unlawful search and seizure, unreasonable force, bodily injury, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress at the hands of defendants in violation of the Constitution and laws of the United States and the State of New York, and the common law. ( See id . ¶ 1.)

Presently before the court are defendants Delta and KLM's motions to dismiss the Amended Complaint. For the reasons discussed below, the court hereby grants defendants' motions to dismiss in their entirety.

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I. Plaintiff's Travels on December 29, 2010

On December 29, 2010, plaintiff, a 71-year-old man, was scheduled to travel from Norfolk, Virginia, to Accra, Ghana, via a connecting flight at New York City's John F. Kennedy Airport (" JFK" ). ( Id . ¶ ¶ 4, 11.) Plaintiff's flight from Norfolk to JFK aboard Delta Flight 166 was delayed, thereby causing plaintiff to miss his connecting flight from JFK to Accra. ( Id . ¶ ¶ 11, 12.) Plaintiff was then required to stand in line for approximately three hours at JFK while he attempted to be reassigned to a new flight to Accra by Delta. ( Id . ¶ 13.) During this time, plaintiff experienced pain and discomfort in his legs that was exacerbated by Delta's failure to offer plaintiff a place to sit and the day's cold weather. ( Id . ¶ ¶ 13-14.) After the three-hour wait, Delta provided plaintiff with a written voucher for a return flight from JFK back to Norfolk on December 29th, as well as for a new flight from Norfolk to Accra via JFK on January 2, 2011. ( Id . ¶ 15.) Plaintiff thereafter returned to Norfolk on December 29, 2010. ( See id .)

II. Plaintiff's Travels on January 2, 2011

A. Plaintiff's Interactions with Delta

On January 2, 2011, plaintiff again flew from Norfolk to JFK aboard Delta Flight 166. ( Id . ¶ 16.) Due to lingering pain in his legs as the result of his three-hour wait in line on December 29th, on January 2nd plaintiff requested and received wheelchair assistance from Delta at Norfolk and JFK. ( Id . ¶ 17.) After a long wait in a wheelchair at JFK, plaintiff was eventually transported to his assigned seat in the rear of the 4:15 p.m. Delta flight to Accra. ( Id . ¶ 18.)

Once seated, plaintiff continued to experience discomfort in his legs due to the December 29th wait and the extended period during which plaintiff sat in a wheelchair prior to boarding the flight to Accra. ( Id .) As the result of his discomfort, plaintiff asked an unidentified male member of Delta's flight crew whether seating with more leg room was available to allow plaintiff to stretch his legs so that his " blood could flow properly." ( Id . ¶ 19.) The male crewmember advised plaintiff that no such seating was available. ( Id . ¶ 20.)

Shortly thereafter, another passenger who witnessed plaintiff's conversation pointed out seemingly available seats with additional legroom. ( Id . ¶ 21.) After asking the same male Delta crewmember whether these seats were in fact available, the agent rhetorically asked plaintiff, " Do you know how much those seats cost?" and immediately answered that, " Each of those seats costs $5,000," and that the seats were " only for the flight crew." ( Id . ¶ ¶ 22-23.) Plaintiff was unsure whether the male crewmember meant that plaintiff could only sit in one of the identified seats if he paid $5,000. ( Id . ¶ 24.) Seeking clarification of the male crewmember's statements, plaintiff next asked whether he could " share" the seats with the flight crew. ( Id . ¶ 25.) Rather than responding to plaintiff, the male crewmember turned and walked away. ( Id . ¶ 26.)

Shortly thereafter, an unidentified female Delta crewmember approached plaintiff and stated, " If you can't sit in your assigned seat, you may have to get off the plane," before walking away without further

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explanation. ( Id . ¶ 27.) Plaintiff was confused by the female crewmember's warning.[2] ( Id . ¶ 28).

A few minutes later, an unknown male Delta employee, identified in the Amended Complaint as " John Doe," approached plaintiff and demanded that plaintiff follow him on foot to the front of the plane, despite John Doe having been aware that plaintiff boarded the plane by wheelchair. ( Id . ¶ 29.) Despite his discomfort, plaintiff complied with John Doe's demand and walked to the front of the plane. ( Id . ¶ 30.) Upon plaintiff's arrival at the front of the plane, John Doe stated, " I agree one-hundred percent with [the female crewmember]," but did not explain to plaintiff what the female crewmember had said to John Doe. ( Id . ¶ 31.) When plaintiff inquired as to what he did wrong, John Doe demanded that plaintiff " get off the plane." ( Id . ¶ 32.) Plaintiff then urged that he did not understand why he was being asked to deplane, to which John Doe stated that it was because of plaintiff's " attitude." ( Id . ¶ 33.) Plaintiff then asked John Doe what he meant by plaintiff's " attitude," at which point John Doe summoned the Port Authority Police. ( Id . ¶ 34-35.) Thereafter, John Doe summoned several unnamed Delta ground crew employees, who " began to gather into a mob and proceeded to rankle and yell at plaintiff, trying to chide him into leaving the plane without explanation or cause." ( Id . ¶ 36.) During this time, one of the unnamed ground crew employees boarded the plane, grabbed plaintiff's arm, and began physically assaulting him. ( Id .)

Soon thereafter, two female Port Authority Police Officers, identified in the Amended Complaint as " Jane Doe 1" and " Jane Doe 2," approached plaintiff in an " unreasonably frightening, hostile[,] and aggressive manner," that made plaintiff believe that he was not free to leave the area. ( See id . ¶ ¶ 38-39.) As the officers approached, plaintiff attempted to calm the Delta employees by advising them that he merely wanted a seating accommodation for his disability.[3] ( Id . ¶ 41.)

Plaintiff then stated that he was a loyal Delta customer and member of Delta's " Sky Miles Club." ( Id . ¶ 42.) Plaintiff next attempted to display his Sky Miles Club membership card, at which point either Jane Doe 1 or Jane Doe 2 forcefully struck plaintiff's hand in an apparent attempt to knock the membership card out of his hand. ( Id . ¶ 42-43.) While remaining calm, plaintiff asked the police officers why his hand had been struck. ( Id . ¶ 44.) One or both of the police officers then forcefully tackled plaintiff to the ground. ( Id .) While plaintiff was lying face-down on the ground, one or both of the police officers sat on plaintiff, which caused his rib to fracture, and a neck injury. ( Id .)

Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 then handcuffed plaintiff and proceeded to search him and his personal property. ( Id . ¶ 45.) During this time, plaintiff's handcuffs became increasingly tight, thereby causing plaintiff pain and suffering. ( Id .) Upon

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bringing this fact to the attention of Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2, the police officers ignored plaintiff's pleas to loosen his handcuffs. ( Id .) Plaintiff was then dragged from the plane by the police officers and placed in a wheelchair while still handcuffed. ( Id . ¶ 46.) As plaintiff was being removed from the plane, John Doe told plaintiff that he was " banned" from flying on Delta for one year. ( Id . ¶ 100.)

For an unspecified but " significant" period of time thereafter, plaintiff was interrogated by the police officers, during which time he remained handcuffed. ( Id . ¶ 50.) Plaintiff was repeatedly asked if he had been drinking or using drugs, to which he replied that he had been doing neither. ( Id . ¶ ¶ 48-50.)

Plaintiff was eventually released by the Port Authority Police later that same day, after which plaintiff was taken by ambulance to the emergency room of Jamaica Hospital in Queens. ( Id . ¶ ¶ 50-51, 100.) Plaintiff was examined, treated, and released that same day. ( See id . ¶ 51.) Plaintiff continued to suffer great pain from his injuries after being released from the hospital. ( Id . ¶ 52.)

Upon subsequent examination of plaintiff on another date by his family physician, plaintiff was diagnosed with a fractured rib and a " serious" neck injury. ( See id . ¶ ¶ 52-55.) Additionally, plaintiff's wrists were bruised, some of his clothing and personal items were soiled, torn, or otherwise damaged, and he suffered embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, stress, and emotional distress. ( Id . ¶ ¶ 56-57.) Plaintiff continues to receive medical treatment and therapy for his injuries. ( Id . ¶ 57.)

According to plaintiff, since his forceful removal from the Delta flight to Accra, Delta has refused to provide plaintiff with a copy of an incident report or any other explanation of its decision to remove plaintiff from the plane. ( Id . ¶ 102.)

B. Plaintiff's Interactions with KLM

Following his release from the Jamaica Hospital emergency room on January 2, 2011, plaintiff returned to JFK to attempt to obtain another flight to Accra. ( Id . ¶ 100.) At JFK, plaintiff attempted to purchase a ticket aboard a KLM flight to Accra; however, a KLM sales agent refused to sell plaintiff a ticket and told him that " the system would not allow it because of an entry by Delta." ( Id .) At this time, plaintiff also learned that KLM and Delta are partners in an international alliance known as " SkyTeam." ( See id .)

III. The Instant Action

A. Plaintiff's Claims

Plaintiff's Amended Complaint contains the following twenty-two claims:

First Claim: Violation of plaintiff's constitutional rights under color of law pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2. ( Id . ¶ ¶ 58-59.)
Second Claim: Assault against Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2. ( Id . ¶ ¶ 60-61.)
Third Claim: Battery against Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2. ( Id . ¶ ¶ 62-63.)
Fourth Claim: False arrest and imprisonment against Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2. ( Id . ¶ ¶ 64-65.)
Fifth Claim: Intentional infliction of emotional distress against Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2. ( Id ...

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