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Bland v. Eva Airways Corporation

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 24, 2014

JOHN BLAND, Plaintiff,
v.
EVA AIRWAYS CORPORATION, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM ORDER

PAUL G. GARDEPHE, District Judge.

Plaintiff John Bland brings this action against defendant EVA Airways Corporation ("EVA"), seeking damages under the Montreal Convention for injuries he sustained during an EVA flight. (Cmplt. (Dkt. No.1)) The parties have cross-moved for reconsideration of this Court's March 11, 2013 order (Dkt. No. 21) denying the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the cross-motions for reconsideration (Dkt. Nos. 24, 28) will be denied.

BACKGROUND[1]

The factual background concerning Bland's action is fully set forth in this Court's March 11, 2013 order and will not be repeated here. In summary, on February 29, 2009, Bland sustained injuries to his left eye while aboard an EVA flight from Los Angeles, California to Taipei, Taiwan. (Dkt. No. 21 at 1) After Bland's flight landed in Taipei, and while the plane was taxiing to the gate, Bland was struck in the left eye by a shopping bag held by a fellow passenger. (Id. at 1-2) The passenger had been sitting across the aisle from Bland during the flight but apparently stood up while the plane was taxiing to the gate. (Id. at 2)

The parties dispute whether the passenger holding the shopping bag removed it from the overhead compartment just before Bland was struck in the eye. (Id.) At his deposition, Bland testified that he did not see the passenger remove the bag from the overhead compartment. (Id.) Bland further testified that he is "assuming" that the passenger took the bag out of the overhead compartment. (Id.)

The parties likewise dispute whether members of the flight crew observed the passenger stand up and remove items from the overhead bin while the plane was taxiing to the gate. (Id. at 3) A flight attendant was seated approximately eight rows in front of Bland, facing the passengers, but there is no evidence that the flight attendant interacted with Bland's fellow passenger either before or after the bag struck Bland's eye. (Id.) There is likewise no evidence as to how long the passenger holding the bag was standing before the bag hit Bland's eye. (Id.)

Bland sustained a detached retina in his left eye, for which he underwent surgery.

(Id. at 4)[2]

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The central dispute in the parties' summary judgment motion papers was whether an "accident" had occurred within the meaning of the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air[3](known as the Montreal Convention) - as interpreted by the Supreme Court in Air France v. Saks , 470 U.S. 392, 405 (1985). Such a finding is a prerequisite for carrier liability under the Convention.

In its March 11, 2013 order denying the parties' motions for summary judgment, this Court noted that "the Second Circuit and other courts in this district have consistently found that a compensable accident' occurs only where there is some causal connection between the event causing harm or loss and the operation of the aircraft or airline." (Dkt. No. 21 at 7) Because "there are a multitude of factual issues concerning the circumstances of Bland's injury and the airline's role in that injury, " this Court concluded that neither side was entitled to summary judgment. (Id. at 9)

Both sides have moved for reconsideration of that order. (Dkt. Nos. 24, 28) Bland argues that this Court erred in concluding that his injury must be causally related to the operation of EVA's aircraft or airline to constitute an "accident" under the Convention. (Pltf. Reconsideration Br. (Dkt. No. 28) at 4-6) Bland further argues that even if a causal connection is required the evidence that a passenger stood up during taxiing to the gate is sufficient to demonstrate causation. (Pltf. Reconsideration Reply Br. (Dkt. No. 31) at 5-6)

EVA argues that it is entitled to summary judgment because Bland did not proffer sufficient evidence to create an issue of material fact as to whether there is a causal connection between his injury and the operation of EVA's ...


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