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Lozada v. Delta Airlines, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

June 17, 2014



J. PAUL OETKEN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Yvonne Lozada was removed from Delta Airlines Flight 172 prior to takeoff at JFK Airport in Queens, New York. Lozada claims that she did nothing wrong, while Defendant Delta Airlines, Inc. ("Delta") claims that she acted belligerently and repeatedly demanded free alcohol. Lozada brought suit in New York City Civil Court, Bronx County, asserting a claim for negligence. The lawsuit was removed to this Court on the basis of federal preemption. Before the Court is a motion for summary judgment filed by Delta. For the reasons that follow, that motion is granted.

I. Background

A. Factual Background[1]

On September 16, 2010, Lozada arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport for her 7:00 p.m. Delta Air Lines flight to Miami, Florida. Per her usual custom, she arrived several hours ahead of time. The flight ended up being delayed multiple times, resulting in hours of additional wait. During this period, Lozada, a 69-year old woman just over five feet tall, visited two establishments at the airport, where she consumed an unspecified amount of alcohol. Following an announcement, she proceeded to the gate area to board the plane.

The parties dispute what happened next. Lozada contends that she boarded the plane without incident, but shortly after she sat down, a member of the Port Authority Police came onboard and removed her from the aircraft. In contrast, Delta contends that prior to boarding Lozada showed clear signs of intoxication and was acting belligerently, loudly demanding free alcohol for the passengers to compensate for the delay. According to Delta, this highly disruptive behavior continued once she boarded the plane, where she made more demands for free drinks and incessantly pressed the flight attendant call button. Delta contends that such behavior continued even after the issuance of warnings from the flight crew that such actions may result in her removal from the flight. When the Captain was finally notified of the situation by flight attendant ("FA") Meadows, he instructed her to contact Port Authority Police to have Lozada removed from the plane.

Lozada was removed from the aircraft and placed in a wheelchair. She was subsequently released by security without being charged. She does not claim that she suffered any physical injury or other mistreatment by Delta employees.

B. Procedural Background

Lozada initiated this action against Delta on September 13, 2013 in the Bronx County Civil Court of the City of New York, asserting a claim of negligence. Delta filed a notice of removal to this Court on October 21, 2013.[2] Delta answered the complaint on October 24, 2013. On February 28, 2014, Delta moved for summary judgment and submitted the required Local Rule 56.1 statement. Lozada did not file the required Local Rule 56.1 response, and she has not made any submissions in opposition to this motion other than her memorandum in opposition.

II. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate when "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. A fact is material if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, " Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986), and a dispute is genuine if, considering the record as a whole, a rational jury could find in favor of the non-moving party, Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586 (2009) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)).

The initial burden on a party moving for summary judgment is to provide evidence of each element of his claim or defense illustrating his entitlement to relief. Vt. Teddy Bear Co. v. 1-800 Beargram Co., 373 F.3d 241, 244 (2d Cir. 2004). If the movant makes this showing, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to identify specific facts demonstrating a genuine issue for trial, i.e., that reasonable jurors could differ about the evidence. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(f); Anderson, 447 U.S. at 250-51. The court should view all evidence "in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor, " and a motion for summary judgment may be granted only if "no reasonable trier of fact could find in favor of the nonmoving party." Allen v. Coughlin, 64 F.3d 77, 79 (2d Cir. 1995) (citation omitted). At the same time, "[a]ny assessments of credibility and all choices between available inferences are matters to be left for a jury." Azrielli v. Cohen Law Offices, 21 F.3d 512, 517 (2d Cir. 1992) (citations omitted).

Local Civil Rule 56.1 for the United States District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York requires the moving party on a motion for summary judgment to submit a "short and concise statement" describing the material facts as to which there is no genuine issue to be tried. Local Rule 56.1(a). Parties opposing summary judgment must then respond with a corresponding statement describing what genuine issues, if any, remain. See Local Rule 56.1(b). The facts set forth by the moving party "will be deemed to be admitted... unless specifically controverted" by the opposing party's statement. Local Rule 56.1(c).

If the nonmoving party fails to comply with Local Rule 56.1(b), "a district court has broad discretion to determine whether to overlook a party's failure to comply with local court rules." Holtz v. Rockefeller & Co., Inc., 258 F.3d 62, 73 (2d Cir. 2001). In such instances, the court may either rely upon the 56.1 Statement, or elect to "conduct an assiduous review of the record" in light of the nonmoving party's ...

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