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Masudi v. Brady Cargo Services, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

September 8, 2014

HAYAT JOHN MASUDI, pro se, Plaintiff,
v.
BRADY CARGO SERVICES, INC., a New York Corporation, RONALD A. BRADY, Corporation Counsel of Brady Cargo Services, Inc., in his capacity as Corporation Counsel, and Individually, AIR TRANSAT CARGO INC., a Canada Corporation, and Defendants.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

DORA L. IRIZARRY, District Judge.

Pro se Plaintiff Hayat John Masudi ("Plaintiff")[1] filed the instant action in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Queens County, against Defendants Brady Cargo Services, Inc. and Ronald A. Brady (collectively, the "Brady Defendants"), and Air Transat A.T. Inc.[2] ("Air Transat"). ( See Notice of Removal ("Not."), Dkt. Entry No. 1.) Plaintiff alleged claims for breach of contract, violation of Article 7 of the Unified Commercial Code, unjust enrichment, conversion, intentional and negligent misrepresentation, and fraudulent misrepresentation and inducement, stemming from a shipping contract. ( See First Amended Complaint ("Cmpl.") ¶¶ 37-65, Dkt. Entry No. 1.) With the consent of the Brady Defendants, Air Transat removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (Not. at 2.)

The Brady Defendants and Air Transat (collectively, "Defendants") now move for summary judgment. ( See Brady Defendants' Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. ("Brady Mem."), Dkt. Entry No. 39; Mem. of Law in Supp. of Air Transat's Mot. for Summ. J. ("Air Transat Mem."), Dkt. Entry No. 29.) Defendants contend that Plaintiff's state law claims are preempted by the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, done at Montreal on May 28, 1999, ICAO Doc. No. 9740 (entered into force November 4, 2003), reprinted in S. Treaty Doc. 106-45, available at 1999 WL 33292734 (the "Montreal Convention") and that Plaintiff cannot establish a cause of action under the Montreal Convention. ( See generally Brady Mem.; Air Transat Mem.) Plaintiff cross-moves for summary judgment, or, alternatively, dismissal of Defendants' motions, arguing that Defendants violated the Montreal Convention. ( See generally Pl.'s Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Mem."), Dkt. Entry No. 33.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motions for summary judgment are granted and the case is dismissed.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. Plaintiff hired the Brady Defendants to transport four shipments of clothing (the "Shipments") from New York, New York, to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. (AirTransat's Rule 56.1 Statement ("AT Stmt.") ¶ 1, Dkt. Entry No. 28.) The Brady Defendants contacted Air Transat through its general sales agent, Airline Services International, and arranged for carriage of the Shipments from New York to Punta Cana. ( Id. ¶ 3.) Air Transat then transported the Shipments by truck from New York to Canada, where they were flown from either Toronto or Montreal to Punta Cana. ( Id. ¶¶ 8-9.)

Plaintiff contends that one shipment (the "Disputed Shipment"), identified by air waybill[3] No. 649-6119-8406, was seized, delayed, and arrived missing pieces. (Pl.'s Mem. at 5.) Defendants assert that the Disputed Shipment was transported by air from Toronto to Punta Cana and timely arrived at its destination on February 17, 2011. (AT Stmt. ¶ 9.)

DISCUSSION

A. Preemption

Successor to the Warsaw Convention, [4] the Montreal Convention "applies to all international carriage of persons, baggage or cargo performed by aircraft for reward." Montreal Convention, Art. 1(1). "[ I ] nternational carriage means any carriage in which, according to the agreement between the parties, the place of departure and the place of destination, whether or not there be a break in the carriage or a transhipment, are situated... within the territories of two States Parties." Id., Art. 1(2) (emphasis in original).

The Montreal Convention's primary goal is to "limit airline accident liability while protecting the rights of passengers and shippers utilizing international air carriage." Seagate Logistics, Inc. v. Angel Kiss, Inc., 699 F.Supp.2d 499, 505 (E.D.N.Y. 2010). To that end, the Montreal Convention preempts state and federal claims that fall within its scope. See Best v. BWIA West Indies Airways Ltd., 581 F.Supp.2d 359, 362 (E.D.N.Y. 2008) ("By its own terms, the treaty, where applicable, preempts the remedies of a signatory's domestic law, whether or not the application of the [Montreal] Convention will result in recovery in a particular case.") (citing El Al Israel Airlines, Ltd. v. Tseng, 525 U.S. 155, 161 (1999)); see also Paradis v. Ghana Airways Ltd., 348 F.Supp.2d 106, 111 (S.D.N.Y. 2004), aff'd, 194 F.Appx. 5 (2d Cir. 2006). As such, claims brought "in contract or in tort or otherwise" are subject to the Convention's "conditions and... limits of liability." Montreal Convention, Art. 29.

The Montreal Convention's scope encompasses: "(1) death or bodily injury suffered by an airline passenger or the destruction, loss of or damage to [his or] her baggage, provided the harm occurred onboard or in the process of embarking or disembarking (Article 17); (2) loss or destruction of baggage or other cargo sustained during carriage by air, subject to certain exclusions (Article 18); and (3) delay in the carriage of passengers, baggage or cargo (Article 19)." Seagate, 699 F.Supp.2d at 505-06.

Turning to the instant action, Plaintiff's amended complaint alleges that Defendants' handling of the Disputed Shipment violated New York State law. ( See generally Am. Compl.) However, in his opposition to Defendants' summary judgment motion, Plaintiff asserted, for the first time, that Defendants violated the Montreal Convention. ( See Pl. Mem. at 1-2.) Notably, the parties do not dispute that their contract was for international carriage, which falls squarely within the language of the Montreal Convention. Plaintiff cannot circumvent the Montreal Convention by asserting claims under state law. See Montreal Convention, Art. 29; see also Fields v. BWIA Int'l Airways Ltd., 2000 WL 1091129, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. July 7, 2000) (stating that a plaintiff may not circumvent the Montreal Convention by "recharacterizing [his or] her claims as sounding in state law"). Accordingly, Plaintiff's state law claims are dismissed with prejudice. See Dogbe v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 969 F.Supp.2d 261, 274-75 (E.D.N.Y. 2013) (dismissing common law contract and tort claims that fell within the Montreal Convention's language).

Moreover, the Court must construe the amended compliant as asserting claims under the Montreal Convention, rather than state law, as pleaded, because Plaintiff's claims fall within the "complete preemption" corollary to the well-pleaded complaint rule. See Caterpillar Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 393 (1987). The complete preemption doctrine applies when "the preemptive force of a statute is so extraordinary' that it converts an ordinary state common-law complaint into one stating a federal claim for purposes of the well-pleaded complaint rule.'" Id. (citation omitted). As a treaty of the United States, the Montreal Convention's preemptive force is extraordinary. See Mateo v. JetBlue Airways Corp., 847 F.Supp.2d 383, 386 (E.D.N.Y. 2012) (finding that plaintiff's claims, sounding in state law, against airline ...


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