United States District Court, S.D. New York
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Kevin Castel United States District Judge
Janet Fawemimo, who is proceeding pro se, brings
negligence claims related to injuries that she allegedly
suffered while taking her seat on an aircraft. On May 31,
2016, after the close of discovery, defendant American
Airlines, Inc. (“American”) filed a motion for
summary judgment. (Docket # 38.) This Court granted three
requests from Ms. Fawemimo to extend the deadline to file
opposition papers. (Docket #43-48.) Although the deadline was
eventually extended to September 5, 2016, Ms. Fawemimo never
filed opposition papers. American noted as much in its
September 16, 2016 letter to the Court, a copy of which was
sent to Ms. Fawemimo. (Docket # 49.) Ms. Fawemimo has made no
further communications with the Court, and the Court reviews
American's motion unopposed.
reasons explained, Ms. Fawemimo's negligence claims are
preempted by federal aviation laws. American's motion for
summary judgment is therefore granted. RULE 56 STANDARD.
judgment “shall” be granted “if the movant
shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Rule 56(a), Fed.R.Civ.P. 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). On a motion for summary
judgment, the court must “construe the facts in the
light most favorable to the non-moving party and resolve all
ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the
movant.” Delaney v. Bank of Am. Corp., 766
F.3d 163, 167 (2d Cir. 2014) (quotation marks omitted). It is
the initial burden of the movant to come forward with
evidence on each material element of his claim or defense,
demonstrating that he is entitled to relief, and the evidence
on each material element must be sufficient to entitle the
movant to relief in its favor as a matter of law. Vt.
Teddy Bear Co. v. 1-800 Beargram Co., 373 F.3d 241, 244
(2d Cir. 2004).
motion for summary judgment is unopposed, as it is here,
courts “must review the motion . . . and determine from
what it has before it whether the moving party is entitled to
summary judgment as a matter of law, ” because
“the district court may not grant the motion without
first examining the moving party's submission to
determine if it has met its burden of demonstrating that no
material issue of fact remains for trial.” Id.
at 246, 244 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
“Moreover, in determining whether the moving party has
met this burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue for
trial, the district court may not rely solely on the
statement of undisputed facts contained in the moving
party's Rule 56.1 statement. It must be satisfied that
the citation to evidence in the record supports the
assertion.” Id. (citation omitted).
afford special solicitude to pro se litigants
confronted with motions for summary judgment. See Graham
v. Lewinski, 848 F.2d 342, 344 (2d Cir. 1988). American
attached to its motion the Notice to Pro Se Litigant Who
Opposes a Motion for Summary Judgment, as required by Local
Civil Rule 56.2. (Docket # 42.) Although Ms. Fawemimo has
submitted no opposition papers, the Court draws every
reasonable inference in her favor. 766 F.3d at 167.
Fawemimo alleges that on or about March 5, 2010, she was a
passenger on American Airlines Flight 19 from JFK Airport to
Los Angeles International Airport (“LAX”).
(Compl't ¶ 9.) She claims that while taking her
seat, she “was seriously and painfully injured
sustaining severe personal injuries . . . due to the reckless
and dangerous TV monitor which protruded from the wall in
front of and above of the plaintiff's seat (the middle
seat) was painted to blend in with the wall [sic].”
(Compl't ¶ 10.) According to Ms. Fawemimo, the seat
“was negligently, carelessly, and dangerously too close
to the wall. Consequently, plaintiff sustained a severe head
injury, and bradycardia to her heart when she hit her head
against the TV monitor while taking her seat.”
(Compl't ¶ 11.) She alleges that she was transported
from LAX to a hospital, causing her to “miss[ ] her
once in a lifetime event because, Ms. Fawemimo spent the next
three days at different hospitals.” (Compl't ¶
13.) She alleges that she now suffers from “an
irreversible medical problem that is attributed to this
accident.” (Compl't ¶ 18.)
Complaint alleges that American negligently failed to provide
safe seating, or to warn passengers about the potential
safety issues regarding “protruding” TV monitors.
(Compl't ¶ 17.) Ms. Fawemimo seeks approximately
$11.5 million in compensatory damages and $21 million
punitive damages. (Docket # 13.) She also seeks injunctive
relief requiring an increase in the distance between aircraft
seats and walls, and requiring that aircraft walls and
monitors be painted different colors. (Compl't ¶
in this case is closed. In its motion for summary judgment,
American contends that Ms. Fawemimo's claims are
preempted by the Federal Aviation Act, 49 U.S.C. § 1301,
et seq., as amended by the Airline Deregulation Act
of 1978, 49 U.S.C. § 41713(b)(1) (“ADA”).
Supremacy Clause, U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2,
‘invalidates state laws that ‘interfere with, or
are contrary to, ' federal law.'” Air
Transp. Ass'n of Am., Inc. v. Cuomo, 520 F.3d 218,
220 (2d Cir. 2008) (quoting Hillsborough Cnty. v.
Automated Med. Labs., Inc., 471 U.S. 707, 712 (1985)).
“Express preemption arises when a federal statute
expressly directs that state law be ousted, ” whereas
implied preemption arises when “Congress intended the
Federal Government to occupy a field exclusively, or when
state law actually conflicts with federal law.”
Id. (quotation marks, alterations and citations
omitted). Implied preemption applies when the federal
interest in a field is “sufficiently dominant”
that it precludes “supplementation by the States . . .
.” Id. at 221. The Second Circuit has
concluded that the FAA “does not preempt all state law
tort actions, ” and that states may enact laws that do
not conflict with federal statute or regulations. See
id. at 224-25.
“determination regarding preemption is a conclusion of
law . . . .” Drake v. Lab. Corp. of Am.
Holdings, 458 F.3d 48, 56 (2d Cir. 2006). The ADA's
preemption provision states:
Except as provided in this subsection, a State . . . may not
enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having
the force and effect of law related to a . . . service of an
air carrier that may provide air transportation under this
49 U.S.C.A. § 41713(b)(1). None of the exceptions
applies to this case, meaning that Fawemimo's negligence
claims are preempted if they relate to the “service of
an air carrier . . . .” See ...