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Mughal v. Pakistan International Airlines Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

February 28, 2018

MUHAMMAD SULTAN MUGHAL, Plaintiff,
v.
PAKISTAN INTERNATIONAL AIRLINES CORPORATION, also known as PIA, Defendant.

         NOT FOR ELECTRONIC OR PRINT PUBLICATION

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          ALLYNE R. ROSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Muhammad Sultan Mughal brought this negligence action for damages from injuries Mughal allegedly sustained on March 31, 2011 after he slipped and fell in a lavatory of a transit lounge in the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore, Pakistan. See Plaintiff's Verified Complaint (“Compl.”), Ex. A, Def.'s Statememt of Undisputed Facts Pursuant to Local Civil R. 56.1 (“Def.'s 56.1 Stmt.”), ECF No. 38-1. Defendant Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (PIA) has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 on the ground that plaintiff's action is time-barred under Article 35 of the Montreal Convention, [1] which PIA contends governs this action, because plaintiff filed his complaint more than two years after the alleged incident. Def.'s Mem. of Law in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. (“Def.'s Mot.”) 1, ECF No. 39. For the reasons stated below, I grant PIA's motion.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The following facts are undisputed.[2] On March 31, 2011, plaintiff allegedly slipped and fell in a lavatory in the Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore, Pakistan while waiting for a connecting flight. See Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 2. When plaintiff fell, he was a ticketed passenger on PIA Flights PK 681 and 723 from Islamabad, Pakistan to New York, New York via Lahore, Pakistan on March 30 to 31, 2011. Id. ¶ 1. PIA owned the airline, including the transit lounge, where PIA directed plaintiff to stay while waiting for his connecting flight. Compl. ¶ 18. As a result of the incident, plaintiff claims that he sustained injuries to his brain, head, right ribs, and right wrist. Def.'s 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 3. He allegedly received medical treatment at three medical facilities between March 31, 2011 and June 11, 2011, including Mount Sinai Hospital, Bellevue Hospital, and Sunrise Manor Center for Nursing. Id. ¶ 4.

         On March 27, 2014, plaintiff filed a summons and verified complaint in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Queens. Id. ¶ 5. On April 18, 2014, PIA removed this action to this Court “on the grounds that PIA is a ‘foreign state, ' and this Court has original jurisdiction to hear claims against a foreign state.” Def.'s Mot. 2. On October 22, 2015, PIA filed its motion for summary judgment, contending that plaintiff's action is time-barred under the Montreal Convention because plaintiff “failed to commence an action within two years from the date of his arrival, the date on which he ought to have arrived, or the date on which carriage stopped.” Id. In response, plaintiff argues that New York law governs this action and that, under New York law, plaintiff's brain injury tolls the Convention's two-year time limitation. Pl.'s Mot. in Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. (“Pl.'s Opp'n”) 1-2, ECF No. 41.

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, 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). A “genuine dispute” exists for the purposes of summary judgment “where the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could decide in the non-movant's favor.” Beyer v. Cty. of Nassau, 524 F.3d 160, 163 (2d Cir. 2008). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, I “must ‘construe the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the movant.'” Id. (quoting Dallas Aerospace, Inc. v. CIS Air Corp., 352 F.3d 775, 780 (2d Cir. 2003)).

         DISCUSSION

         I. The Montreal Convention exclusively governs this action.

         Defendant argues that the Montreal Convention exclusively governs plaintiff's claims and preempts all state claims. See Def.'s Mot. 4. Plaintiff argues that New York law should apply because plaintiff filed his case in New York Supreme Court before defendant removed to federal court. See Pl.'s Opp'n 1-2. Defendant is correct.

         The Montreal Convention, to which the United States became a party in 2003 and Pakistan became a party in 2007, [3] applies to “all international carriage of persons, baggage or cargo performed by aircraft for reward.” Montreal Convention art. 1(1). International carriage is defined as “any carriage in which, according to the agreement between the parties, the place of departure and the place of destination . . . are situated either within the territories of two State Parties, or within the territory of a single State Party if there is an agreed stopping place within the territory of another state . . . .” Id. at art. 1(2). With respect to “the carriage of passengers, baggage and cargo, ” the Montreal Convention applies to “any action for damages, however founded, whether under this Convention or in contract or in tort or otherwise . . . .” Id. at art. 29.

         As a treaty of the United States, the Montreal Convention “is the supreme law of the land.” Best v. BWIA W. Indies Airways Ltd., 581 F.Supp.2d 359, 362 (E.D.N.Y. 2008) (citing Commercial Union Ins. Co. v. Alitalia Airlines, S.p.A., 347 F.3d 448, 456-57 (2d Cir. 2003)). Like the Warsaw Convention that it succeeded, [4] the Montreal Convention preempts state law claims falling within its scope. See Mateo v. JetBlue Airways Corp., 847 F.Supp.2d 383, 386-87 (E.D.N.Y. 2012) (“[T]he Montreal Convention is the exclusive means of redressing injuries that fall within its purview.”) (citing King v. American Airlines, Inc., 284 F.3d 352, 356-57 (2d Cir. 2002)); see also El Al Israel Airlines, Ltd. V. Tsui Yuan Tseng, 525 U.S. 155, 161 (1999) (“We . . . hold that recovery for a personal injury suffered ‘on board [an] aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking' . . ., if not allowed under the [Warsaw] Convention, is not available at all.”); In re Nigeria Charter Flights Contract Litig., 520 F.Supp.2d 447, 453 (E.D.N.Y. 2007) (explaining that because the “preemptive language” in the Warsaw and Montreal Conventions are “substantially similar, ” they have “‘substantially the same preemptive effect'”) (quoting Paradis v. Ghana Airways Ltd., 384 F.Supp.2d 106, 111 (S.D.N.Y. 2004)).

         Article 17 of the Convention addresses liability for injury to passengers. It states: “The carrier is liable for damages sustained in case of death or bodily injury of a passenger upon condition only that the accident which caused the death or injury took place on board the aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking.” Montreal Convention art. 17(1). Where passengers have suffered injuries in locations under an airline's control or direction, courts have found that Article 17 of the Convention governed their claims. See, e.g., Rajcooar v. Air India Ltd., 89 F.Supp.2d 324, 327-28 (E.D.N.Y. 2000) (finding that Article 17 of the Warsaw Convention exclusively governed the claim of a passenger who, during a layover, suffered a heart attack in a transit lounge in which he was directed to stay until his connecting flight was called); Alleyn v. Port Auth. Of N.Y. & N.J., 58 F.Supp.2d 15, 21-22 ...


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