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Boyd v. Deutsche Lufthansa Aktiengesellschaft

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 3, 2015



MARTIN L. C. FELDMAN, District Judge.

Before the Court is Deutsche Lufthansa Aktiengesellschaft a/k/a Deutsche Lufthansa AG's Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED.


This litigation concerns an international airline's liability to a passenger who fell and broke her hip while walking to the U.S. Customs area of a Houston airport.

After traveling to Cairo, Egypt, Fay Boyd and her husband, Marion Boyd, their daughter, Jennifer Pecot, and the Boyd's granddaughter, Ashley Scheibal, returned to the United States on June 2, 2013 on Lufthansa Flight Number LH 440 from Frankfurt, Germany to Houston, Texas. Having been upgraded to business class, Mr. and Mrs. Boyd were seated near the front of the airplane. When Flight 440 landed at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Mr. and Mrs. Boyd deplaned first, before the full flight of passengers who followed them. Having stepped off of the plane without requesting assistance for herself, [1] Mrs. Boyd was walking a short distance (about 10 feet) behind Mr. Boyd, who was being pushed in a wheelchair by an attendant.[2] Mr. and Mrs. Boyd, along with other passengers, were in a wide corridor of the airport, heading toward Customs. During part of her walk toward Customs, Mrs. Boyd traveled along a moving walkway (or horizontal escalator). At some point, [3] Mrs. Boyd alleges that she was knocked to the ground by another hurried passenger, causing her to fall and break her left hip.[4] None of Mrs. Boyd's family members witnessed the incident. Some unidentified woman wearing an unidentified uniform arrived on scene and called the paramedics.

On June 2, 2014 Mrs. Boyd sued Deutsche Lufthansa Aktiengesellschaft a/k/a or d/b/a Lufthansa German Airlines a/k/a Deutsche Lufthansa AG, [5] seeking to recover for her injuries under the Montreal Convention. In her complaint, the plaintiff alleges that Lufthansa failed to allow her enough time to disembark before allowing the other passengers on the plane to disembark.[6] In particular, she alleges that as she was disembarking, another passenger in a rush collided with her, knocking her to the ground and causing her to fracture her femur. Lufthansa submits that this lawsuit was the first notification it had that the plaintiff had been injured. Lufthansa now seeks summary relief dismissing Mrs. Boyd's claims.


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 instructs that summary judgment is proper if the record discloses no genuine dispute as to any material fact such that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. No genuine dispute of fact exists if the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). A genuine dispute of fact exists only "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

The Court emphasizes that the mere argued existence of a factual dispute does not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion. See id. Therefore, "[i]f the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, " summary judgment is appropriate. Id. at 249-50 (citations omitted). Summary judgment is also proper if the party opposing the motion fails to establish an essential element of his case. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). In this regard, the non-moving party must do more than simply deny the allegations raised by the moving party. See Donaghey v. Ocean Drilling & Exploration Co., 974 F.2d 646, 649 (5th Cir. 1992). Rather, he must come forward with competent evidence, such as affidavits or depositions, to buttress his claims. Id. Hearsay evidence and unsworn documents that cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence at trial do not qualify as competent opposing evidence. Martin v. John W. Stone Oil Distrib., Inc., 819 F.2d 547, 549 (5th Cir. 1987); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2). "[T]he nonmoving party cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or only a scintilla of evidence." Hathaway v. Bazany, 507 F.3d 312, 319 (5th Cir. 2007)(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). In deciding whether a fact issue exists, courts must view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007). Although the Court must "resolve factual controversies in favor of the nonmoving party, " it must do so "only where there is an actual controversy, that is, when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts." Antoine v. First Student, Inc., 713 F.3d 824, 830 (5th Cir. 2013)(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).



Lufthansa submits that summary relief in its favor is warranted because the plaintiff did not suffer an "accident" while "disembarking" from Flight 440, as defined by the Montreal Convention and governing case literature.

The Montreal Convention[7] is a multilateral treaty that "governs the rights and liabilities of passengers and carriers in international air transportation." Galbert v. W. Carribean Airways, 715 F.3d 1290, 1292 (11th Cir. 2013). As such, the Montreal Convention preempts state law causes of action concerning international carriage of persons, baggage, and cargo. See El Al Israel Airlines v. Tsui Yuan Tseng, 525 U.S. 155, 176 (1999); see also Montreal Convention, Art. 29 ("[A]ny action for damages, however founded, whether under this Convention or in contract or in tort or otherwise, can only be brought subject to the conditions and such limits of liability as are set out in this Convention...."). The Montreal Convention unifies and replaces its predecessor, the Warsaw Convention, by harmonizing "the hodgepodge of supplementary amendments and intercarrier agreements." See Sompo Japan Ins., Inc. v. Nippon Cargo Airlines Co., 522 F.3d 776, 789 (7th Cir. 2008). Thus, case literature interpreting the Warsaw Convention applies to cases interpreting substantially similar provisions of the Montreal Convention. See Bridgeman v. United Continental Holdings, Inc., 552 Fed.Appx. 294, 297 n.1 (5th Cir. 2013)(citing cases).

Setting forth the specific conditions that a passenger must establish to recover from an international air carrier, the parties do not dispute that Article 17 of the Montreal Convention ...

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