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Deutsche Lufthansa AG v. Massachusetts Port Authority

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

July 18, 2018

DEUTSCHE LUFTHANSA AG, Plaintiff,
v.
MASSACHUSETTS PORT AUTHORITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Denise J. Casper United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Deutsche Lufthansa AG (“Lufthansa”) brings claims against the Massachusetts Port Authority (“Massport”) related to an inclement weather episode. D. 1. Massport moves to dismiss certain counts of Lufthansa's complaint, D. 15, and strike Lufthansa's jury demand, D. 17. For the following reasons, the Court ALLOWS Massport's motion to strike the jury demand, D. 17, and ALLOWS Massport's motion to dismiss, D. 15, with respect to Count I (negligence per se), Count IV (proprietary liability), and Count V (loss of use and enjoyment), but DENIES Massport's motion to dismiss with respect to Count II (breach of contract).

         II. Standard of Review

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); García-Catalán v. United States, 734 F.3d 100, 103 (1st Cir. 2013). The Court “must assume the truth of all well-plead[ed] facts and give the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences therefrom.” Ruiz v. Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp., 496 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2007).

         III. Factual Background

         The following facts are based upon the allegations in complaint, D. 1. Lufthansa is a foreign airline company that operates flights in and out of Logan International Airport (“Logan”). D. 1 ¶ 1. Massport is the owner and operator of Logan. D. 1 ¶ 2. On February 9, 2015, an aircraft owned and/or operated by Lufthansa (“the Aircraft”) hit a snowbank on the side of the taxiway with one of its engines as it was being taxied. D. 1 ¶¶ 9, 12. The collision with the snowbank caused the engine to shut down, leading to the cancellation of the flight. D. 1 ¶¶ 13-15. As a result, the passengers on that flight were rebooked onto another Lufthansa flight, booked in a local hotel, or granted some other form of relief by Lufthansa. D. 1 ¶ 16. The Aircraft remained inoperable for ten days and the damaged engine was replaced. D. 1 ¶¶ 29, 30. Lufthansa now brings claims against Massport for negligence per se based on Massport's obligations under federal law; breach of contract; general negligence; proprietary duty; and loss of use and enjoyment. D. 1.

         Massport and Lufthansa entered into two relevant contracts with each other: 1) “Boston-Logan International Airport Terminal Lease between [Massport] and [Lufthansa], ” (the “Lease Agreement”), D. 16-1, and 2) an “Operating Agreement, ” D. 21-1.

         IV. Procedural History

         Lufthansa filed its complaint on September 8, 2017. D. 1. Massport then moved to dismiss all counts in the complaint except for the claim for general negligence (Count III) and to strike Lufthansa's jury demand. D. 15, D. 17. The Court heard argument on both motions and took the matters under advisement. D. 36.

         V. Motion to Dismiss

         A. Count I: Negligence Per Se

         Lufthansa contends that, under 14 C.F.R. § 139.313, Massport was obligated to “prepare, maintain, and carry out a snow and ice control plan” that includes procedures for “prompt removal or control, as completely as practical, of snow, ice, and slush on each movement area” and “positioning snow off the movement area surfaces so all air carrier aircraft propellers, engine pods, rotors, and wing tips will clear any snowdrift and snowbank as the aircraft's landing gear traverses any portion of the movement area.” D. 1 ¶¶ 39-42. Lufthansa further argues that Massport's failure to abide by the obligations set forth in the federal regulation gives rise to a negligence per se action under Massachusetts law. D. 21 at 4. Massport contends that negligence per se is not a separate cause of action under Massachusetts law. D. 16 at 4.

         In Bennett v. Eagle Brook County Store, Inc., 408 Mass. 355, 358-59 (1990), the Supreme Judicial Court noted that “[i]t has long been the rule in this Commonwealth that violation of a statute does not by itself establish a breach of duty, for it does not constitute negligence per se. Rather, violation of a statute . . . is only some evidence of the defendant's negligence as to all consequences the statute was intended to prevent.” Id. (citation omitted). The Supreme Judicial Court has repeatedly reaffirmed the principle that negligence per se does not exist as a cause of action independent from a general negligence action because violation of the statute can only be some evidence of the defendant's negligence. See Lev v. Beverly Enterprises-Massachusetts, Inc., 457 Mass. 234, 245 (2010) (holding that “[i]t is only where a duty of care exists that the violation of a statute, ordinance, regulation, or policy is relevant because it constitutes some evidence of a defendant's negligence”); Juliano v. Simpson, 461 Mass. 527, 532 ...


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