United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
DAWN CALLAHAN and C.C. (minor), Plaintiffs,
SOUTHWEST AIRLINES COMPANY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REGARDING REPORT AND
RECOMMENDATION ON PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO REMAND (DKT. NOS.
G. MASTROIANNI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
December 26, 2017, Dawn Callahan and her minor child, C.C.
(“Plaintiffs”), filed this action in the Eastern
Hampshire District Court of the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts. Summarized briefly, Plaintiffs allege
Southwest Airlines Company (“Defendant”) was
negligent in providing assistance to C.C., a traveler with a
disability, in connection with flights between Hartford,
Connecticut and Fort Myers, Florida on March 28, 2015 and
April 2, 2015. Plaintiff first filed a complaint in federal
court alleging violations of regulations implemented pursuant
to the Air Carrier Access Act (“ACAA”).
Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed that suit on December 15,
2017, without prejudice, after Defendant filed a motion to
dismiss based on there being no private right of action
arising under the ACAA. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiffs filed
the instant case in state court. Defendant was served with
the state court complaint on or around February 28, 2018 and
timely removed the case to this court on March 23, 2018,
claiming the presence of a federal question provides a basis
for this court's exercise of subject matter jurisdiction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (Dkt. No. 1.) The case was
initially assigned to Judge Michael A. Ponsor. Plaintiffs
filed a motion to remand on April 11, 2018 (Dkt. No. 9) and
Defendant filed its opposition on May 2, 2018 (Dkt. No. 18).
Judge Ponsor referred the motion to Magistrate Judge
Katherine A. Robertson for a Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) and, after the case was reassigned,
this court renewed the referral. (Dkt. Nos. 19, 29.)
Robertson issued her R&R on September 26, 2018. Judge
Robertson has recommended this court grant Plaintiff's
motion to remand “because none of the claims in the
amended complaint arise under federal law and Plaintiffs'
state law claims are not completely preempted” and this
court, therefore, lacks subject matter jurisdiction. (Dkt.
No. 32 at 18.) Defendant's motion for an extension of
time to file objections was granted and Defendant timely
filed its objections on October 22, 2018.
objects to Judge Robertson's recommendation on the
grounds that Plaintiffs claims “are purely claims of
violations of the ACAA” despite Judge Robertson's
conclusion that Plaintiffs have stated negligence claims
under Massachusetts common law. (Dkt. No. 35 at 1.) Following
de novo review, this court agrees with Judge
Robertson's assessment of Plaintiffs' claims.
Defendant's assert similarities between the first
complaint filed by Plaintiffs, in federal court and asserting
federal claims based on violations of the ACAA, and the
complaint they subsequently filed in state court, asserting
state common law negligence claims, establish the federal
claims are the only “real” claims here. The same
set of facts often give rise to a variety of legal claims and
plaintiffs are free to “eschew claims based on
federal law” and so “choose to have the cause
heard in state court.” Caterpillar Inc. v.
Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 399 (1987). As Judge Robertson
observed, a plaintiff is generally free to make allegations
that sound only in local law, even if there are federal
claims that could have been raised. (Dkt. No. 32 at 8 (citing
Lopez-Munoz v. Triple S-Salud, Inc., 754 F.3d 1, 4
(1st Cir. 2014)). There are limited exceptions that apply
where state law claims necessarily raise federal claims,
thereby providing a basis for federal jurisdiction even where
a complaint asserts only state law claims. Gunn v.
Minton, 568 U.S. 251, 258 (2013). For the reasons
detailed by Judge Robertson, this court agrees the four-part
Gunn test is not satisfied here and, therefore,
federal jurisdiction does not lie with respect to the state
negligence claims. Most notably, the complaint does not
challenge the DOT's interpretation of the ACAA
regulations, nor is this case likely to result in any novel
interpretations of federal law. Plaintiffs do not challenge
the standard of care established by the ACAA. Instead, they
concede that the ACAA establishes the standard of care, or in
the context of a state negligence claims, the duty owed, and
simply wish to establish the other elements of a negligence
claim arising under state common law. Such claims are not
preempted by the ACAA. See, e.g., Gilstrap v.
United Air Lines, Inc., 709 F.3d 995 (9th Cir. 2013)
(permitting plaintiff to recover from airline under state
tort law for injuries if plaintiff demonstrates the airline
breached a duty established under ACAA and establishes the
other elements set forth in state law).
these reasons, and the others ably set out by Judge
Robertson, the court ADOPTS the recommendations in the
R&R (Dkt. No. 32). Plaintiff's Motion to Remand to
State Court is GRANTED. The ...