Court grants airline’s motion to dismiss boarding discrimination claims

Shin v. American Airlines Group, Inc. (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 3, 2017).  The customer/plaintiff alleged that American “dramatically” refused to allow him to board a flight from DFW to Corpus Christi, Texas, “[f]or the mere fact that the Plaintiff was Korean-American,” while allowing white customers to board the flight.  In his complaint, the plaintiff alleged claims under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.), 49 U.S.C. § 40127(a), 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York Civil Rights Law, as well as for misrepresentation, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and breach of contract.  Plaintiff sought, for each claim, $1 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.

In deciding American’s motion to dismiss the complaint for its failure to state an actionable claim, the court ruled that:

  • The Title VI claim failed because the plaintiff did not allege facts indicating that American received any federal funding at the time of the alleged discrimination.
  • The Section 40127(a) claim failed because there is no private right of action under that statute.
  • The Section 1981 claim failed because the complaint was “completely devoid of details suggesting intentional discrimination,” such as a “derogatory remark” by an airline employee.
  • The New York statutory claims failed because those statutes do not provide a cause of action for alleged discrimination by a foreign corporation, such as American, that occurs outside New York.
  • The misrepresentation claim failed because the plaintiff did not “identify what statements were allegedly fraudulent, the speaker, where or when the statements were made, or why they were fraudulent.”
  • The preemption provision of the Airline Deregulation Act, 49 U.S.C. § 41713(b)(1), preempted the plaintiff’s claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.
  • The breach of contract claim failed because the plaintiff did not identify any specific contract term that American allegedly breached.

Accordingly, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint, with prejudice.  On August 31, 2017, the plaintiff appealed the court’s judgment to the Second Circuit.

Update:  On June 11, 2018, the Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment.


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