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Rivera v. Jetblue Airways Corp.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 22, 2019

ANNEMARIE RIVERA, Plaintiff,
v.
JETBLUE AIRWAYS CORPORATION, Defendant.

          RULING DENYING MOTION TO REMAND AND GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          JEFFREY ALKER MEYER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Annemarie Rivera alleges that she had a bad flight experience with defendant JetBlue Airways Corporation. On an outbound flight from New York to California, Rivera had to sit in a center seat where she could not get up and move around. On her return flight to New York, Rivera had an allergic reaction to a couple of dogs who were near her. And all this happened, Rivera alleges, even though JetBlue assured Rivera that she would receive an accommodation after she informed JetBlue of her medical needs.

         Rivera has sued JetBlue for breach of contract. Doc. #19. JetBlue has moved for summary judgment, contending there are no disputed issues of material fact and they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Doc. #28. Rivera does not oppose JetBlue's motion, but has instead moved to remand this action to state court on the basis of her amended complaint, which now alleges less than the $75, 000 minimum needed to sustain federal diversity jurisdiction. Doc. #29.

         I will deny Rivera's motion to remand on the ground that the Court's diversity jurisdiction may not be ousted by a change of circumstances that occurs after the initial filing of an action. I will otherwise grant JetBlue's unopposed motion for summary judgment on the ground that there are no genuine issues of fact to support Rivera's claim for breach of contract. Accordingly, judgment shall enter for JetBlue on Rivera's contract claim.

         Background

         The following facts are stated in the amended complaint, Doc. #19, as supplemented by facts set forth in Jet Blue's Local Rule 56.1 statement of undisputed facts, Doc. #28-1.

         Rivera resides in Connecticut; JetBlue is an airline incorporated in Delaware with a principal place of business in New York. Rivera has three disabilities relevant to air travel: she has a blood clot disorder, a need to get up and move about during a flight, and a severe allergy to fur-bearing animals. Rivera booked a flight from JFK airport in New York to LAX airport in Los Angeles on August 5, 2016, and then a return trip several days later on August 9, 2016. When she booked her flights, she did not note any of these medical conditions, but on the morning of her JFK-LAX flight, she called JetBlue and told the representative that she had a blood clot disorder and a need to get up and walk around the aircraft during flight. She did not, on this call, alert the representative about her allergies. The JetBlue agent noted her medical conditions, but Rivera never expressly asked for a disability seat, and the JetBlue agent simply noted her conditions without indicating that Rivera wanted or needed a disability seat.

         Rivera believed the agent had promised her a disability seat, and learned otherwise, to her dismay, only when she checked in at JFK-by which time the entire flight had been booked solid. Rivera was assigned a middle seat, which did not meet her medical needs. Although JetBlue subsequently upgraded her, for free, to an “Even More Space Seat, ” which was, according to Rivera, also a middle seat. Nonetheless, Rivera took the seat rather than cancel her trip, and the outbound flight took off without incident.

         Further problems awaited on the return trip. Rivera, apparently assuming that the incident at JFK had alerted JetBlue of her need of a disability seat, discovered upon check-in at LAX that JetBlue had made no such arrangements and the regular seats on the return flight were, once again, booked solid. This time, Rivera paid $90 for an “Even More Space Seat.” Unfortunately for Rivera, this flight had a new complication: a standby passenger without a flight reservation was seated in front of Rivera and carried with her-unbeknownst to anyone, including JetBlue- two small dogs in her carry-on baggage. Rivera rapidly had a severe allergic reaction because of the presence of the dogs and, at her behest, the flight crew moved the passenger and her dogs to the rear of the aircraft, away from Rivera. These efforts were either insufficient or came too late; on her return to New Haven, Rivera had to be immediately hospitalized.

         Rivera initially filed this action against JetBlue in Connecticut state court, claiming JetBlue engaged in disability discrimination under State law and violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA). JetBlue timely removed the action to this Court on grounds of federal diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, and then JetBlue moved to dismiss Rivera's claims. I granted the motion to dismiss, concluding that Rivera did not have a private right of action under the state disability law and that her CUTPA claim was preempted by federal law. See Rivera v. JetBlue Airways Corp., 2018 WL 264735 (D. Conn. 2018), but granted Rivera leave to file an amended complaint alleging a cause of action for breach of contract. Id. at 2.

         Rivera duly filed an amended complaint, alleging a single claim for breach of contract and seeking compensatory damages in an amount greater than $15, 000 but less than $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs. JetBlue has moved for summary judgment on this contract claim. Rivera has not opposed this motion but instead has moved to remand the action to Connecticut state court on the ground that, because her amended complaint expressly seeks damages for less than $75, 000, the Court does not have diversity jurisdiction.

         Discussion

         JetBlue has moved for summary judgment. Rivera has moved to remand this action to Connecticut state court. Because the motion to remand goes to this Court's jurisdiction, I will first address Rivera's motion before addressing JetBlue's motion for summary judgment.

         Motion to ...


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