August 31, 2016

District Court Analyzes New York "Long Arm" Statute to Deny Jurisdiction For Flight Attendant's Personal Injury Claims

Holland & Knight Aviation Law Blog
Judy R. Nemsick

In Merritt v. Airbus Americas, Inc. et al, __F. Supp. 3d __, No. 2:15-cv-05937, 2016 WL 4483623 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 22, 2016), the court dismissed on jurisdictional grounds a flight attendant's personal injury claims against Airbus Americas, Inc. (AAI), a Delaware leasing corporation with its principal place of business in Virginia, and Airbus, S.A.S., the French aircraft manufacturer with its principal place of business in France. The plaintiff alleged that she sustained injuries during a flight from Boston to Washington, D.C. while attempting to store her emergency demonstration equipment in the compartment below one of two jump seats.  She was struck in the head and knocked backward into the bulkhead when her co-worker, seated in the other jump seat, stood up and caused that seat to retract. The plaintiff allegedly suffered head trauma, a concussion and permanent brain injury.  

The defendants moved to dismiss the claims for lack of personal jurisdiction. Because the plaintiff did not assert general jurisdiction theories, the court's analysis was limited to specific jurisdiction under New York's long arm statute, specifically CPLR §§ 302(a)(1) and 302(a)(3).  

The court found that the plaintiff failed to present evidence to support jurisdiction under CPLR § 302(a)(1), which provides for jurisdiction where the defendant "transacts any business within the state or contracts anywhere to supply goods or services in the state." Neither AAI nor Airbus regularly conducted business in New York that was related to the plaintiff's cause of action. The plaintiff's reliance on internet advertising and publications and transactions with New York entities was, in the absence of being supplemented by business transactions occurring in New York, insufficient to subject the defendants to jurisdiction.  Further, that Airbus may have spent significant sums in the US on transactions with companies that have offices in New York also did not subject Airbus to jurisdiction in New York.  Nor could the plaintiff demonstrate the relationship between the alleged injury and the State of New York.   

As to CPLR § 302(a)(3), which provides for jurisdiction where the defendant "commits a tortious act without the state causing injury to person or property within the state," the plaintiff failed to allege an injury within New York. The plaintiff merely alleged that the accident occurred somewhere between Boston and Washington.  Thus, the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the injury occurred in any particular state---although as suggested by the plaintiff's own submission to the court the injury most likely would have occurred in or near Boston because the emergency equipment is stored "quickly" after departure. 

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