United States District Court, S.D. Florida
P. GAYLES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
CAUSE comes before the Court upon Defendant American
Airlines, Inc.'s, Motion to Dismiss Count II of Plaintiff
Michael Mennella's Amended Complaint (the
“Motion”) [ECF No. 16]. The Court has reviewed
the Motion and the record, the applicable law, and is
otherwise fully advised. For the reasons discussed below, the
Motion is granted.
brings this action against Defendant asserting claims for
defamation per se, negligence, and a violation of Title III
of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §12181
et seq., (“ADA”). Plaintiff is a
double amputee who wears two below-the-knee prostheses.
Plaintiff qualifies a person with a disability under the ADA
as he is limited in one or more major life activities
including, but not limited to, walking and ambulating.
Plaintiff alleges that on August 28, 2016, Defendant violated
the ADA by failing to provide him with reasonable
accommodations prior to, and during, his travel on AA Flight
2059 from Miami International Airport to Las Vegas, Nevada.
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant failed to provide him with a
wheelchair, failed to assist him with placing his prostheses
in an overhead bin, and failed to provide him with ice and/or
aspirin when requested. Plaintiff further alleges that
Defendant falsely reported that he was intoxicated and
diverted the flight to Texas where he was escorted off the
plane by local law enforcement.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
survive a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a claim “must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, '”
meaning that it must contain “factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). While a court must accept well-pleaded factual
allegations as true, “conclusory allegations . . . are
not entitled to an assumption of truth-legal conclusions must
be supported by factual allegations.” Randall v.
Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 709-10 (11th Cir. 2010). When
reviewing a motion to dismiss, a court must construe the
complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and
take the factual allegations therein as true. See Brooks
v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Fla. Inc., 116 F.3d
1364, 1369 (11th Cir. 1997).
moves to dismiss Count II of the Amended Complaint on the
grounds that Title III of the ADA does not apply to a private
airline, airport terminal, or the air travel at issue in this
case. As Defendant's Motion presents an issue of
statutory interpretation, the Court begins its analysis with
a review of the plain text of the ADA.
III of the ADA prohibits discrimination in public
accommodations, commercial facilities, and specified public
transportation. See 42 U.S.C. §§12181 -
12184. Pursuant to the ADA, a “public
accommodation” includes “a terminal, depot, or
other station used for specified public
transportation.” See 42 U.S.C. §
12181(7)(G) (emphasis added). The ADA further defines
“specified public transportation” as
“transportation by bus, rail, or any other conveyance
(other than by aircraft) that provides the general
public with general or special service (including charter
service) on a regular and continuing basis.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 12181(10) (emphasis added). Read in conjunction, these
statutory provisions clearly establish that airplanes and
terminals used for air travel are excluded from coverage
under Title III of the ADA. See Merritt v. Dillard Paper
Co., 120 F.3d 1181, 1186 (11th Cir. 1997) (“When
the words of a statute are unambiguous, then, this first
canon [of statutory construction] is also the last: judicial
inquiry is complete.”) (citations omitted).
who have analyzed the scope of the ADA in relation to air
travel have reached the same conclusion as this Court.
See Access Now, Inc. v. Sw. Airlines Co., 385 F.3d
1324, 1332 (11th Cir. 2004) (stating that airlines “are
largely not even covered by Title III of the ADA” but
“[r]ather, airplanes and their accompanying terminals
and depots are covered by another disability-access statute,
the pre-ADA Air Carriers Access Act…”);
Gilstrap v. United Air Lines, Inc., 709 F.3d 995,
1003 (9th Cir. 2013) (relying on guidance from the Department
of Justice to hold that Title III does not cover “[t]he
operations of any portion of any airport that are under the
control of an air carrier”); Lopez v. Jet Blue
Airways, 662 F.3d 593, 598-99 (2d Cir. 2011) (holding
that “[a]ir carriers are not liable under [the ADA] for
disability discrimination in the provision of services
related to air transportation”); Love v. Delta Air
Lines, 179 F.Supp.2d 1313, 1316 (M.D. Ala. 2001) (noting
that “[a]irlines are not included in the statutory
definitions of ‘commercial facilities, ' . . . or
‘public accommodation, '” and that
“aircraft are expressly excepted from the statutory
definition of ‘specified public transportation . .
.'”), rev'd on other grounds, 310 F.3d
1347 (11th Cir. 2002).
opposition memorandum, Plaintiff fails to cite any legal
authority in support of his contention that he has stated a
valid claim under the ADA. Plaintiff cites to Bynum v.
Am. Airlines, Inc., 166 F. App'x 730 (5th Cir.
2006), ostensibly for the proposition that claims involving
air travel are covered under the ADA. However,
Plaintiff's reliance on Bynum is misplaced as it
did not abrogate the district court's underlying holding
that air travel claims are not cognizable under the ADA.
Bynum, 166 F. App'x at 733. Rather,
Bynum goes only so far as to hold that bringing a
claim against an airline pursuant to the ADA was not
frivolous enough to warrant sanctions under Rule 11.
Id. (holding that the law in the Fifth Circuit was
not so well-settled that the ADA did not apply to airplanes
to warrant the imposition of sanctions against the plaintiff
for asserting such a claim).
Court is similarly unpersuaded by Plaintiff's attempt to
distinguish this case by alleging that he was subject to
discrimination at the terminal, on the aircraft, and the
return airport as all of these places have been construed as
exempt under Title III of the ADA. See Lopez, 662
F.3d at 598-99 (holding that “public transportation
terminals, depots, or stations used primarily to facilitate
air transportation are not ‘public
accommodation[s]' for purposes of Title III of the
ADA”); Gilstrap, 709 F.3d at 1003. While
Plaintiff's allegations, taken as true, may raise valid
concerns regarding his treatment, the Court cannot rely on
such circumstances to “justify” expanding the
scope of the ADA beyond what Congress has stated.
Merritt, 120 F.3d at 1187 (stating that
“[c]ourts have no authority to alter statutory language
. . . . We cannot add to the terms of [the] provision what
Congress left out”).
case, Plaintiff cannot state a claim under Title III of the
ADA because the alleged discrimination occurred at a terminal
used primarily for air transportation and on an airplane. It
is clear that Title III does not provide a cause of action
against a private airline such as Defendant under these