United States District Court, S.D. Florida
MARGARET SCHULTZ, individually, and on behalf of a putative class, Plaintiff,
AMERICAN AIRLINES, INC., Defendant.
ALTMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
14, 2018, the Plaintiff, Margaret Schultz
(“Schultz”), filed a putative class action
against American Airlines, Inc. (“AA”), alleging
breach of contract and unjust enrichment [ECF No. 1]. The
operative complaint, now in its third iteration
(“TAC”) [ECF No. 59], contains a single breach of
contract claim and is the subject of AA's Motion to
Dismiss (“Motion”) [ECF No. 38], filed on
November 16, 2018. This Court referred the Motion to the
Magistrate Judge for a Report & Recommendation
(“R&R”) [ECF No. 49]. On March 27, 2019,
after oral argument, and with the benefit of briefing by both
parties, the Magistrate Judge issued an R&R recommending
that the Plaintiff's claims be dismissed with prejudice
[ECF No. 61].
timely filed her objections to the R&R [ECF No. 63]. AA
filed its response [ECF No. 66], and Schultz filed a reply
[ECF No. 69]. When, as here, a party timely and properly
objects to a magistrate judge's recommended
“disposition, ” the district court must review
that disposition de novo. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3).
Court adopts the R&R's recitation of the facts as
alleged in the TAC. R&R at 2. In short, on May 25, 2017,
the Plaintiff saw a flight listed for $197.00 on AA's
website. When she “clicked” on the corresponding
link to pay-and after proceeding through a series of screens
that required her to enter her passenger and credit card
information-AA's website informed her that the price of
the ticket had increased to $297.00. Id.
matter turns, in part, on the Court's application of the
Airline Deregulation Act (“ADA”) to the
Plaintiff's breach of contract claim. On a motion to
dismiss, the Court must construe the complaint in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff and must accept the
plaintiff's factual allegations as true. See Brooks
v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Fla., Inc., 116 F.3d
1364, 1369 (11th Cir. 1997) (citing SEC v. ESM Grp.,
Inc., 835 F.2d 270, 272 (11th Cir. 1988)). While the
Court “must make reasonable inferences in
Plaintiffs' favor, ” it need not “draw
Plaintiffs' inference.” Aldana v. Del Monte
Fresh Produce, N.A., Inc., 416 F.3d 1242, 1248 (11th
Cir. 2005). “Likewise, ‘unwarranted deductions of
fact' are not admitted as true in a motion to
dismiss.” Id. (quoting So. Fla. Water
Mgmt. Dist. v. Montalvo, 84 F.3d 402, n. 10 (11th
central argument is that the TAC should be dismissed for
failure to state a claim. Specifically, AA says that, as a
matter of law, the parties never entered into a valid
contract for a $197.00 ticket-and that, as a result, AA could
not have breached that non-existent contract. Motion at
13-17. AA also contends that the ADA preempts the
Plaintiff's breach of contract claim. See
generally Motion at 9-13. In support of this
position, AA argues that the Plaintiff's claim would
require the Court to “create a new, enforceable state
law right . . . to purchase a particular flight at a
particular price once American advertises it on its
website.” See Def. Reply [ECF No. 16 at 2].
And, because this new state law right would obligate AA's
behavior with respect to “price and ticket services,
” AA says the Plaintiff's breach of contract claim
does not meet the “voluntary commitment”
exception the Supreme Court recognized in Am. Airlines,
Inc. v. Wolens, 513 U.S. 219 (1995). Def. Mot. at 15,
unsurprisingly disagrees. In her account, AA offered her an
airline ticket for $197.00 and then reneged on that offer
once she clicked “pay now.” Pl. Resp. at 10-21
[ECF No. 42]. Moreover, Schultz adds, citing the Supreme
Court's holding in Wolens, the ADA does not
preempt her state-law breach of contract claim. Id.
breach of contract claim requires a plaintiff to prove (1)
the existence of a contract; (2) a material breach of that
contract; and (3) damages stemming from the breach. Vega
v. T-Mobile USA, Inc., 564 F.3d 1256, 1272 (11th Cir.
2009). In Florida, a plaintiff must plead the existence of a
contract by showing (1) an offer; (2) acceptance; (3)
consideration; and (4) sufficient specification of the
essential terms. De La Flor v. Ritz-Carlton Hotel
Co., No. 12-23689-CIV, 2013 WL 1874618, at *4 (S.D. Fla.
May 1, 2013), aff'd, 556 Fed.Appx. 938 (11th
Cir. 2014). The existence of a valid contract is a question
of law for the Court. Id. (citing Kolodziej v.
Mason, 774 F.3d 736, 740 (11th Cir. 2014)).
enacted the ADA in 1978 to deregulate domestic air
transportation. Koutsouradis v. Delta Air Lines,
Inc., 427 F.3d 1339, 1343 (11th Cir. 2005). The ADA
preempts state-law claims, statutes, or regulations
“relating to rates, routes, or services of any air
carrier.” Morales v. Trans World Airlines, 504
U.S. 374, 378-79 (1992). For a state “obligation”
to be expressly preempted by the ADA, a state must
“enact or enforce a law that relates to airline rates,
routes, or services, either by expressly referring to them or
by having a significant economic effect upon them.”
Parise v. Delta Airlines, Inc., 141 F.3d 1463, 1466
(11th Cir. 1998) (citation omitted); see also Nw., Inc.
v. Ginsberg, 572 U.S. 273, 286 (2014) (finding that an
implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing is a
state-imposed obligation preempted by the ADA).
Supreme Court has, however, carved out a narrow exception to
the ADA's preemption provisions for suits alleging that
an airline breached its obligations under a contract.
Koutsouradis, 427 F.3d at 1343 (citing
Wolens, 513 U.S. at 228). As the Wolens
Court noted, the “terms and conditions airlines offer
and passengers accept are privately ordered
obligations” that are not preempted by the ADA.
Wolens, 513 U.S. at 228-29. This limit on the
ADA's preemptive scope allows state-law claims against
airlines for “routine breach-of-contract claims”
because analyzing these claims “simply holds the
parties to their agreements.” Wolens, 513 U.S.
at 220. The Wolens exception, then, permits
state-law suits against airlines only where an
airline has “dishonored a term the airline itself
stipulated” to, and “confines courts, in
breach-of-contract actions, to the parties' bargain, with
no enlargement or enhancement based on state laws or policies
external to the agreement.” Id. ...