United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S AMENDED MOTION FOR
WILLIAM F. JUNG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the benefit of full briefing and able argument by both sides
at a hearing, the Court grants the Defendant's amended
motion final summary judgment on all claims (Dkt. 52)
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56.
Laurena Parker filed this lawsuit against Southwest,
asserting a claim against it for violation of 42 U.S.C.
§1981. Plaintiff alleges that Southwest intentionally
discriminated against her based on her race during a December
11, 2017, flight from Las Vegas to Tampa. In this case, the
crew of Southwest Airlines encountered a dispute between
Plaintiff and two other passengers during the boarding
process, at the beginning of a long and full flight. There is
no direct evidence that Southwest engaged in racial
discrimination in resolving the dispute, nor is there any
material or sufficient indirect evidence that a Southwest
employee or agent engaged in intentional racial
discrimination against Plaintiff. Although Plaintiff
encountered a rude pair of travelers and was unhappy with the
manner in which Southwest resolved the dispute, she was
delivered safely to her destination as she contracted.
Rule 56, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “[t]he court
shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Mize v. Jefferson City Bd.
of Educ., 93 F.3d 739, 742 (11th Cir. 1996). An issue of
fact is “genuine” only if “a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). A fact is “material” if the fact could
affect the outcome of the lawsuit under the governing law.
moving party bears the initial burden of identifying those
portions of the record demonstrating the lack of a genuinely
disputed issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If met, the burden
shifts to the nonmoving party to “come forward with
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial.” Shaw v. City of Selma, 884 F.3d 1093,
1098 (11th Cir. 2018) (citation omitted). To satisfy its
burden, the non-moving party “must do more than simply
show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material
facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The non-moving
party must go beyond the pleadings and “identify
affirmative evidence” that creates a genuine dispute of
material fact. Crawford-El v. Britton, 523
U.S. 574, 600 (1998).
determining whether a genuine dispute of material fact
exists, the Court must view the evidence and draw all factual
inferences therefrom in a light most favorable to the
non-moving party and must resolve any reasonable doubts in
the non-moving party's favor. Skop v. City of
Atlanta, 485 F.3d 1130, 1136 (11th Cir. 2007). Summary
judgment should only be granted “[w]here the record
taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to
find for the non-moving party[.]” Matsushita,
475 U.S. at 587.
1981 provides, in relevant part:
All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States
shall have the same right in every State and Territory to
make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give
evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and
proceedings for the security of persons and property as is
enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like
punishment, pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions
of every kind, and to no other.
42 U.S.C. § 1981(a).
Court is guided by the Eleventh Circuit's teachings in
Kinnon v. Aycoub, Gopman & Associates,
Inc., 490 F.3d 886 (11th Cir. 2007).
“To state a claim under § 1981, a plaintiff must
identify an impaired contractual relationship . . . under
which the plaintiff has rights.” Kinnon v. Arcoub,
Gopman & Assocs., Inc., 490 F.3d 886, 890 (11th Cir.
2007) (internal citation and quotation omitted). To withstand
a summary judgment motion under section 1981, a Plaintiff
must identify a genuine issue of material fact that: 1)
Plaintiff is a member of a racial minority; 2) the Defendant
intended to discriminate on the basis of race; and 3) the
discrimination concerned one or more of the activities
enumerated in the statute, which include “the making,
performance, modification, and termination of contracts, and
the enjoyment of all benefits, privileges, terms, and
conditions of the contractual relationship.”
Id. at 890- 91. Plaintiff fails both the second and
third elements. The Eleventh Circuit's admonition in
Kinnon is apt here: “Section 1981 does not
provide a general cause of action for all racial harassment
that occurs during the contracting process. Rather, ‘in
the retail context, the plaintiff must demonstrate the loss
of an actual . . . contract interest.'”
Id. at 892.
the facts (viewed most favorably to Plaintiff) show a crowded
passenger-loading scramble typical of hurried aircraft
boarding, in which a couple seated in Plaintiff's row
were quite rude. Southwest resolved the issue effectively,
without racial animus, albeit in a manner not satisfactory to
Plaintiff. Plaintiff has not demonstrated material or real
racial animus intended by Southwest.
is an African American female, approximately 71 years old.
Dkt. 59 at 2. She has suffered from anxiety/stress disorder
for twenty years and has been treating it for the last ten
years or so, somewhat intermittently. Dkt. 59-8 at 24-26. She
boarded a nonstop flight on Southwest from Las Vegas to Tampa
in December 2017, one of Southwest's longer trips.
Id. at 123. She was a frequent traveler.
Id. at 57-58. The 175-passenger plane was nearly
full, and she boarded late as ...