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Eldeeb v. Delta Air Lines, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

December 7, 2018

Rehab Eldeeb, as trustee for the next of kin of Fahmy Eldeeb, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
Delta Air Lines, Inc., a corporation, and Societe Air France, S.A. d/b/a Air France, a corporation, Defendants.

          Alexandra M. Wisner, Esq. and Wisner Law Firm, P.C., counsel for plaintiff.

          Sarah G. Passeri, Esq. and Holland & Knight, counsel for defendants.

          ORDER

          David S. Doty, Judge

         This matter is before the court upon the motion to dismiss by defendants Delta Air Lines, Inc. and Société Air France, S.A. Based on a review of the file, record, and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the court grants the motion on the basis of forum non conveniens.

         BACKGROUND

         This Montreal Convention dispute arises out of injuries sustained by decedent Fahmy Eldeeb as he traveled from Minnesota to Egypt.[1] Mr. Eldeeb had pancreatic cancer and was traveling home with his wife to “live out his last days.” Passeri Dec. Ex. A at 4. Mr. Eldeeb purchased the ticket from Minneapolis to Cairo through Delta. Am. Compl. ¶ 6. The flight included a layover in Paris, France. Id. ¶ 7. When he booked the tickets, Mr. Eldeeb requested a wheelchair to assist him in disembarking the plane in Paris and transporting him to the gate of the connecting flight. Id.

         On May 10, 2016, Mr. Eldeeb departed Minneapolis on Air France flight 673.[2] Id. ¶ 7. When he arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, he was initially denied the use of a wheelchair. Id. ¶ 8. He was eventually provided wheelchair assistance which enabled him to disembark the airplane, but he was left in the seating area of the arrival gate rather than taken to the gate for his connecting flight to Cairo. Id. He remained at the arrival gate for approximately twelve hours and missed the connecting flight to Cairo. Id. ¶¶ 8-9. At some point thereafter, Mr. Eldeeb received assistance and was re-booked on a later flight to Cairo. Id. ¶ 9. When he arrived in Cairo, he learned that his luggage, which contained his medications, had not yet arrived. Id. He received his luggage one week later. Eldeeb Aff. ¶ 15.

         On June 4, 2016, Mr. Eldeeb died in Egypt of complications related to pancreatic cancer. Am. Compl. ¶ 9. According to plaintiff Rehab Eldeeb, trustee for the next of kin of Mr. Eldeeb, Mr. Eldeeb's death was hastened by the events at the Charles de Gaulle airport. Id. After Mr. Eldeeb's death, plaintiff learned that he was denied wheelchair access because the wheelchair vendor at the airport, Passerelle, was on strike.[3] Id. ¶ 10; Casati-Ollier Decl. ¶¶ 13, Plaintiff commenced this action on April 26, 2018, alleging that the lack of wheelchair assistance proximately caused Mr. Eldeeb's injuries and death and that defendants are strictly liable under the Montreal Convention. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on June 4, 2018. Defendants now move to dismiss on the basis of forum non conveniens, failure to join indispensable parties under Fed.R.Civ.P. 19, and failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

         DISCUSSION

         Defendants first and foremost argue that this case should be dismissed on the principle of forum non conveniens because the case turns on events occurring solely in France and involves French parties (ADP and Passerelle) that are not subject to the court's jurisdiction or subpoena power. Defendants note that the only connections to Minnesota are that plaintiff resides here, that Mr. Eldeeb's flight to Paris departed from here, and that Delta, which issued the tickets but not operate the flight, is located here.

         “The principle of forum non conveniens permits a court to decline jurisdiction even though venue and jurisdiction are proper, on the theory that for the convenience of the litigants and the witnesses, the action should be tried in another judicial forum.” Mizokami Bros. of Ariz., Inc. v. Mobay Chem. Corp., 660 F.2d 712, 717 (8th Cir. 1981) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). “The defendant has the burden of persuasion in proving all elements necessary for the court to dismiss a claim based on forum non conveniens.” K-V Pharm. Co. v. J. Uriach & CIA, S.A., 648 F.3d 588, 598 (8th Cir. 2011) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

         In assessing whether dismissal on this basis is appropriate, the court must first determine whether an adequate alternative forum is available to hear the case. Reid-Walen v. Hansen, 933 F.2d 1390, 1393 n.2 (8th Cir. 1991). “An alternative forum is available if all parties are amenable to process and come within the jurisdiction of the forum.” Id. An alternative forum is considered adequate if “the parties will not be deprived of all remedies or treated unfairly.” Id.

         If the court determines that an adequate, alternative forum exists it “must then balance factors relative to the convenience of the litigants, referred to as the private interests, and factors relative to the convenience of the forum, referred to as the public interests, to determine which available forum is most appropriate for trial and resolution.” De Melo v. Lederle Labs., 801 F.2d 1058, 1060 (8th Cir. 1986). A plaintiff's choice of forum, particularly when plaintiff has chosen the home forum, is entitled to substantial deference. Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 242, 255 (1981).

         A. Adequate and ...


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