United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Wayne Thomas LaBeau and Ma Florentina Busso LaBeau, Plaintiffs,
MN Airlines, LLC, doing business as Sun Country Airlines, Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
Wilhelmina M. Wright United States District Judge
the Court is a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant
MN Airlines, LLC, doing business as Sun Country Airlines (Sun
Country). (Dkt. 24.) Sun Country argues that it is entitled
to summary judgment as to Plaintiffs' Montreal Convention
claim (Count I), breach-of-contract claim (Count II), and
negligence claim (Count III). Plaintiffs concede that Sun
Country is entitled to summary judgment as to their
negligence claim, but they contend that genuine disputes of
material fact preclude summary judgment as to their two
remaining claims. For the reasons addressed below, Sun
Country's motion for summary judgment is granted.
Wayne Thomas Labeau and Ma Florentina Busso LaBeau are
residents of Minnesota. Sun Country is an airline with its
principal place of business in Eagan, Minnesota. In March
2018, Plaintiffs used Sun Country's website to book a
vacation to Los Cabos, Mexico. The reservation was part of a
$2, 094.46 travel package that included lodging and airfare
flew from the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport to
the Los Cabos, Mexico, International Airport on April 7,
2018. Plaintiffs were scheduled to return to Minnesota on
April 14, 2018, aboard Sun Country flight 550. On that day,
however, the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport
closed for approximately eight hours as the result of a
snowstorm, and Sun Country flight 550 was cancelled.
Plaintiffs had checked out of their hotel and were awaiting a
shuttle to take them to the Los Cabos airport when they
learned that their return flight to Minneapolis had been
cancelled. Plaintiffs unsuccessfully attempted to contact Sun
Country by phone. Approximately one hour after they learned
that their Sun Country flight had been cancelled, Plaintiffs
purchased tickets to Tijuana, Mexico, on another airline.
Plaintiffs did not speak with a Sun Country representative
before booking their tickets to Tijuana. Plaintiffs flew to
Tijuana the next day, crossed the Mexico-United States border
on foot, and stayed with a family member in California for
several days. Plaintiffs subsequently flew from California to
Minnesota on April 18, 2018.
Country refunded Plaintiffs their entire round-trip airfare
on April 14, 2018- the date of the cancelled flight. On April
21, 2018, Plaintiffs spoke to a Sun Country employee by phone
and requested reimbursement for the additional costs that
Plaintiffs expended returning home. The Sun Country employee
told Plaintiffs that Sun Country would reimburse them for the
expenses they incurred. After putting Plaintiffs on hold to
confirm this arrangement with Sun Country's reservation
support department, the Sun Country employee referred
Plaintiffs to a website where they could submit their
receipts for reimbursement. After receiving Plaintiffs'
receipts, Sun Country sent Plaintiffs a check for $462.80,
which was in addition to the $746.46 that Sun Country had
previously refunded Plaintiffs for their airfare
commenced this lawsuit in Minnesota conciliation court and
obtained a judgment against Sun Country. That judgment was
vacated when Sun Country removed the case to Dakota County
(Minnesota) District Court for trial de novo. Plaintiffs
subsequently filed an amended complaint in November 2018.
Count I alleges that Sun Country violated the Montreal
Convention by “stranding Plaintiffs in Mexico and
causing delay in their return to the United States.”
Count II alleges that Sun Country's employee made a
binding promise to reimburse Plaintiffs for expenses they
incurred when attempting to return from Mexico and that Sun
Country breached this promise. Count III alleges that Sun
Country negligently refused to send a rescue flight to Mexico
or assist Plaintiffs in booking a return flight with another
airline. Sun Country removed the case to this Court and now
moves for summary judgment.
Country moves for summary judgment on all three counts of
Plaintiffs' amended complaint. Summary judgment is proper
when, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party and drawing all reasonable inferences in that
party's favor, there is “no genuine dispute as to
any material fact” and the moving party is
“entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Windstream Corp. v. Da
Gragnano, 757 F.3d 798, 802-03 (8th Cir. 2014). A
genuine dispute as to a material fact exists when “the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). To defeat
a motion for summary judgment, the opposing party must cite
with particularity those aspects of the record that support
any assertion that a fact is genuinely disputed. Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c)(1)(A); accord Krenik v. County of Le Sueur, 47
F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1995). The Court addresses each count
of the amended complaint in turn.
Montreal Convention Claim (Count I)
of the amended complaint alleges that Sun Country violated
the Montreal Convention by “stranding Plaintiffs in
Mexico and causing delay in their return to the United
States.” Sun Country moves for summary judgment on this
claim, arguing that Plaintiffs' return flight was
cancelled as opposed to being delayed and, therefore, the
Montreal Convention is inapplicable.
Montreal Convention is a treaty that governs the liability of
airlines with respect to international air travel. See
Sompo Japan Ins., Inc. v. Nippon Cargo Airlines Co., 522
F.3d 776, 780-81 (7th Cir. 2008). The United States Senate
ratified the Montreal Convention on July 31, 2003, and the
treaty entered into force on September 5, 2003. Id.
at 781. Plaintiff's Montreal Convention claim is based on
Article 19, which in relevant part provides:
The carrier is liable for damage occasioned by delay in the
carriage by air of passengers, baggage or cargo.
Nevertheless, the carrier shall not be liable for damage
occasioned by delay if it proves that it and its servants and
agents took all measures that could reasonably be required to
avoid the damage or that it was impossible for it or them to
take such measures.
Campbell v. Air Jamaica Ltd., 760 F.3d 1165, 1170
(11th Cir. 2014) (quoting Convention for the Unification of
Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air (Montreal
Convention) art. 19, May 28, 1999, S. ...