In Rivera v. JetBlue Airways Corp., the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut dismissed a breach of contract suit against JetBlue stemming from Plaintiff's dissatisfaction with seating accommodations on her round-trip flight from JFK to LAX.
At the time of her booking, plaintiff did not inform JetBlue that she had "three disabilities relevant to air travel:  a blood clot disorder, a need to get up and move about during a flight, and a severe allergy to fur-bearing animals." On the morning of her flight from JFK to LAX, Plaintiff called JetBlue and told the representative about the first two of her disabilities, but never requested a disability seat. As a result, the JetBlue representative "simply noted her conditions without indicating that Rivera wanted or needed a disability seat."
When Plaintiff checked in for her fully-booked flight, she was assigned a middle seat, which did not accommodate her medical needs. JetBlue upgraded her seat, without charge, to an "Even More Space Seat," with extra legroom, but according to Plaintiff, the upgraded seat was also a middle seat. Plaintiff nevertheless took the seat and the flight ensued without incident.
Plaintiff errantly assumed that JetBlue was aware of her need for a disability seat on her return flight. Because the flight was fully booked, Plaintiff paid $90 for an "Even More Space Seat" to accommodate her needs to move around during the flight. Unbeknownst to Plaintiff and JetBlue, however, a passenger seated in front of Plaintiff had two small dogs in her carry-on baggage, which caused Plaintiff to have a severe allergic reaction. Although the flight crew moved the other passenger and dogs to the rear of the aircraft, Plaintiff was immediately hospitalized on her return home.
Plaintiff initially filed an action against JetBlue in Connecticut state court, raising claims of disability discrimination under State law and violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA). JetBlue timely removed the action to the District Court of Connecticut and moved to dismiss. The Court granted JetBlue's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claims, concluding that Plaintiff "did not have a private right of action under the state disability law and that her CUTPA claim was preempted by federal law." By leave of court, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint consisting of a single claim for breach of contract.
JetBlue subsequently moved for summary judgment. The Court granted JetBlue's motion for summary judgment, finding no genuine issue of fact to support Plaintiff's claim for breach of contract. The Court found that the standard contract-of-carriage was the only written contract between Rivera and JetBlue, "which contained no assurance that Rivera would be entitled to special seating or to seating away from any fur-bearing animals." Moreover, the Court found that although Plaintiff "told JetBlue for the first time about her allergy to animals [at the airport before boarding her return flight], there [was] no evidence of any agreement between her and any representative of JetBlue that she would not be seated near an animal." Rivera v. JetBlue Airways, Corp., No. 3:17-cv-00960, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 142713 (D. Conn. Aug. 22, 2019).
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