Rubin v. United Airlines

96 Cal. App. 4th 364, 117 Cal. Rptr. 2d 109 (2002)

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Rubin v. United Airlines

California Court of Appeal
96 Cal. App. 4th 364, 117 Cal. Rptr. 2d 109 (2002)

Facts

Adrienne Rubin (plaintiff) bought a coach-class ticket from United Airlines, Inc. (United) (defendant) to fly from Los Angeles to Hawaii. Rubin then used her husband’s frequent-flyer miles to upgrade to a first-class ticket. However, at the airport, United’s computer system showed that Rubin had a coach ticket and that her husband’s frequent-flyer miles had been returned to his account. Rubin attempted to reuse her husband’s miles to upgrade her ticket, but she ran out of time. Minutes before the flight was scheduled to depart, with the first-class seats all occupied, Rubin entered the jetway, insisting on flying first class. From that point on, Rubin repeatedly refused to follow the instructions given by United’s personnel. Instead, Rubin tried to run into the first-class cabin, dropped her baggage in the middle of a doorway and refused to move it, sat in an unauthorized emergency-row seat, and stole another passenger’s seat when that passenger got up. The flight crew was concerned that Rubin posed a safety risk and asked her to deplane. But Rubin refused to acknowledge anyone from United or to move. By this point, the flight was significantly delayed, and the other passengers had become rowdy. Eventually, two Los Angeles police officers physically carried Rubin off the plane while the other passengers cheered and threw objects at her. One of the officers later testified that Rubin’s personal safety might have been at risk had Rubin remained on the flight. Rubin was detained for several hours and then flew to Hawaii on a later flight, first class. Rubin sued United and the Los Angeles Police Department for false imprisonment, battery, emotional distress, and similar state-law tort claims. United moved for summary judgment, arguing that Rubin’s claims were either (1) preempted by the Airline Deregulation Act or (2) invalid because United had a right to refuse to transport a passenger for safety reasons. The trial court granted the motion, and Rubin appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Johnson, J.)

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