LAND v. DELTA AIR LINES, INC.
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE MARK A. KEARNEY ON 12/7/15. 12/7/15 ENTERED & E-MAILED.(fdc)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
DELTA AIR LINES, INC.
December 7, 2015
Attorney Robert Land, acting pro se, alleges Delta Air Lines falsely imprisoned and
intentionally or negligently inflicted emotional distress upon him because it did not allow him to
run onto a plane after he ran late for his flight and then refused to leave the plane unless the
police removed him. He claims Delta acted improperly after he ducked the Delta agent to walk
onto the plane and then, after he wouldn't leave, called the police who then arrested him. After
granting him leave to amend, he still cannot plead false imprisonment or infliction of emotional
distress. He alleges, without specificity, Delta inflicted emotional distress on him by identifying
him to the police so he could be removed from the plane after he told it to do so. He created this
hullaballoo believing his "Skymiles" status allowed him to break rules applying to others. His
plead claims on false imprisonment and infliction of emotional distress lack merit. 1
Facts alleged in Amended Complaint
Pennsylvania attorney Robert Land ("Land") bought a ticket to fly on Delta Air Lines
("Delta") leaving Philadelphia and arriving in San Diego, California, with a layover in Atlanta,
Georgia. (ECF Doc. No 18, 111). On April 19, 2013, Delta's flight from Philadelphia arrived late
in Atlanta. Id. 112. When Land arrived at his gate for the San Diego flight, Delta left the door to
the jet-way open without a gate agent. Id. 113. Land entered the jet-way without authority.
When he was approximately thirty feet down the jet-way, a Delta employee stopped Land and
told him it had closed the flight. Id. Land showed his boarding pass and his Delta Skymiles
American Express credit card. Id.
Delta instructed Land to get off the jet-way. Id. Land
responded he could board because passengers were still in line. Id. Delta refused and Land
alleges a Delta employee pushed him. Id.
Land then "feinted" to his left and passed the Delta agent on the right, boarded the plane
and took his empty designated seat. Id. Another Delta employee approached Land and told him
to get off the plane. Id. Land agreed to do so if Delta would scan his ticket and let him back on
the plane. Id. Delta refused to change its policies for Attorney Land. It told Land to leave the
plane immediately. Id. Land reminded the Delta employee "of the business relationship between
him and Delta (presumably based on his Skymiles status) and how good business practices
would dictate he be treated with respect and accommodation." Id. Delta told Land to leave the
plane or face arrest. Id. Land told Delta he would leave only if the police or TSA requested him
to do so. Id. Delta's employee then left and summoned the City of Atlanta police. Id.
Officer Turner of the Atlanta Police Department then entered the aircraft. Id. ~4. Once
Land saw the officer, he left the plane and spoke to the police in front of Delta in the jet-way. Id.
The police asked Delta, "Prosecute?" to which Delta responded, "Yes!" Id. The police officer
immediately spun him around and handcuffed him behind his back, led him down the jet-way's
portable steps to the tarmac and threw him in the backseat of a police vehicle. Id.
remained handcuffed for an hour or more while the police completed paperwork. Id. The police
took Land to a holding cell in the airport where Land remained for another hour. Id.
The police then transported Land to a city prison handcuffed behind the back, but not
otherwise restrained. Id.
The police booked, photographed and fingerprinted Land. Id.
The police charged him with disorderly conduct with violence, and failure to obey signage. Id.
Land posted bail and the police released him at 4:00 a.m. on April 20, 2013. Id. Land remained
in custody for eleven (11) hours. Id. The police eventually dismissed all criminal charges. Id.
Land retrieved his belongings. Id.1110. Delta cancelled his connecting flights from Atlanta
to San Diego and from Los Angeles to Philadelphia because he breached security. Id. 1111. Delta
offered to sell him a one-way ticket to San Diego for $550.00. Id.
a. Land cannot state a claim for false imprisonment.
After two attempts, Land does not allege false imprisonment by Delta. "The elements of
false arrest/false imprisonment are: (1) the detention of another person (2) that is unlawful. 'An
arrest based upon probable cause would be justified, regardless of whether the individual arrested
was guilty or not."' Manley v. Fitzgerald, 997 A.2d 1235, 1241 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2010) (citing
Renk v. City of Pittsburgh, 641 A.2d 289, 293 (Pa. 1994)). Land does not allege Delta detained
him; instead he alleges Delta identified him to the Atlanta Police, and said "yes" when the officer
asked whether to prosecute. (ECF Doc. No 18 at 114). Land's other allegations of detention relate
to the conduct of the Atlanta Police rather than Delta.
Land does not allege his detention is unlawful. 1 Land admits he entered the plane after
Delta's agent told him he could not after "feinting" his way through the jet-way and remained on
the plane after repeatedly asked to leave. (ECF Doc. No 18, 112). Land does not challenge the
validity of his arrest nor does he claim the arrest is not authorized by law. The police arrested
Black's Law Dictionary defines "unlawful" as "l. Not authorized by law; illegal . 2. Criminally punishable . 3. Involving moral
turpitude ." UNLAWFUL, Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014).
Land after he refused to leave the plane which he admits entering after Delta told him not to. Id.
Land does not plead any conduct by Delta apart from calling the police and, when asked
a one-word question, saying "yes." Id.
"[A] private individual who provided false
information to law enforcement officials could be held liable for a false arrest or imprisonment
resulting from that false information." Doby v. Decrescenzo, No. 94-3991, 1996 WL 510095,
*12 (E.D. Pa. 1996) (citing Gilbert v. Feld, 788 F.Supp. 854, 862 (E.D.Pa.1992)). Land does not
plead facts to support a claim Delta provided false information to the police resulting in his
arrest. Land does not plead Delta provided incomplete or misleading information resulting in his
detention. Doby, at *13. Delta's motion to dismiss Land's claim for false imprisonment is
b. Land cannot state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
After two attempts, Land does not plead an intentional infliction of emotional distress.
"[A] person who by extreme and outrageous conduct intentionally or recklessly causes severe or
emotional distress to another is subject to liability for such emotional distress. The Restatement
defines outrageous conduct as conduct or statements which go beyond all bounds of decency and
are regarded as utterly intolerable in a civilized community." Carson v. City of Philadelphia, 574
A.2d 1184, 1187 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1990).
Land does not plead conduct by Delta going "beyond all bounds of decency and are
regarded as utterly intolerable in a civilized community." Id. Land alleges Delta did not let him
board an aircraft; asked him to leave when he boarded the aircraft after feigning and going
around Delta's agent; and, upon his refusal to leave without police involvement, contacted the
Atlanta Police to remove him. (ECF Doc. No 18 at 112). We wonder what other remedy Delta
may have other than "bend" its own policies and possibly FAA guidelines. While Land alleges
Delta's conduct meets the standard for intentional infliction of emotional distress, the allegation
is a legal conclusion not entitled to the assumption of truth. See Santiago, 629 F.3d at 130
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675, 679) (footnote omitted). Delta's motion to dismiss Land's claim
for intentional infliction of emotional distress is granted.
c. Land cannot state a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Attorney Land appears to alternatively claim negligent infliction of emotional distress.
(ECF Doc. No. 18 at 1117). This cause of action "is restricted to four factual scenarios: (1)
situations where the defendant had a contractual or fiduciary duty toward the plaintiff; (2) the
plaintiff was subjected to a physical impact; (3) the plaintiff was in a zone of danger, thereby
reasonably experiencing a fear of impending physical injury; or (4) the plaintiff observed a
tortious injury to a close relative. Toney v. Chester Cty. Hosp., 961A.2d192, 197-98 (Pa. Super.
2008) (citing Doe v. Philadelphia Community Health Alternatives AIDS Task Force, 745 A.2d
25, 26 (Pa.Super.2000)). None of these theories are plead here.
At best, Land's claim is limited to the first two theories because he does not allege zone
of danger or observing a tortious injury to a close relative. To sustain a claim under the
contractual or fiduciary duty theory, "a plaintiff must establish the elements of a negligence
claim, 'i.e., that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, the defendant breached that
duty, the breach resulted in injury to the plaintiff, and the plaintiff suffered an actual loss or
damage."' Toney, 961 A.2d at 198 (citing Brown v. Philadelphia College of Osteopathic
Medicine, 760 A.2d 863, 868 (Pa.Super.2000)). Land does not allege negligence by Delta,
precluding recovery under this theory.
To sustain a claim under the physical impact theory, a plaintiff must sustain bodily injury
"accompanied by fright or mental suffering directly traceable to the peril in which the
defendant's negligence placed the plaintiff." Brown v. Philadelphia Coll. of Osteopathic Med.,
674 A.2d 1130, 1135-36 (Pa. Super. 1996). Land does not allege physical injury or peril by Delta
accompanied by fright or mental suffering, precluding recovery under this theory.
After two attempts, Land does not state claims for false imprisonment, intentional
infliction of emotional distress, or negligent infliction of emotional distress. Land does not allege
Delta detained him or provided false information to the police leading to his detention. Land
does not allege conduct by Delta sufficient for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Land
does not allege negligence on the part of Delta supporting a claim for negligent infliction of
emotional distress. Delta's motion to dismiss Counts I and III of the amended complaint is
granted in the accompanying order.
"To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face."' Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell At/. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim
satisfies the plausibility standard when the facts alleged "allow the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Burtch v. Millberg Factors,
Inc., 662 F.3d 212, 220-21 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). While the plausibility
standard is not "akin to a 'probability requirement,'" there nevertheless must be more than a
"sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly,
550 U.S. at 556). "Where a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's
liability, it 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of 'entitlement to relief."'
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
The Court of Appeals requires us to apply a three-step analysis under a 12(b)(6) motion: (1)
"the court must 'tak[e] notice of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim;"' (2) "the
court should identify allegations that, 'because they are no more than conclusions, are not
entitled to the assumption of truth;'" and, (3) "where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a
court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an
entitlement for relief." Santiago v. Warminster Township, 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d. Cir. 2010)
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675, 679) (footnote omitted)1; see also, Burtch, 662 F.3d at 221;
Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d. Cir. 2011) ("This means that our inquiry is normally
broken into three parts: (1) identifying the elements of the claim, (2) reviewing the complaint to
strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) looking at the well-pleaded components of the
complaint and evaluating whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are
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