United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
C. COUGHENOUR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendant Alaska Airlines,
Inc.'s and Defendant Alaska Air Group, Inc.'s
(collectively “Alaska”) motion to dismiss (Dkt.
No. 14). Having thoroughly considered the parties'
briefing and the relevant record, the Court DENIES the motion
for the reasons explained herein.
following facts are based on the complaint (Dkt. No. 1-2).
Bernice Kekona was a round-trip ticketed Alaska passenger,
travelling from Maui to Spokane, connecting through Portland.
(Id. at 5-8.) At the time, Ms. Kekona was a
vulnerable adult who became confused when outside of familiar
environments. (Id. at 6.) She had physical, visual,
auditory, and mental impairments, and used an electric
wheelchair for mobility. (Id. at 5-6.) Members of
her family possessed a durable power of attorney, allowing
them to make financial and medical decisions on her behalf.
(Id. at 5.)
Kekona was returning home from a trip she had taken to visit
her children in Hawaii. (Id. at 5, 8-9.) When
purchasing her round-trip ticket with Alaska, Ms. Kekona
requested “‘mobility/wheelchair' assistance
for the entire trip.” (Id. at 5) For a
passenger with an electric wheelchair, this includes
assistance on and off the airplane and a
“gate-to-gate” escort. (Id. at 5- 6.)
Alaska includes passengers requesting the service on a
“Special Services” list it keeps for each flight.
(Id.) Ms. Kekona was on that list for the entirety
of her round trip. (Id. at 7.)
Portland, Alaska contracts with Defendant Huntleigh USA
Corporation (“Huntleigh”) to provide this
service. (Id. at 8.) Ms. Kekona's family
contacted Alaska three times to confirm the airline would
provide the service before Ms. Kekona's return flight,
the final time being at the gate in Maui, just prior to her
departure. (Id. at 7.) Alaska claims it notified
Huntleigh that Ms. Kekona requested gate-to-gate service in
Portland. (Id. at 8.) Huntleigh asserts Alaska
failed to notify it that Ms. Kekona requested anything more
than assistance exiting the aircraft. (Id.)
Accordingly, when Ms. Kekona's flight from Miami arrived
in Portland, Huntleigh employees assisted Ms. Kekona off the
aircraft and transferred her to her electric wheelchair at
the bottom of the sky bridge. (Id.) Huntleigh
employees left Ms. Kekona when she reached the top of the sky
bridge. (Id.) Ms. Kekona then showed her ticket to
an Alaska employee, who pointed her in the direction of her
next gate and did no more. (Id.)
Kekona attempted to find her gate, but ended up driving her
wheelchair onto the top of an escalator. (Id. at 9.)
She tumbled down the escalator, with her motorized wheelchair
landing on top of her. (Id.) She suffered serious
injuries. (Id.) She indicated to responding
emergency personnel that she “just got confused”
and mistook the top of the escalator for an elevator.
(Id.) Ms. Kekona died three-and-a-half months later
from complications resulting from her June 7, 2017 injuries.
(Id. at 15, 17.)
Kekona's estate brought negligence, negligent training
and supervision, survival, and wrongful death actions against
Alaska and Huntleigh in King County Superior Court. (Dkt. No.
1-2 at 1, 15-21.) Alaska removed the matter to this Court
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. sections 1441 and 1446, based on the
federal question implicated by the complaint, which asserts a
breach of Alaska's duty to Ms. Kekona, as established by
the Air Carrier Access Act (“ACAA”), 49 U.S.C.
§ 41705, et seq. (Dkt. No. 1 at 1);
see 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Alaska now moves to
dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6),
asserting Ms. Kekona's estate fails to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted. (Dkt. No. 14 at 1.)
Specifically, Alaska alleges that: (1) the complaint fails to
plead plausible grounds to pierce Alaska Air Group's
corporate form, thereby precluding liability for acts or
omissions of a subsidiary, Alaska Airlines, Inc.; (2) the
AACA and its associated regulations preempt claims presented
in the complaint; and (3) the complaint fails to plead
plausible grounds that Alaska negligently trained or
supervised its employees. (Dkt. No. 14 at 1-2.)
Legal Standard: Motion to Dismiss
defendant may move to dismiss a complaint when a plaintiff
“fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To grant a motion to
dismiss, the Court must be able to conclude that the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, even after
accepting all factual allegations in the complaint as true
and construing them in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. Fleming v. Pickard, 581 F.3d 922,
925 (9th Cir. 2009). To survive a motion to dismiss, a
plaintiff must merely cite facts supporting a
“plausible” cause of action. Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). A claim
has “facial plausibility” when the party seeking
relief “pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 672 (2009). Although the Court must
accept as true a complaint's well-pleaded facts,
conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences will
generally not defeat an otherwise proper Rule 12(b)(6)
motion. Vasquez v. L.A. County, 487 F.3d 1246, 1249
(9th Cir. 2007). However, “‘some latitude'
may be appropriate where a plausible claim may be indicated
‘based on what is known, ' at least where . . .
‘some of the information needed may be in control of
[the] defendants.'” Menard v. CSX Transp.,
Inc., 698 F.3d 40, 45 (1st Cir. 2012) (quoting
Pruell v. Caritas Christi, 678 F.3d 10, 15 (1st Cir.
2012)) (alteration in original); see Soo Park v.
Thompson, 851 F.3d 910, 928 (9th Cir. 2017), cert.
denied sub nom. 138 S.Ct. 642 (2018) (citing Arista
Records, LLC v. Doe 3, 604 F.3d 110, 120 (2d Cir. 2010))
(facts included in complaint need only be
“suggestive” of unlawful conduct to survive a
motion to dismiss); see also Williams v. Yamaha Motor
Co., 851 F.3d 1015, 1028 (9th Cir. 2017) (information
that could only be obtained through discovery need not be
included in a complaint).
Piercing the Corporate Veil
asserts the complaint “fails to state plausible factual
allegations to pierce Alaska Air Group's corporate form
and impose liability against it for the alleged acts or
omissions of its separately incorporated subsidiary, Alaska
Airlines, Inc.” (Dkt. No. 14 at 5-6.) To pierce the
corporate veil, a plaintiff must show that the corporate form
was used to violate or evade a duty and that the corporate
veil must be disregarded in order to prevent loss to an
innocent party. Wash. Water Jet Workers Ass'n v.
Yarbrough, 90 P.3d 42, 58 (Wash. 2004).
alleges upon information and belief that, “[Alaska Air
Group, Inc. is the] holding company for Alaska Airlines, Inc.
and is responsible for the acts, omissions and other wrongful
conduct of Alaska Airlines, Inc. At all relevant times,
Alaska Air Group, Inc. exercised such dominion and control
over Alaska Airlines, Inc. that it is liable.” (Dkt.
No. 1-2 at 3.) Plaintiff goes on to plead Alaska's duty
to Ms. Kekona, the manner in ...