District of New York Finds No Personal Jurisdiction over Foreign Airline for Injuries Suffered on Connecting Flight for Round-Trip to New York | Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP
In HB v. China S. Airlines, Co., The New York plaintiffs purchased return tickets on China Southern Airlines to travel from JFK to India with a connection in China. The applicants’ tickets were purchased in New York and issued from India.
A seat back tray table on the return flight’s journey from India to China injured one of the plaintiffs, who received medical treatment in India and was transferred to New York. The remainder of the Applicant’s relevant medical treatment took place in New York. The plaintiffs filed Montreal Convention claims in the Southern District, alleging that the injuries were caused by the failure to “maintain, inspect, monitor and repair the aircraft properly”. The airline decided to lay off for lack of personal competence.
The plaintiffs argued that the foreign airline was subject to general jurisdiction because it had an office and employees, advertised and facilitated a ticket sale in New York. The Court rejected this argument, finding that the foreign airline was not subject to general jurisdiction in New York, as it was a foreign company incorporated under Chinese law, incorporated in China and headquartered. in China. In addition, the airline did not consent to general jurisdiction when checking in to do business in New York.
The plaintiffs also argued that the foreign airline was subject to specific jurisdiction because they purchased the tickets in New York, their trip was to and from New York, and the airline had significant business operations in New York. The airline argued that the injuries at issue occurred on the ground in India with service to China, and not on a flight to or from New York.
The court ruled in favor of the airline, holding that although the plaintiffs demonstrated that the airline was doing business in New York at the time of the incident, the plaintiffs “did not allege a substantial connection between their claims and the defendant’s business transaction in New York “. The plaintiffs ‘purchase of tickets to New York – where they reside – for air travel beginning and ending in New York was not sufficient to bind the plaintiffs’ cause of action in New York due to a injury that occurred elsewhere during travel with this ticket. As such, the Court had no personal jurisdiction over the airline. The Court did not mention nor base its reasoning on the recent Supreme Court decision Ford case, a decision widely regarded as extending (or at least not reducing) the scope of a specific jurisdiction. HB v. China S. Airlines Co., 2021 US Dist. LEXIS 117313 (SDNY 23 Jun 2021).