The opinion of the court was delivered by: Leslie E. Kobayashi United States District Judge
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT JAPAN AIRLINES' MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS (COMPLETE FEDERAL PREEMPTION UNDER THE FEDERAL AVIATION ACT)
Before the Court is Defendant Japan Airlines'("JAL") Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Complete Federal Preemption Under the Federal Aviation Act) ("Motion"), filed on June 24, 2011. Plaintiff Martin Ventress ("Ventress") filed his memorandum in opposition on September 26, 2011, and JAL filed its reply on October 3, 2011. This matter came on for hearing on October 17, 2011. Appearing on behalf of JAL were Steven Egesdal, Esq., and William Hartstad, Esq., and appearing on behalf of Ventress was Ira Dennis Lawver, Esq. After careful consideration of the Motion, supporting and opposing memoranda, and the arguments of counsel, JAL's Motion is HEREBY GRANTED for the reasons set forth below.
Ventress and Jack Crawford ("Crawford") originally filed their Complaint for Damages ("Complaint") on December 30, 2002 in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. The defendants were JAL, JALways Co., Ltd. ("JALways"),*fn1 and Hawaii Aviation Contract Services, Inc. ("HACS", all collectively "Defendants"). The Complaint alleges the following claims: a claim by Ventress against Defendants for violation of California Labor Code § 1102.5 ("Count I"); a claim by Ventress against Defendants for constructive termination in violation of public policy ("Count II"); a claim by Crawford against Defendants for termination in violation of public policy ("Count III"); an intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED") claim by Ventress and Crawford against Defendants ("Count IV"); and a negligent infliction of emotional distress ("NIED") claim by Ventress and Crawford against Defendants ("Count IV"). All of the claims were based on California law.
On August 20, 2003, the case was transferred to this district court and assigned the Civil Number 03-00451. The parties later stipulated to sever Ventress's claims and Crawford's claims. Crawford's claims remain in CV 03-00451. [Stip. for Complete Severance Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 21 of Pltfs.' Cases for All Purposes, filed 11/26/07 (dkt. no. 2).] This matter has already seen two appeals to the Ninth Circuit.
The relevant factual and procedural background is set forth in the Ninth Circuit's first opinion:
JAL is a Japanese commercial air carrier based in Tokyo. HACS, a Hawaii corporation with its principal place of business in Honolulu, provides contract flight crews to JAL. Ventress and Crawford were employed by HACS to perform services for JAL flights.[*fn2 ] Plaintiffs' employment agreements with HACS contain mandatory arbitration provisions.
In December 2002, Ventress and Crawford jointly filed a complaint against JAL and HACS in the Central District of California. The complaint alleged that JAL required a seriously ill pilot[*fn3 ] to fly in June 2001, in violation of American and Japanese aviation laws as well as JAL's own operations manual. . . . In December 2001, . . . Ventress submitted reports on the June incidents to JAL, HACS and aviation regulators. Ventress claimed repeated harassment from JAL thereafter, including demands to undergo psychiatric evaluations. Ventress has not been allowed to fly since September 2001. . . .
In July 2003, the California district court granted defendants' motion to transfer the case to the District of Hawaii. . . . After the venue change, plaintiffs moved to amend the complaint to replace their California law claims with Hawaii law claims. A magistrate judge denied that motion, and plaintiffs appealed to the Hawaii district court.
In October 2004, the Hawaii district court granted judgment on the pleadings for JAL on the ground that all of plaintiffs' claims were preempted by the Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation Treaty, U.S.-Japan, April 2, 1953, 4 U.S.T. 2063 ("Japan FCN Treaty"). The court further held that the emotional distress claims failed as a matter of California law, even if they were not preempted. The court declined to rule on plaintiffs' appeal of the denial of leave to amend, saying that the issue was mooted by its decision on treaty preemption. The court then severed the claims against HACS and entered a stipulation and order staying further proceedings pending arbitration. After Ventress and HACS disputed the applicable arbitration rules, the court entered an order compelling arbitration under the commercial rules of the American Arbitration Association ("AAA").
Ventress v. Japan Airlines ("Ventress I"), 486 F.3d 1111, 1113-14 (9th Cir. 2007) (footnotes omitted).
In Ventress I, the Ninth Circuit, inter alia, reversed the district court's ruling that the Japan FCN Treaty preempted California's whistle blower protection laws and remanded for further proceedings. Id. at 1118. In addition, the Ninth Circuit dismissed Ventress's appeal of the order compelling him to arbitrate his claims against HACS, and directed the district court on remand to consider Ventress's and Crawford's motion to amend their complaint to state claims under Hawai`i state law. Id. at 1119.
The relevant history of the case after the Ventress I remand is set forth in the Ninth Circuit's subsequent opinion.
In August 2007, Ventress and HACS concluded arbitration, resulting in an award that denied Ventress's claim for wrongful termination and ordered him to pay costs to HACS. On March 20, 2008, the district court denied Ventress's motion to vacate the award and granted HACS's motion to confirm it. Meanwhile, the district court issued an order on November 28, 2007, denying Ventress's motion to amend the complaint to state claims under Hawaii and federal law.
JAL moved for judgment on the pleadings, asserting complete federal preemption by the Federal Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, 49 U.S.C. § 41713 ("ADA"), as amended by the Whistleblower Protection Program, 49 U.S.C. § 42121 ("WPP"). The district court granted that motion. The court held that the ADA, as amended by the WPP, barred Ventress's state-law whistle blowing and public policy claims. Noting that this circuit had yet to address ADA preemption of state whistle blower protection laws, the district court adopted the Eighth Circuit's reasoning that "the WPP makes it unmistakable that such claims are pre-empted." Botz v. Omni Air Int'l, 286 F.3d 488, 498 (8th Cir. 2002).
Ventress v. Japan Airlines ("Ventress II"), 603 F.3d 676, 678-79 (9th Cir. 2010).
In Ventress II, the Ninth Circuit, inter alia, affirmed the confirmation of the arbitration award and the denial of Ventress's motion to vacate the award, as well as the denial of the motion to amend. Id. at 680-81. The Ninth Circuit also noted that the parties had not addressed "whether the protections announced in the WPP should be categorized as falling within the broader confines of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 ('FAA'), 49 U.S.C. § 40103, and whether the FAA preempts Ventress's state-law claims." Id. at 681 (citing Montalvo v. Spirit Airlines, 508 F.3d 464, 473-74 (9th Cir. 2007) (holding that the FAA and its corresponding regulations impliedly preempt state laws governing airline safety)). The Ninth Circuit therefore did not address the issue, but noted that the district court was free to consider the issue on remand, if necessary. Id. The Ninth Circuit reversed the ruling that the ADA, as amended by the WPP, preempted Ventress's California state law whistle blower claims. Id. at 683.
On May 12, 2010, the JAL Defendants filed a Suggestion of Bankruptcy Regarding Japan Airlines Corporation, Japan Airlines International Co., Ltd., and JAL Capital Co., Ltd. [Dkt. no. 127.] On May 13, 2010, the district judge issued an order administratively staying the case until further order. [Dkt. no. 128.]
The Ninth Circuit's Mandate was filed in this district court on May 27, 2010. [Dkt. no. 135.] On July 6, 2010, the district judge issued an order lifting the stay as to JALways and leaving the stay in effect as to JAL. [Dkt. no. 141.]
On December 3, 2010, the JAL Defendants filed a Supplemental Corporate Disclosure Statement, stating that, as of December 1, 2010, JAL and JALways merged. JAL is the surviving entity. [Dkt. no. 155.]
On March 2, 2011, Ventress filed a Notice of Stipulation and Agreed Order Resolving Motion to Lift Stay in Defendant Japan Airlines' et al. Bankruptcy Proceeding in Order to Continue Case to Trial in the United States District Court for the District of Hawai`i. [Dkt. no. 162.] This Court also received a letter dated March 21, 2011 from counsel for JAL stating, inter alia, that the bankruptcy stay had been lifted. [Dkt. no. 170.] This Court held a status conference on April ...