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Martin Ventress v. Japan Airlines

December 27, 2011

MARTIN VENTRESS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAPAN AIRLINES, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Leslie E. Kobayashi United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION

On October 31, 2011, this Court issued its Order Granting Defendant Japan Airlines' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Complete Federal Preemption Under the Federal Aviation Act) ("10/31/11 Order").*fn1 Before the Court is Plaintiff Martin Ventress's ("Ventress") Motion for Reconsideration, filed on November 10, 2011, seeking reconsideration of 10/31/11 Order. Defendant Japan Airlines ("JAL") filed its memorandum in opposition on November 28, 2011, and Ventress filed his reply on December 15, 2011. The Court finds this matter suitable for disposition without a hearing pursuant to Rule LR7.2(d) of the Local Rules of Practice of the United States District Court for the District of Hawai`i ("Local Rules"). After careful consideration of the Motion for Reconsideration, supporting and opposing memoranda, and the relevant legal authority, Ventress's Motion for Reconsideration is HEREBY DENIED for the reasons set forth below.

BACKGROUND

The parties and the Court are familiar with the factual and procedural background of this case. The Court therefore will only address the background that is relevant to the Motion for Reconsideration.

On June 24, 2011, JAL filed, inter alia, its: Motion for Summary Judgment or in the Alternative Judgment on the Pleadings (Counts 1 and 2) ("Merits Motion") [dkt. no. 177]; Motion for Summary Judgment that Defendant JALways Co., Ltd. Was Not Plaintiff's Employer (Counts 1-2) ("Employer Motion") [dkt. no. 179]; and Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Complete Federal Preemption Under the Federal Aviation Act) ("Preemption Motion") [dkt. no. 181]. The motions were set for hearing on October 17, 2011. At the hearing, however, this Court continued the hearing on the Merits Motion and the Employer Motion. [Minutes, filed 10/17/11 (dkt. no. 195).] The hearing on the Preemption Motion went forward as scheduled, and the Court ultimately granted the Preemption Motion in the 10/31/11 Order, rendering the Merits Motion and the Employer Motion moot.

In the 10/31/11 Order, this Court stated that the sole issue in the Preemption Motion was "whether the [Federal Aviation Act of 1958 ('FAA')] preempts Ventress's claims." 2011 WL 5190849, at *6. The Court ultimately ruled that:

In order to rule on Ventress's retaliation claims, the finder of fact will have to determine whether JAL had "a legitimate, nonretaliatory explanation for its acts" or whether its "explanation is merely a pretext for retaliation." See Mokler v. Cnty. of Orange, 68 Cal. Rptr. 3d 568, 580 (App. Dist. 2007) (citations omitted). That inquiry will require the finder of fact to consider whether or not Ventress was medically fit to carry out his duties as a flight engineer. A flight engineer is an airman under FAA regulations. 14 C.F.R., Subchapter D. (Airmen), Part 63 (Certification: Flight Crewmembers Other Than Pilots), Subpart B. (Flight Engineers). Determining whether Ventress was medically qualified to work as a flight engineer would intrude in the area of airmen medical standards, which Congress intended to occupy exclusively.

Cf. Martin [ex rel. Heckman v. Midwest Express Holdings, Inc.], 555 F.3d [806,] 811 [(9th Cir. 2009)] ("Claims regarding airspace management, pilot qualifications and failure to warn have been declared preempted." (emphases added) (citing French v. Pan Am. Express, Inc., 869 F.2d 1 (1st Cir. 1989); Kohr v. Allegheny Airlines, Inc., 504 F.2d 400 (7th Cir. 1974); Witty v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 366 F.3d 380 (5th Cir. 2004))). The Court therefore CONCLUDES that the FAA preempts Counts I and II, the only claims remaining in Ventress's Complaint.

Id. at *10. The instant Motion for Reconsideration followed.

DISCUSSION

"[A] successful motion for reconsideration must accomplish two goals. First, a motion for reconsideration must demonstrate reasons why the court should reconsider its prior decision. Second, a motion for reconsideration must set forth facts or law of a strongly convincing nature to induce the court to reverse its prior decision." Donaldson v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 947 F. Supp. 429, 430 (D. Hawai`i 1996); accord Tom v. GMAC Mortg., LLC, CIV. NO. 10--00653 SOM/BMK, 2011 WL 2712958, at *1

(D. Hawai`i July 12, 2011) (citations omitted). This district court recognizes three grounds for granting reconsideration of an order: "(1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence; and (3) the need to correct clear error or prevent manifest injustice." White v. Sabatino, 424 F. Supp. 2d 1271, 1274 (D. Hawai`i 2006) (citing Mustafa v. Clark County Sch. Dist., 157 F.3d 1169, 1178--79 (9th Cir. 1998)). "Mere disagreement with a previous order is an insufficient basis for reconsideration." Id. "Whether or not to grant reconsideration[,]" however, "is committed to the sound discretion of the court." Navajo Nation v. Confederated Tribes & Bands of the Yakama Indian Nation, 331 F.3d 1041, 1046 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing Kona Enter., Inc. v. Estate of Bishop, 229 F.3d 877, 883 (9th Cir. 2000)).

I. Documents and Arguments Not Considered

The Court first notes that Ventress attached three exhibits to the Motion for Reconsideration: Ventress's Pilot Contract and Letter of Acknowledgment of the Pilot Contract; Appendices to the Pilot Contract; and a letter dated October 6, 2004 to Ventress from Pamela Steele-Nelson of the United States Department of Transportation. JAL objects that Ventress's exhibits are not authenticated. [Mem. in Opp. at 1.] Ventress also attached eight exhibits to his reply. The Court assumes that JAL would raise the same objections to the reply exhibits as it did to the exhibits attached to the Motion for Reconsideration.

The Court need not address JAL's objections to the exhibits because, even if the exhibits were properly authenticated, the Court would not consider them. Ventress asks this Court to reconsider its decision to grant JAL judgment on the pleadings. It is well settled that a court considering a motion for judgment on the pleadings is limited to the material in the pleadings, and the consideration of evidence outside of the pleadings converts the motion for judgment on the pleadings to a motion for summary judgment. Yakima Valley Memorial Hosp. v. Wash. State Dep't of Health, 654 F.3d 919, 925 n.6 (9th Cir. 2011). Whether to convert the underlying motion for judgment on the pleadings to a motion for summary judgment is within this Court's discretion, see id., and this Court declines to consider evidence outside of the pleadings in connection with Ventress's motion to reconsider the ruling on the Preemption Motion. Ventress also apparently argues that JAL itself invoked summary judgment standards in the Preemption Motion and therefore the Court should allow him to rely on information outside of the pleadings. Ventress's argument is misplaced. Neither the Preemption ...


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