Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.


July 6, 1995


The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN H. PRATT

 Before the Court is defendant Northwest Airlines' ("Northwest") motion to dismiss. Plaintiff Coordination Council for North American Affairs ("CCNAA") represents the interests of the Republic of China, known commonly as "Taiwan", in the United States. See Taiwan Relations Act, 22 U.S.C. §§ 3301-16 (CCNAA treated under United States law as if it were foreign state). Plaintiff attempts through this action to enjoin Northwest from applying the Convention of Certain Rules Relating to International Transportation by Air (hereafter "Warsaw Convention"), 49 U.S.C. § 1502 note, to damage claims arising from flights to and from Taiwan. Because the government of Taiwan has not signed the Warsaw Convention, this treaty applies to Taiwan only if it is considered a province of the People's Republic of China ("PRC"). CCNAA objects to this interpretation, which it sees as an attempt to apply the laws of "Communist China" to Taiwan. Plaintiff's opposition, p. 4. Northwest moves to dismiss on grounds that there is no pending damage claim stemming from Northwest's Taiwan services and that any ruling by this Court would amount to an advisory opinion. Upon consideration of the matter, the Court agrees with defendant and grants Northwest's motion to dismiss.

 I. Background

 CCNAA alleges that it first became aware of Northwest's policy of applying the Warsaw Convention to claims on Taiwan flights in March 1993. This was more than a year after a district court in Wisconsin held that Taiwan was in fact a province of the PRC and therefore subject to the PRC's acceptance of the Warsaw Convention. Atlantic Mutual Ins. v. Northwest, 796 F. Supp. 1188 (E.D.Wis. 1992). CCNAA belatedly tried to intervene, but was rebuffed at both the trial level and on appeal. Civ. No. 92-C-481, aff'd, 24 F.3d 958 (7th Cir. 1994). The Seventh Circuit rejected CCNAA's claim that it has no way to learn of such suits until after the fact. "Would-be litigants who want to protect far-flung and abstract interests cannot wait for notice, however, but must take prudent steps to acquire knowledge." Id. at 961. The Court continued "[CCNAA] therefore must take its disagreement with [the district court's decision] to the forums where other disputes lie in the balance....The subject is open to decision in a case where it matters to the outcome." Id. at 962.

 Rather than waiting for another claim arising from goods damaged in transit on a Northwest flight, *fn1" CCNAA now brings suit in this Court seeking two forms of relief: (1) an order requiring Northwest to inform CCNAA whenever the airline tries in the future to apply the Warsaw Convention to claims for damages from its Taiwan service, and (2) a declaratory judgment prohibiting Northwest from applying the Warsaw Convention to future claims from Taiwan flights. Complaint, p. 6. CCNAA brings suit, not to prosecute any claim it might have as a shipper of goods on Northwest, but to protect both its interests as a sovereign and the interests of its citizens as parens patriae (literally meaning "parent of the country").

 II. Analysis

 In viewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 (b), "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957). The factual allegations of the complaint must be presumed true and liberally construed in favor of the plaintiff. Shear v. National Rifle Ass'n., 196 U.S. App. D.C. 344, 606 F.2d 1251, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 1979). The plaintiff is entitled to all favorable inferences which may be drawn from those allegations. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 40 L. Ed. 2d 90, 94 S. Ct. 1683 (1974).

 A. Case or Controversy.

 The ability of the Court to reach the merits of plaintiff's claims is tempered by the justiciability considerations so fundamental to the federal judicial system. A controversy must exist between the parties that is

definite and concrete, touching the legal relations of parties having adverse legal interests....It must be a real and substantial controversy admitting of specific relief through a decree of conclusive character, as distinguished from an opinion advising what the law would be upon a hypothetical state of facts.

 Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Haworth, 300 U.S. 227, 240-41, 81 L. Ed. 617, 57 S. Ct. 461 (1937). The weaknesses in plaintiff's claim for relief are evident even from this generalized definition.

 At present there is merely a disagreement without injury. Any injury caused by the Atlantic Mut. decision is moot--that case is no longer active. Any future claims which might arise are not ripe for review. Even if such claims presently exist, they must be addressed in the applicable jurisdictions, and not here in the District of Columbia. An attempt by this Court to decide them would represent a wholly unwarranted example of judicial overreach. CCNAA argues that such claims represent controversies capable of repetition but escaping review because CCNAA is unlikely to discover the claims until after a decision has been rendered. This misses the mark. Such claims are not escaping review. Plaintiff is simply losing the opportunity to add its input. It is, however, not the Court's function to flag such cases so plaintiff can avoid its obligation to ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.