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ROBERTSON v. AMERICAN AIRLINES

December 16, 2002

KATHLEEN ROBERTSON, PLAINTIFF,
V.
AMERICAN AIRLINES, INC. ET AL., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION STRIKING THE DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

Before addressing the merits of this negligence action, the court first must resolve a dispute over the application of the local rules of civil procedure to the pending motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff Kathleen Robertson is suing American Airlines ("AA") and its parent, AMR Corporation ("AMR"), (collectively, "the defendants") for damages resulting from injuries she allegedly sustained during an AA flight. In their motion for summary judgment, the defendants present several defenses. The plaintiff, however, argues that the defendants are not entitled to summary judgment given their alleged failure to comply with the requirements of the court's Local Civil Rules 7.1(h) and 56.1. For the reasons that follow, the court strikes the defendants' motion.

II. BACKGROUND

The plaintiff alleges the following facts. On September 10, 1998, the plaintiff traveled on an AA flight from Denver, Colorado, to Chicago, Illinois. Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Opp'n") at 2-3. She was traveling at the time with a gel pack to relieve back discomfort. Id. at 3. During the flight, she approached an AA flight attendant, explained that her gel pack had become warm, and asked him if he might "make it cold again." Id. The flight attendant took the gel pack and disappeared from her sight. Id. He returned with a package, wrapped in an air-sickness bag, in which he had placed a piece of dry ice. Id. After the plaintiff placed the package on her back, she sustained thermal burns. Id.
One year later, on September 7, 2001, the plaintiff filed a complaint in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia alleging negligence and recklessness by the defendants and requesting compensatory and punitive damages. Notice of Removal dated Nov. 20, 2001. The defendants subsequently removed the action to this court. Id. On August 16, 2002, after discovery closed, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the Warsaw Convention bars the plaintiff's action, that District of Columbia law bars punitive damages in this case, and that District of Columbia law shields AMR from liability. Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. ("Defs.' Mot.") at 2. The defendants' memorandum in support of their motion begins with a one-paragraph section entitled "Statement of Material Facts Not in Genuine Dispute" that outlines the circumstances of the injury as well as the defenses to liability. Id. at 1-2. The defendants' statement does not include citations to the record, but a footnote states that "[a] full discussion of material facts with references will be found in the arguments below." Id. at 1-2 & 1 n. 1.
The plaintiff filed an opposition to the defendants' motion on September 20, 2002. As part of her argument against summary judgment for the defendants, the plaintiff contends that because the defendants' statement is not separate and contains no citations to the record, it does not comply with Local Civil Rules 7.1(h) and 56.1. Pl.'s Opp'n at 6 n. 6. Accordingly, citing to caselaw in this circuit, she urges the court to strike the defendants' statement and deny the defendants summary judgment. Id. Presumably in case the court refuses to do so, however, the plaintiff supplies her own "supplemental" statement of material facts not in dispute in addition to a statement of material facts that are in dispute. Pl.'s Supplemental Statement of Undisputed Material Facts; Pl.'s Statement of Disputed Material Facts.
In their reply, the defendants vigorously dispute the plaintiff's contention that their statement does not satisfy the local rules. Defs.' Reply at 1-5. The defendants rely on the text of Local Civil Rules 7.1(h) and 56.1 to argue that the requirements for the movant's statement of material facts as to which there is no genuine issue differ from the requirements for the non-movant's statement of material facts as to which there is a genuine issue. Id. at 2-3. Specifically, they argue that only the non-movant need provide a "separate, concise statement" of material facts for which there is a genuine issue. Id. at 2. Because they, as the movants, provided a statement of material facts directing the court to the arguments that in turn provides references to the record, they believe that they have complied with the local rules.*fn1 Id. at 3. Finally, the defendants take issue with the plaintiff's supplemental statement of undisputed material facts and submit their own "supplemental" statement that contests the allegedly undisputed nature of those facts. Id. at 4-5; Defs.' Supplemental Statement of Disputed Material Facts.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard for Local Civil Rule 56.1*fn2

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) directs courts to render judgments on motions for summary judgment "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); Burke v. Gould, 286 F.3d 513, 517 (D.C. Cir. 2002). To further simplify matters, Local Civil Rule 56.1 supplements Rule 56 by setting forth specific procedures for the parties to follow in moving for or opposing summary judgment. LCvR 56.1; Burke, 286 F.3d at 517. First, Rule 56.1 informs parties moving for summary judgment that
[a] motion for summary judgment shall be accompanied by a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue, which shall include references to the parts of the record relied on to support the statement.
LCvR 56.1. The rule then instructs parties opposing such a motion that
[a]n opposition to such a motion shall be accompanied by a separate concise statement of genuine issues setting forth all material facts as to which it is contended there exists a genuine issue necessary to be litigated, which shall include references ...

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