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Ficken v. AMR Corp.

September 29, 2008


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

Document Nos. 3, 9



The pro se plaintiff in this action, Ivan Ficken, purports to bring suit on behalf of himself, his adopted son, Ciprian Ivanof, and Ciprian Ivanof's biological father, Isaia Ivanof, against AMR Corporation, three AMR employees, American Airlines, Inc. and AMR Eagle Holding Corporation. The complaint stems from the plaintiff's*fn1 loss of his Trans World Airlines ("TWA") frequent flyer miles that occurred as a result of the purchase of TWA by American Airlines ("AA") in 2001. The plaintiff contends that by depriving him of the frequent flyer miles that he had earned, the defendants violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations ("RICO") Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1962, and committed the torts of "trover, detinue, replevin or conversion;" intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress; and breach of contract. The defendants move to dismiss, arguing that only Ficken is a proper plaintiff, that all of the claims are barred by the statute of limitations and that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In addition, the plaintiff has filed a motion "requesting that the court set the filing date for this complaint to January 19, 2006 when this complaint was actually filed with the court." The court grants in part and denies in part the defendants' motion to dismiss and, construing the plaintiff's motion as a request to toll the statute of limitations, grants that request.


The court has gathered from the plaintiff's diffuse complaint the following facts, which it accepts as true for the purpose of this motion. Beginning in the late 1980s, the plaintiff joined TWA's frequent flyer program and began accruing mileage, some of which he used in 1990 to fly to Romania to adopt Ciprian Ivanof. Compl. ¶¶ 10-12. The plaintiff later registered frequent flyer mileage accounts for Ciprian and his biological father, Isaia Ivanof, and over the next several years the plaintiff and Ciprian made many trips back to Romania to visit and provide aid to Isaia and others. Id. ¶¶ 13-15.

In August 2001, after learning that TWA would soon be bought out by AA, the plaintiff spoke to a representative of AA's frequent flyer program, AAdvantage, to determine how his TWA frequent flyer miles could be converted to AAdvantage miles. Id. ¶ 27. The AAdvantage representative told the plaintiff that he could choose to transfer his TWA mileage to AAdvantage mileage immediately, but if he did not, the TWA mileage would automatically be converted to AAdvantage mileage on or about November 1, 2001. Id. Regardless of when his mileage was converted, the representative told the plaintiff, he would be required to log some account activity within three years of the transfer in order for the account to remain open. Id. The plaintiff elected to let the mileage automatically transfer over on November 1, 2001. Id.

Cognizant of the requirement that he log account activity within three years of the transfer, the plaintiff contacted AAdvantage "[a] more than adequate number of months prior to Nov[ember] 1, 2004," but, to his surprise, was told that his TWA mileage was not recoverable because the deadline for converting it to AAdvantage mileage had passed more than a year earlier. Id. ¶ 28. After failing to recover his TWA mileage through further correspondence with AAdvantage representatives, the plaintiff brought the instant action.


A. Legal Standard for a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). The complaint need only set forth a short and plain statement of the claim, giving the defendant fair notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Kingman Park Civic Ass'n v. Williams, 348 F.3d 1033, 1040(D.C. Cir. 2003) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2) and Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). "Such simplified notice pleading is made possible by the liberal opportunity for discovery and the other pre-trial procedures established by the Rules to disclose more precisely the basis of both claim and defense to define more narrowly the disputed facts and issues." Conley, 355 U.S. at 47-48 (internal quotation marks omitted). It is not necessary for the plaintiff to plead all elements of his prima facie case in the complaint, Swierkiewicz v. Sonoma N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 511-14 (2002), or "plead law or match facts to every element of a legal theory," Krieger v. Fadely, 211 F.3d 134, 136 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). That said, it is possible, however, "for a plaintiff to plead too much: that is, to plead himself out of court by alleging facts that render success on the merits impossible." Sparrow v. United Airlines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1116 (D.C. Cir. 2000).

Yet, the plaintiff must allege "any set of facts consistent with the allegations." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1969 (2007) (abrogating the oft-quoted language from Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-56,instructing courts not to dismiss for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that "no set of facts in support of his claim [] would entitle him to relief"); Aktieselskabet AF 21. November 2001 v. Fame Jeans, Inc., 525 F.3d 8, 16 n.4 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (affirming that "a complaint needs some information about the circumstances giving rise to the claims"). While these facts must "possess enough heft to 'sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to relief,'" a complaint "does not need detailed factual allegations." Twombly,127 S.Ct. at 1964, 1966. In resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must treat the complaint's factual allegations -- including mixed questions of law and fact -- as true and draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in the plaintiff's favor. Macharia v. United States, 334 F.3d 61, 64, 67 (D.C. Cir. 2003); Holy Land Found. for Relief & Dev. v. Ashcroft, 333 F.3d 156, 165 (D.C. Cir. 2003); Browning, 292 F.3d at 242. While many well-pleaded complaints are conclusory, the court need not accept as true inferences unsupported by facts set out in the complaint or legal conclusions cast as factual allegations. Warren v. District of Columbia, 353 F.3d 36, 40 (D.C. Cir. 2004); Browning, 292 F.3d at 242.

A defendant may raise the affirmative defense of statute of limitations via a Rule 12(b)(6) motion when the facts that give rise to the defense are clear from the face of the complaint. Smith-Haynie v. District of Columbia, 155 F.3d 575, 578 (D.C. Cir. 1998). Because statute of limitations issues often depend on contested questions of fact, however, the court should hesitate to dismiss a complaint on statute of limitations grounds based solely on the face of the complaint. Firestone v. Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1209 (D.C. Cir. 1996). Rather, the court should grant a motion to dismiss only if the complaint on its face is conclusively time-barred. Id.; Doe v. Dep't of Justice, 753 F.2d 1092, 1115 (D.C. Cir. 1985). If "no reasonable person could disagree on the date" on which the cause of action accrued, the court may dismiss a claim ...

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