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Hollingsworth v. United Airlines, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

February 13, 2017




         This action is before the court on the motion of defendant United Airlines, Inc., to dismiss the petition of plaintiff Alicia D. Hollingsworth under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 6). The parties have consented to the exercise of plenary authority by the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). After hearing oral arguments from the parties on February 10, 2017, the court grants defendant's motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Alicia D. Hollingsworth alleges the following facts in her state court petition. On February 16, 2012, she started her work day as a United Airlines flight attendant in St. Louis, Missouri. (ECF No. 1, Ex. 1 at ¶¶ 5-9). Upon disembarking at the O'Hare Airport in Chicago, Illinois, plaintiff attempted to use the handrail on the plane's stairs. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that United Airlines, through its agents, employees, and servants, failed to install the locking pins into the handrail. (Id.) The handrail collapsed and she fell onto the tarmac and injured her head, neck, back, and spine. (Id.)

         On October 1, 2013, plaintiff filed a claim against defendant in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. (ECF No. 11). She subsequently dismissed the action voluntarily on May 5, 2015. (Id.) A year later, on May 4, 2016, she moved to reinstate her claim in that Circuit Court. (Id.) This motion was granted, allowing the Illinois claim to proceed. (Id.) However, defendant moved for reconsideration, which the Illinois judge granted, vacating his prior order and denying the motion to reinstate. (Id.) Plaintiff appealed this decision, and the appeal is still pending in the Illinois Court of Appeals. (Id.)

         On November 9, 2016, plaintiff filed the instant petition in the Circuit Court of St. Francois County, Missouri. (ECF No. 4). On December 22, 2016, defendant removed the action to this federal court, invoking this court's original diversity of citizenship subject matter jurisdiction. (ECF No. 1); 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(a), 1441(a).


         Defendant moves to dismiss plaintiff's petition, because under Missouri's borrowing statute, it is barred by the Illinois statute of limitations for personal injury claims, and it thus fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (ECF No. 7); 735 ILCS § 5/13-202; Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Plaintiff argues that the Illinois appeal is still pending, so it is not certain that her claim is “fully barred” by Illinois law via Missouri's borrowing statute. (ECF No. 11).

         A. Legal Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss part or all of a case for its failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(6). A complaint “must include enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” providing more than just labels and conclusions. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Such a complaint will “allow[] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), and will state a claim for relief that rises above mere speculation. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. In reviewing the pleadings under this standard, the court accepts all of the plaintiff's factual allegations as true and draws all inferences in the plaintiff's favor, but the court is not required to accept the legal conclusions the plaintiff draws from the facts alleged. Retro Television Network, Inc. v. Luken Commc'ns, LLC, 696 F.3d 766, 768-69 (8th Cir. 2012).

         In addressing a motion to dismiss, the court considers the pleadings themselves and limited other materials, including matters of public record. Illig v. Union Elec. Co., 652 F.3d 971, 976 (8th Cir. 2011). Where the complaint itself establishes that the claim is time-barred, a dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is proper. Id.

         B. Discussion

         A federal court implementing its diversity jurisdiction applies the law of the forum state when ruling on issues concerning statutes of limitations. Nettles v. American Tel. and Tel. Co., 55 F.3d 1358, 1362 (8th Cir. 1995). When Missouri is the forum state, it considers statute of limitations issues to be procedural and thus governed by Missouri law. Wright v. Campbell, 277 S.W.3d 771, 773 (Mo.Ct.App. 2009). Under Missouri law, the statute of limitations in a personal injury action is five years. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 516.120(4). However, Missouri recognizes a statutory exception to the application of its own statutes of limitations, in the form of a borrowing statute:

Whenever a cause of action has been fully barred by the laws of the state, territory or country in which it originated, said bar shall be a complete defense to any action thereon, ...

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