Federal Judge Holds that an Airline Passenger Injured in Sweden Cannot Sue in New Jersey

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Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLPIn Pesa v. Scandinavian Airlines Sys., the plaintiff purchased a ticket to travel on Scandinavian Airlines (“SAS”) from Newark, New Jersey, to Split, Croatia, with a connection in Stockholm, Sweden. At the Newark Airport, the plaintiff, who suffered from a disability, requested wheelchair assistance, which she received without incident. When Plaintiff arrived in Stockholm, an SAS agent met her with a wheelchair, took her to the gate for her connecting flight and left with the wheelchair.

After some time passed, an agent at the gate for Plaintiff’s connecting flight requested that Plaintiff approach the counter. The plaintiff asked the gate agent to come to her, but the agent insisted that Plaintiff walk to the counter. As she attempted to do so, Plaintiff fell, hit her head on the floor, fractured her shoulder and blacked out. When Plaintiff came to, she found herself in a pool of blood. Despite her injuries, the airline placed Plaintiff on her connecting flight.

Plaintiff sued SAS in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey seeking compensation for the injuries she suffered in Stockholm. SAS sought dismissal of Plaintiff’s claim on the grounds that SAS was not subject to personal jurisdiction in New Jersey, and the Court granted the motion.

The Court first rejected Plaintiff’s argument that the Montreal Convention established personal
jurisdiction. The Court joined numerous other courts that consistently have held that the Montreal Convention confers only subject matter jurisdiction, not personal jurisdiction.

The Court next rejected Plaintiff’s argument that SAS was subject to specific personal jurisdiction in New Jersey (the plaintiff did not argue that SAS was subject to general personal jurisdiction in New Jersey). In order to meet her burden of establishing that the Court had specific jurisdiction over SAS, Plaintiff, among other things, had to establish that her claims arose out of SAS’s activities in New Jersey. Because SAS’s allegedly negligent conduct “occurred in Stockholm, not Newark,” Plaintiff did not allege “the necessary connection between New Jersey, the forum state, and her injuries, which arose in Stockholm, Sweden.” Pesa v. Scandinavian Airlines Sys., 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 80706 (D.N.J. Apr. 27, 2021).

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