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Tobin v. Fedeal Express Corp.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

December 30, 2014

MARYANGELA TOBIN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT ON BEHALF OF HER MINOR CHILDREN, L. AND M., Plaintiff, Appellant,
v.
FEDERAL EXPRESS CORPORATION, Defendant, Appellee

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS. Hon. William G. Young, U.S. District Judge.

Rory FitzPatrick, with whom Cetrulo LLP was on brief, for appellant.

Thomas W. Southerland III, with whom Gareth W. Notis and Morrison Mahoney LLP were on brief, for appellee.

Before Lynch, Chief Judge, Selya and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 449

SELYA, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff-appellant Maryangela Tobin sued defendant-appellee Federal Express Corporation (FedEx) for invasion of privacy, infliction of emotional distress, and negligence. After some preliminary skirmishing, FedEx asked the district court to enter summary judgment in its favor on the principal ground that the plaintiff's claims are barred by the preemption provision of the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA), 49 U.S.C. § 41713(b)(1). The court, ruling ora sponte, granted FedEx's motion. The plaintiff appeals.

Our primary task is to determine whether and to what extent ADA preemption fits the atypical fact pattern limned by the record. After careful consideration, we conclude that preemption fits as to the plaintiff's common-law claims. Accordingly, we affirm the district court's decision (although our reasoning differs in certain respects).

I. BACKGROUND

We draw the facts from the summary judgment record, construing them in the light most flattering to the plaintiff. See Griggs-Ryan v. Smith, 904 F.2d 112, 114 (1st Cir. 1990).

In October of 2012, a package was shipped from a FedEx location in Eureka, California. The sender requested priority overnight delivery and specified the recipient's address on a handwritten label. That label, affixed to the package, reflected a sender name of " R. Mason" and an intended delivery address of " L. Tobin, 21 Standish Avenue" in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

At the drop-off facility, a FedEx employee inputted the handwritten information into a computer and produced a printed address label, which inadvertently showed an incorrect address. This incorrect address was the plaintiff's home address.[1] The package made its way across the country and, for aught that appears, no FedEx employee sought to reconcile the two inconsistent labels. A FedEx courier responsible for delivering the package to its final destination brought it to the address shown on the printed label (the plaintiff's home).

Plaintiff and her eleven-year-old daughter opened the package. Two vacuum-sealed bags of what turned out to be marijuana were inside. The plaintiff and her daughter understandably became agitated.

Page 450

The police responded quickly to a call from the plaintiff. An officer told the plaintiff that he was concerned for the safety of her and her children as the intended recipient could come looking for the package.

The officer then asked FedEx to flag the shipment and refrain from disclosing any information regarding the actual delivery address to anyone who might inquire about the package. A FedEx customer service agent noted this request in FedEx's electronic customer service system.

That same day, an individual identifying herself as Sue Mason called FedEx, stated that she was expecting a package that had not been received, supplied the tracking number, and requested the address to which the package had been delivered. A FedEx customer service agent initiated a " trace." Later that day, Mason contacted FedEx for a second time. She maintained that the package had been misdelivered and voiced her belief that it had been dropped off somewhere in Plymouth (at a house numbered 21 on a street beginning with the letter " S" ). At the end of the conversation, she indicated that she would simply get the package herself.

Meanwhile, a man came to the plaintiff's door asking whether the plaintiff had received a package. The visitor's car was parked in the plaintiff's driveway with two men seated inside. Terrified, the plaintiff slammed the door shut and again contacted the police. In the aftermath of these events, the plaintiff and her minor daughters have suffered fear and anxiety manifested in a range of symptoms.

Alleging that FedEx was responsible not only for mislabeling and misdelivering the package but also for wrongfully disclosing her address to the sender or intended recipient, the plaintiff (on her own behalf and on behalf of her minor children) sued for damages in a Massachusetts state court. Her complaint contained claims for invasion of privacy under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 214, § 1B, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligence. FedEx removed the case to the federal district court. See 28 U.S.C. § § 1332(a), 1441.

Following discovery, FedEx sought summary judgment. Its motion papers raised, inter alia, the argument that the claims were preempted by the ADA. The plaintiff opposed FedEx's motion and cross-moved for partial summary judgment on certain of her common-law claims. Ruling from the bench, the court below granted ...


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