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Wagner v. Summit Air Ambulance, LLC

United States District Court, D. Montana, Butte Division

October 26, 2017

STAN and RAINY WAGNER, on Behalf of Themselves and All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
SUMMIT AIR AMBULANCE, LLC, REACH AIR MEDICAL SERVICES, LLC, and DOES I-X, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Brian Morris, United States District Court Judge

         Plaintiffs Stan and Rainy Wagner, on behalf of themselves and a proposed class of others similarly situated, filed this action in Montana's Eighteenth Judicial District Court, Gallatin County, on July 18, 2017. (Doc. 5.) Defendants Summit Air Ambulance and REACH Air Medical Services, LLC removed the case to federal court on August 18, 2017. (Doc. 1.) Defendants filed the instant Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on August 25, 2017. (Doc. 2.)

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs brought their six-year-old son, W.W., to his pediatrician on August 27, 2015, to evaluate headaches, vomiting, and unsteady gait. (Doc. 5 at 5.) Upon discovery of a brain tumor, W.W.'s doctors determined that it was medically necessary to transport W.W. by air ambulance from Bozeman, Montana to Children's Hospital in Denver, Colorado. (Doc. 5 at 5.) Bozeman Deaconess Hospital, pursuant to its preferred provider agreement with Defendants, dispatched Defendants to provide air ambulance services. (Doc. 5 at 5.)

         Plaintiffs authorized Defendants to provide the air ambulance services. Defendants did not specify a price for their services. (Doc. 5 at 5.) Montana law provides that “[w]hen a contract does not determine the amount of the consideration or the method by which it is to be ascertained or when it leaves the amount thereof to the discretion of an interested party, the consideration must be so much money as the object of the contract is reasonably worth.” Mont. Code Ann. § 28-2-813 (2017). Further, Montana's covenant of good faith and fair dealing requires “reasonable commercial standards of fair dealing in trade.” (Doc. 5 at 7.); Mont. Code Ann. § 28-1-211.

         Defendants billed Plaintiffs $109, 590 for one-way transport of W.W. from Bozeman, Montana to Denver, Colorado, on February 26, 2016. (Doc. 5 at 6.) This total amount reflected a “base rate” of $15, 965 and a “loaded fixed wing” charge of $175 per mile. (Doc. 5 at 6.) Defendants multiplied the “loaded fixed wing” charge by the 535 miles between Bozeman and Denver. (Doc. 5 at 6.)

         Plaintiffs' insurer paid Defendants $22, 933 of the $109, 590 bill for the flight. (Doc. 5 at 6.) Defendants sought to collect from Plaintiffs a balance of $40, 057.38 on December 29, 2016. (Doc. 5 at 6.) This balance reflects credit for the insurance payment as well as a reduced “loaded fixed wing” charge of $81.96 per mile. (Doc. 5 at 6.) Defendants provided no explanation for the lower rate. (Doc. 5 at 6.)

         Plaintiffs allege that Defendants breached the contract to provide the air ambulance services because the charges billed “exceed[] reasonable amounts typically charged in Montana for similar air-ambulance transport and the charges do not represent the reasonable worth of the services, rendered, are excessive and violate the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.” (Doc. 5 at 6.) Plaintiffs seek “damages in the amount of the balance between a reasonable charge for services and the actual charges sought by Defendant.” (Doc. 5 at 8.)

         Defendants seek to dismiss Plaintiffs' claim on the basis that the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (“ADA”) preempts this type of state law claim. (Doc. 3 at 6.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). In evaluating a 12(b)(6) motion, the Court “must take all allegations of material fact as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Kwan v. Sanmedica Int'l, 854 F.3d 1088, 1096 (9th Cir. 2017) (quoting Turner v. City and County of San Francisco, 788 F.3d 1206, 1210 (9th Cir. 2015)). To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must allege sufficient facts to state a plausible claim for relief. Taylor v. Yee, 780 F.3d 928, 935 (9th Cir. 2015).

         Federal courts generally view Rule 12(b)(6) dismissals “with disfavor.” Rennie & Laughlin, Inc. v. Chrysler Corp., 242 F.3d 208, 213 (9th Cir. 1957). “A case should be tried on the proofs rather than the pleadings.” Id. Such dismissals are “especially disfavored” where the plaintiff bases the complaint on “a novel legal theory that can best be assessed after factual development.” McGary v. City of Portland, 386 F.3d 1259, 1270 (9th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted). “It is important that new legal theories be explored and assayed in the light of actual facts rather than a pleader's suppositions.” Id.

         III. DISCUSSION

         The ADA expressly preempts any state law or regulation “related to a price, route, or service of an air carrier.” 49 U.S.C. § 41713(b)(1); American Airlines Inc. v. Wolens, 513 U.S. 219, 222 (1995). The ADA also preempts causes of action that arise under state common law where such a claim undermines the statute's deregulatory aim. Northwest, Inc. v Ginsberg, 572 U.S. ___, 134 S.Ct. 1422, 1428-30 ...


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