United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. BUNNING UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
from Plaintiff Valarie Kopp tripping while on a Delta flight
that departed from the Cincinnati Airport on April 20, 2017,
(Doc. # 1-2 at 3-7), this matter is before the Court on
Defendant Delta Airlines, Inc.'s Motion for Summary
Judgment (Doc. # 17). The Motion has been fully briefed and
is now ripe for the Court's review. (Docs. # 18 and 19).
For the reasons set forth herein, the Motion is
granted, and this matter is finally
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
April 20, 2017, Plaintiff Valarie Kopp was flying from the
Cincinnati Airport (“CVG”) to Los Angeles,
California (“LAX”) on a Delta Airlines, Inc.
(“Delta”) flight. (Doc. # 1-2 at 4). During the
flight, Kopp got out of her seat to stretch in the aisle.
Id.; see also (Doc. # 17-5 at 11-12). At
the same time, Kopp alleges that a flight
attendant “came rushing down the aisle . . .
at a high rate of speed.” (Doc. # 1-2 at 4); see
also (Doc. # 17-5) (testifying that “the
stewardess started from the back and started running down the
aisleway”). She later admitted, however, that the
flight attendant was merely “walking fast” and
not “running.” (Doc. # 17-5 at 11) (deposition of
claims that “[i]n order to avoid colliding” with
the flight attendant she “stepped into a row of seats,
and in doing so, twisted her knee, causing serious injury and
requiring serious surgical intervention to repair the
damage.” (Doc. # 1-2 at 4). Specifically, Kopp
explained that her “left foot touched the floor brace
of the seat in front of [her], causing [her] knee to twist
outward and [she] fell into the seat.” Id. at
17; see also (Doc. # 17-5 at 11) (“I went to
step into our row of seats and my foot caught on the frame of
the seat in front of me and I fell, but my foot and my knee
stayed on the opposite side of the frame.”). Kopp
alleges that because the flight attendant “rushed down
the airplane [aisleway], ” Kopp “rush[ed to get]
out of the way” and had to “jump into a row of
seats . . . for fear of being run over.” (Doc. # 1-2 at
5-6). At no time, however, did the flight attendant make
physical contact with Valarie Kopp. (Doc. # 17-5 at 11, 41)
(descriptions by Valarie Kopp of the incident during her
deposition and in an email to a Delta representative sent
shortly after the incident). Additionally, Kopp admitted that
there was nothing under the seat that she would have tripped
on, (Doc. # 17-5 at 11, 15-16), and both Kopp and her husband
admitted that there was nothing apparently defective or wrong
with the seat upon which she tripped, (Doc. # 17-4 at 12:5-7)
(Plaintiff's husband testifying that he does not recall
“ever see[ing] anything that [he] would consider
defective”); (Doc. # 17-5 at 15).
brought claims of negligence against both Delta and the
flight attendant. (Doc. # 1-2 at 5-6). She alleges in the
Complaint that Delta is vicariously liable for the negligence
of the flight attendant because the flight attendant was
acting within her scope of employment “when she
negligently ran down the [aisleway] and caused Plaintiff to
injure her knee.” Id. at 5. Kopp requests
compensatory and special damages, pre-judgment interest,
costs, fees, and any other relief the Court finds to be
equitable. Id. at 7.
originally filed her action in Boone County Circuit Court.
(Docs. # 1 at 1 and 1-2 at 3). After removal to federal
court, Delta moved for summary judgment. (Doc. # 17). The
Motion has been fully briefed, (Docs. # 18 and 19), and is
now ripe for the Court's review.
Standard of Review
judgment may be granted if the moving party “shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Material facts are those that
“might affect the outcome of the suit under governing
law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “Once the moving party has met
the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine
dispute of material fact, the non-moving party must then
‘come forward with specific facts showing that there is
a genuine issue for trial.'” Baker v. City of
Trenton, 936 F.3d 523, 529 (6th Cir. 2019) (quoting
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). “The mere existence of a
scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's
position will be insufficient, ” Anderson, 477
U.S. at 252, and the plaintiff must “do more than
simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the
material facts, ” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co.
475 U.S. at 587. It is up to the Court to determine, while
viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party and drawing inferences in that party's
favor, id. (citing Smith Wholesale Co. v. R.J.
Reynolds Tobacco Co., 477 F.3d 854, 861 (6th Cir.
2007)), “whether reasonable jurors could find by a
preponderance of the evidence that the [non-moving party] is
entitled to a verdict, ” id. (alteration in
original) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248).
considering whether there are genuine issues of material
fact, a court may consider “materials in the records
including depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . .
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Parties may not rely, however, on
“the mere pleadings themselves.” Thomas v.
City of Alliance, 52 F.3d 326, at *2 (6th Cir.1995)
(unpublished table decision) (quoting Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)).
support of its Motion for Summary Judgment, Delta argues that
it and its flight attendant were not negligent as a matter of
See (Doc. # 17-1). Specifically, Delta claims that
while it has a duty to protect its passengers, it did not
have a duty to prevent this accident. Id. at 6-7.
Additionally, Delta argues that the actions of the flight
attendant were not “negligent or [ ] the proximate
cause of [Kopp's] injury.” Id. at 7. In
sum, Delta does not appear to dispute Kopp's injury;
rather, Delta disputes Kopp's allegation that the facts
are sufficient to show that the flight attendant and, by
extension, Delta were negligent. See generally
(Docs. # 17 and 19). Predictably, Plaintiff takes the
opposite position, arguing that Delta had a duty “to
its passengers to keep them safe while they are aboard a
Delta flight.” (Doc. # 18). Kopp seems to suggest that
there is a material issue of fact as to whether the flight
attendant's movement in the aisle was a breach of that
duty, and therefore the case must go to a jury. Id. at
out a claim for negligence in Kentucky,  a Plaintiff must
prove four elements: “(1) the defendant owed the
plaintiff a duty of care; (2) the defendant breached that
duty of care; (3) a causal connection between the
defendant's conduct and the plaintiff[']s damages;
and (4) damages.” Gonzalez v. Johnson, 581
S.W.3d 529, 532 (Ky. 2019) (citing Patton v.
Bickford, 529 S.W.3d 717, 729 (Ky. 2016)). In order to