DES MOINES, Iowa (Legal Newsline) – United Airlines, which has come under fire several times this calendar year, has moved to dismiss a lawsuit brought against the company over the loss of a rabbit on a transatlantic flight.

The motion to dismiss and strike was filed by the company in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Iowa Sept. 1 after the case was removed to the court from the Polk County District Court.

Plaintiffs Mark Omen, Steve Bruere and Duke Reichardt -- referred to collectively as the Simon Ownership/Investment Group in court documents -- procured a rabbit named Simon from the United Kingdom. Their Aug. 25 complaint states Simon was soon-to-be the world’s largest rabbit, and was to be shown at the Iowa State Fair.

The Simon Group alleges Simon, who was transported as cargo on a transatlantic flight, died during the trip and was cremated by the airline. According to their complaint, they feel United Airlines was negligent and reckless in its handling of Simon. 

Their complaint states the rabbit was deemed fit for travel by a British veterinarian, but was reported motionless and pronounced dead at the Kansas City International Airport. Simon was then cremated allegedly without authorization by the Simon Group. In fact, the plaintiffs allege United Airlines neglected to even contact them regarding a necropsy.

The defendant’s motion to dismiss and strike cites the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relegating to International Carriage by Air, which is referred to in documents simply as the Montreal Convention. The memorandum states the case cannot be tried in state court as the cargo traveled internationally and therefore, the defendants contend, the plaintiffs cannot allege a state law cause.

In referring to the Montreal Convention, United Airlines moves to strike with prejudice on the grounds the plaintiffs’ claims for punitive damages has no standing and the allegations are “immaterial, impertinent and only included to scandalize.”

The motion to dismiss and strike was filed by United Airlines’ attorney Richard J. Leamy Jr. and Rachel S. Nevarez of the Weidner & McAuliffe law firm in Chicago and Nick Critelli of Critelli Law in Des Moines, Iowa.

The plaintiffs are represented by Guy R. Cook, Michael C. Kuehner and Michael D. Currie of Grefe & Sidney PLC in Des Moines.

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