Legal Newsline

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Florida court dismisses suit over $80 airline tax, but allows plaintiff to amend claim

By Elizabeth Alt | Apr 10, 2018

MIAMI (Legal Newsline) – The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida has dismissed a lawsuit against an airline company over an $80 “exit fee” a customer claimed shouldn’t have been charged for his flight.

Judge Kathleen Williams wrote the court order on March 22 to dismiss Hector G. Saade’s complaint against Insel Air, formerly known as Insel Air International B.V., and Inselair Arbua N.V. She is also allowing Saade to amend his claim.

Saade sued the airline for breach of contract in September after he had to pay an $80 exit tax fee before boarding his 2015 flight from Miami to Aruba and Venezuela.

The court order stated that he had failed to state a claim. 

Williams did not address the other grounds for dismissal that were brought by Insel in its motion to dismiss Saade’s complaint.

“Throughout the complaint, plaintiff groups defendants together and provides no individualized allegations to distinguish each defendant's role in this action,” the court order for dismissal says.

According to the court order, Saade purchased his flight ticket on the third-party website Cheapoair and departed from Miami to Aruba, then Venezuela in June of 2015. Saade claims that because he purchased a flight for Insel Aruba, it was in a contract with him as well as Insel International. Saade did not name Cheapoair in the complaint and referred to Insel International and Insel Aruba as “the airline.”

Saade claimed that he was attempting to hold both entities liable, although he knew that Insel Aruba and Insel International were separate entities and wanted the court to assign the claims he made regarding Insel Aruba to Insel International for the lawsuit as they are not “distinct entities.”

Williams quoted from Insel’s motion to dismiss that because Saade “repeatedly” referred to both entities as “the airline,” the complaint “does not afford each defendant the opportunity to refute the allegations against it.”

Although Williams rejected Insel’s argument and stated that Saade had in fact proved a contractual relationship between himself and Insel, the court order stated that, “The problem with plaintiff's arguments is that plaintiff failed to specify how each defendant is liable for breach of contract and the complaint fails to allege any agency or alter ego relationship between defendants. Without these allegations, plaintiff's breach of contract claim against defendants cannot survive the motion to dismiss.”

Williams noted in the court order, “Since the court finds that plaintiff has failed to state a claim, the court declines to address Insel International's remaining arguments.” 

Insel International had moved to dismiss Saade’s lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction, forum non conveniens, and failure to state a claim.

“It is unclear whether plaintiff is seeking to pierce the corporate veil or asserting that Insel Aruba was Insel International's agent. In any event, these allegations were not advanced in the complaint.”

The court order dismissed Saade’s complaint without prejudice and granted Saade leave to amend his complaint within 15 days of the court order.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida case number 17-cv-22003

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U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida