United States District Court, D. Idaho
JASON SEAMAN, an individual residing in the State of California, Plaintiff,
EMPIRE AIRLINES, INC., an Idaho corporation; and DOES 1 - 50 inclusive, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
J. LODGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Defendant Empire Airlines, Inc.'s
(“Empire”) Motion to Dismiss. (Dkt. 3.) The
parties filed responsive briefing and the Motion is now ripe.
Having fully reviewed the record herein, the Court finds that
the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the
briefs and record. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding
further delay, and because the Court conclusively finds that
the decisional process would not be significantly aided by
oral argument, the Motion shall be decided on the record
before this Court without oral argument. The Court grants in
part and denies in part Defendant's Motion.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
an Idaho corporation, hired Plaintiff Jason Seaman
(“Seaman”) as an ATR Captain in February 2015.
(Dkt. 1.) On February 13, 2015, Seaman signed a Pilot
Agreement (“Agreement”) memorializing his
employment as an at-will employee. (Dkt. 1, Ex. 1.) As
required under the Agreement, Seaman completed 9 weeks of
training in Idaho before starting work in Santa Barbara,
California on May 2, 2015. (Dkt. 1.)
morning of February 25, 2016, while in Idaho for training,
Empire's Human Resources Department asked Seaman to take
a random drug/alcohol test. (Dkt. 1.) A breathalyzer test was
administered at 8:15 a.m., followed by a second test 15
minutes later; the tests registered blood alcohol
concentrations of “.051” and “.043”
respectively. (Dkt. 1.) Empire terminated Seaman's
employment at its headquarters in Hayden, Idaho later that
day referencing his failed drug/alcohol test and its zero
tolerance policy. (Dkt. 1.)
6, 2016, Seaman filed his complaint alleging four causes of
action arising out of the drug/alcohol test and his
subsequent termination, including tortious termination in
violation of public policy, breach of the implied covenants
of good faith and fair dealing under California law, breach
of contract, and declaratory relief. (Dkt. 1.) Empire filed a
Counterclaim alleging breach of contract. (Dkt. 6.) Both
parties filed Motions to Dismiss, which the Court now takes
up. (Dkt. 3, 10, 11.)
Motion to Dismiss under 12(b)(6) - Legal Standard
motion to dismiss made pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a party's
claim for relief. When considering such a motion, the
Court's inquiry is whether the allegations in a pleading
are sufficient under applicable pleading standards. Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) sets forth minimum pleading
rules, requiring only a “short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).
general, a motion to dismiss will only be granted if the
complaint fails to allege “enough facts to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged. The plausibility standard is not
akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but asks for
more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
lawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (citations omitted).
deciding a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court
assumes the allegations in the complaint are true and
construes them in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party. Fleming v. Pickard, 581 F.3d 922, 925 (9th
Cir. 2009); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94
(2007). A judgment on the pleadings is appropriate when,
taking all the allegations in the complaint as true, the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Milne ex rel. Coyne v. Stephen Slesigner, Inc., 430
F.3d 1036, 1042 (9th Cir. 2005); Westlands Water Dist. v.
Firebaugh Canal, 10 F.3d 667, 670 (9th Cir. 1993).
Although “we must take all of the factual allegations
in the complaint as true, we are not bound to accept as true
a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Therefore,
“conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted
inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim.” Caviness v. Horizon
Comm. Learning Cent., Inc., 590 F.3d 806, 811-12 (9th
Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).
ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court must normally
convert a Rule 12(b)(6) motion into one for summary judgment
under Rule 56 if the court considers evidence outside of the
pleadings. United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903,
907 (9th Cir. 2003). However, "a court may consider
attachments to the complaint and documents referred to in
(but not attached to) the complaint, where the authenticity
of such document is not in question." Mueller v.
Correction Corp. of America, 2013 WL 431796, at *1 (D.
Idaho 2013) (citing Cooper v. Pickett, 137 F.3d 616
(9th Cir. 1997)).
Court will evaluate each of Seaman's claims using the
above standard. But, first the Court must take up whether to
apply Idaho or California law.
Choice of Law
asserts Seaman's claims based on California law should be
dismissed because the choice of law provision of the
Agreement specifies that Idaho law governs any breach claims.
(Dkt. 3, 15.) The choice of law provision reads:
“Empire and Employee agree that this Agreement and
performance under it, and all proceedings that may ensue from
its breach, be construed in accordance with and under the
laws of the State of Idaho.” (Dkt. 15, Ex.
In arguing for the application of California law, Seaman
states he was employed for the purpose of operating out of
Santa Barbara; he paid income taxes in California; he resided
in California while employed by Empire; and he was terminated
while living and working in California. (Dkt. 9.) Seaman does
not contest that the Agreement contains a choice of law
provision, instead he seems to contend the Court should apply
California law in spite of it because California has a
materially greater interest in his claims than Idaho does.
courts sitting in diversity look to the law of the forum
state in making a choice of law determination.”
Ticknor v. Choice Hotels Int'l, Inc., 265 F.3d
931, 937 (9th Cir. 2001). The complaint was filed in Idaho,
thus Idaho's choice of law rules apply. Idaho applies the
Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws to determine what
law governs a contract, which states: “The law of the
state chosen by the parties to govern their contractual
rights and duties will be applied if the particular issue is
one which the parties could have resolved by an explicit
provision in their agreement directed to that issue.”
Carroll v. MBNA America Bank, 220 P.3d 1080, 1084
(Idaho 2009) (quoting ...