In a decision that may, at first blush, appear unforgiving, the Sixth Circuit upheld the summary disposition of a plaintiff’s personal injury claims on the grounds that she sued the wrong common carrier.

In Freese v. Continental Airlines, Inc., No. 09-4249 (6th Cir. Feb. 3, 2011).pdf, the plaintiff purchased a flight ticket from Continental Airlines, Inc. (“Continental”) and boarded a “Continental Express” flight at Continental’s gate. After allegedly suffering an injury on the flight, the plaintiff sued Continental on the basis of common carrier liability. Continental engaged in discovery for almost a year and, in the process, produced documents and witnesses for deposition. Following the passage of the statute of limitations, Continental moved for summary judgment on the basis that a separate entity, ExpressJet Airlines, Inc., d.b.a. Continental Express, was the true owner and operator of the flight at issue.

The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Continental and, in doing so, rejected the plaintiff’s arguments that Continental is liable as a principal of ExpressJet or is estopped from denying liability due to, inter alia, its production of ExpressJet materials and witnesses in discovery.

The Court then remanded the case to the district court for consideration of the plaintiff’s motion to amend her complaint to name ExpressJet as a new party defendant under FRCP 15(c) in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Krupski v. Costa Crociere S. p. A., – U.S. —, 130 S.Ct. 2485 (2010).