Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Orazi v. Hilton Hotels Corp.


November 19, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rufe, J.


Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction and Improper Venue, or, in the Alternative for Transfer to the Eastern District of Texas, filed by Defendants Hampton Inn ("Hampton Inn"), Allen Stacy Hotel, Ltd. ("Allen Stacy") and Gateway Hospitality Group, Inc. ("Gateway Group") [Doc. No. 3]. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion is denied with leave to renew following the close of jurisdictional discovery.


Plaintiffs Dante and Eileen Orazi ("Plaintiffs"), both residents of Pennsylvania, bring counts of negligence and loss of consortium against Defendants for injuries occurring during their stay at a Texas hotel.*fn1 Mr. Orazi, age 80 at the time of the incident giving rise to these claims, researched hotels online from his home in Narberth, Pennsylvania.*fn2 He reserved a handicapped room at the Hampton Inn in Allen, Texas, a franchise hotel owned by Allen Stacy, via the website or, and received confirmation of his reservation while in Pennsylvania.*fn3 When the Orazis arrived at the Allen, Texas Hampton Inn on October 25, 2007, they found their reservation to be in place, registered, and were assured they had a handicapped room.*fn4 At some point after the Orazis checked into their assigned room, Mr. Orazi "was caused to slip, trip and fall" in the bathroom, suffering injuries, including fractured vertebrae, that required surgery.*fn5

In October 2009, Plaintiffs filed a complaint in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas against Hilton Hotels Corporation, Inc. n/k/a Hilton Worldwide ("Hilton"), Hampton Inn, Allen Stacy Hotel, Ltd. ("Allen Stacy"), Gateway Hospitality LLC,*fn6 and Gateway Hospitality Group, Inc. ("Gateway Group"), alleging negligence and loss of consortium. Defendants removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332(a) and 1441(a) [Doc. No. 1]. On December 21, 2009, Defendants Allen Stacy, Gateway Group, Hampton Inn and Hilton filed the pending motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue, pursuant to Rules 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, or, in the alternative for transfer to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. Hilton has since withdrawn from the motion entirely [Doc. Nos. 13 & 14] and has filed no further answer or alternative motion,*fn7 and Gateway Group has since conceded it is subject to personal jurisdiction in Pennsylvania, and thus challenges only venue.*fn8 Accordingly, the pending motion for dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction applies only as to Hampton Inn and Allen Stacy, and the motion for dismissal for improper venue applies as to Hampton Inn, Allen Stacy and Gateway Group ("Moving Defendants").


Plaintiffs bear the burden of demonstrating personal jurisdiction over Hampton Inn and Allen Stacy.*fn9 If a jurisdictional defense is raised and neither discovery nor an evidentiary hearing has been held, a plaintiff need make only a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction.*fn10 Courts must construe all disputed facts alleged in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.*fn11

Plaintiffs, however, cannot rely on general averments in the complaint or unsupported statements in their response, but must instead provide jurisdictional facts supported by affidavits or competent evidence to sustain their burden.*fn12 That burden is met "by establishing with reasonable particularity sufficient contacts between the defendant and the forum state."*fn13

Whereas Plaintiffs bear the burden of establishing personal jurisdiction, Defendants bear the burden of showing improper venue.*fn14 "In considering a motion to dismiss for improper venue, courts must generally accept as true the allegations in the Complaint, although the parties may submit affidavits in support of their positions."*fn15 But the court must "draw all reasonable inferences and resolve all factual conflicts in favor of the Plaintiff."*fn16


A. Personal Jurisdiction

Federal courts in Pennsylvania may assert jurisdiction over a defendant to the extent that the defendant would be subject to jurisdiction in Pennsylvania state courts.*fn17 Pennsylvania's long-arm statute permits the exercise of jurisdiction over non-resident defendants to the full extent permitted under the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution.*fn18 To establish general jurisdiction-jurisdiction based on contacts with the state that are unrelated to the cause of action-due process requires the plaintiff to demonstrate that the non-resident defendant's contacts with Pennsylvania were "continuous and systematic."*fn19 The standard is demanding.*fn20 Specific jurisdiction may be found where the plaintiff's claim is "related to or arises out of the defendant's contacts with the forum," and the defendant had "the minimum contacts with the forum necessary for the defendant to have reasonably anticipate[d] being haled into court there."*fn21 Upon a finding that the first two criteria are met, specific jurisdiction requires the Court to find that exercising jurisdiction "comport[s] with fair play and substantial justice."*fn22

In some circumstances, the contacts of another defendant or even a non-party can be imputed to a non-resident defendant for purposes of exercising either general or specific jurisdiction over that defendant.*fn23 First, forum-state contacts of an agent may be imputed to the principal.*fn24 Agency requires that the purported principal controls the undertaking at issue, the principal has manifested intent that the agent shall act on its behalf and the agent accepts the undertaking.*fn25 In reservation-services cases, whether the purported reservation agent is empowered to bind the principal to the booking has been a key consideration.*fn26 Second, in some cases, the relevant forum-state contacts may be imputed where the purported agent performs functions that but for its presence, the principal would otherwise have to perform.*fn27

1. Personal Jurisdiction Over Hampton Inn

Plaintiffs have named Hampton Inn, purportedly a corporate citizen of Delaware with an address of 830 Stacy Road in Allen, Texas, as a Defendant in this action.*fn28 But Plaintiffs have made only a weak attempt to establish personal jurisdiction over it. Plaintiffs' conclusory assertion in the Complaint that Hampton Inn "regularly conducts, conducted, transacts and/or transacted business in the City and County of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,"*fn29 is insufficient to support jurisdiction.*fn30 And though Hampton Inn is among the Moving Defendants, Plaintiffs' Response is devoid of any argument that Hampton Inn is subject to this Court's jurisdiction.*fn31

The only facts alleged as to any Hampton Inn entity, beyond the Allen, Texas Hampton Inn franchise location, are that: (1) Dante Orazi reserved the hotel room using a or website;*fn32 (2) a Hampton Inn hotel located in downtown Philadelphia provides a directory of other such hotels around the country, including the Allen, Texas Hampton Inn, and advertises Hilton's affinity credit card and loyalty programs;*fn33 and (3) other Philadelphia-area Hampton hotels participate in promotional efforts with the local tourism board.*fn34

These facts do not support jurisdiction over Hampton Inn. First, Plaintiffs neither allege nor provide evidence that Defendant Hampton Inn owned, operated, controlled or had any relationship, beyond sharing a brand identity, with the in-forum Hampton hotels located in Pennsylvania. Thus, the presence of the in-forum hotels and their independent actions to promote themselves or other Hampton Hotels are not relevant to Defendant Hampton Inn.*fn35

Second, Plaintiffs concede that the website used by Mr. Orazi is Hilton's website,*fn36 but neither allege nor support any agency or other relationship between Hilton and Hampton such that any website contacts might be imputed to Hampton Inn. Third, even if the advertising materials distributed within Pennsylvania by certain Hampton hotels could be imputed to the Defendant Hampton Inn, those contacts are insufficient to subject it to the jurisdiction of this Court where there is no showing that any of those materials were specifically targeted toward Pennsylvania residents, much less that the advertising was extensive.*fn37

Accordingly, Plaintiffs have not made a prima facie showing of either general or specific jurisdiction over Hampton Inn.

2. Personal Jurisdiction Over Allen Stacy

Defendant Allen Stacy, a franchisee of Hilton that owns the Allen, Texas Hampton Inn where Mr. Orazi was injured,*fn38 is incorporated in Texas and does not own property in Pennsylvania.*fn39 Moving Defendants assert that Allen Stacy conducts no business in Pennsylvania and had no involvement with any events occurring in Pennsylvania related to this action, and is thus not subject to personal jurisdiction here.*fn40 Plaintiffs do not argue that Allen Stacy itself has any direct contacts with Pennsylvania that subject it to jurisdiction here, but instead assert that Hilton's in-forum contacts can be imputed to Allen Stacy.*fn41

a. Agency, Alter Ego and Apparent Authority.

Plaintiffs argue that Hilton's in-forum contacts can be imputed to Allen Stacy because Hilton: (1) is an agent of Allen Stacy; (2) conducts activities in Pennsylvania that Allen Stacy would otherwise have to perform; or (3) acts under the apparent authority of Allen Stacy.*fn42

Plaintiffs' agency claims rest principally on the allegation that Allen Stacy has authorized Hilton to make binding reservations on its behalf.*fn43 They rely on a series of hotel reservation service cases applying New York law, wherein the in-state reservation service's authority to make and confirm reservations without consulting the non-resident defendant-that is, the ability to bind the defendant-was a determinative factor in the courts' finding of agency.*fn44 Courts in this Circuit likewise appear to place weight on the agent's authority, or lack thereof, to commit the non-resident to a reservation.*fn45 Moreover, New York courts apply a standard for agency comparable to a test used by some courts in this District to impute jurisdictional contacts-whether the resident entity performs functions the non-resident Defendant would otherwise have to perform.*fn46 Accordingly, this Court agrees that where a forum-state reservation service has the power to not only make reservations on behalf of a non-resident defendant but also to confirm them without need for further authorization from the defendant, the reservation service acts as non-resident's agent.*fn47 Such a relationship satisfies the traditional elements of agency.*fn48

Plaintiffs have not, however, made a prima facie showing that Hilton has authority to confirm reservations absent approval by Allen Stacy. It is clear that Hilton provides some reservation services to Allen Stacy.*fn49 Plaintiffs appear to argue that because Hilton confirms the reservation and that confirmation binds the patron to a contract,*fn50 that Allen Stacy is necessarily bound as well without having first approved the reservation. Defendants deny that Hilton independently confirms reservations, averring that Gateway Group, the operator of the Allen, Texas Hampton Inn, confirms reservations and that only Hilton maintains a contract with the reserving patron.*fn51 As no discovery has occurred, Plaintiffs do not have access to documents that clarify the operation of the reservation system and the respective rights and obligations of Hilton and Allen Stacy. As a result, this Court can only infer that Hilton has the power to bind Allen Stacy to reservations made on its behalf, and that is insufficient.*fn52

Under the alternative test for imputing contacts, Plaintiffs must show that Hilton performs for Allen Stacy functions that Allen Stacy would otherwise have to perform.*fn53 For example, Plaintiffs must show that Hilton provides services in Pennsylvania that are "vital to the survival or success" of Allen Stacy.*fn54 Plaintiffs identify a range of services Hilton provides to Allen Stacy-advertising, marketing, reservation and customer services.*fn55 Defendants concede that under the Franchise Agreement, Allen Stacy can "participate in a system where Hilton can advertise the availability of rooms," and that Allen Stacy has a contract with Promus Hotel-an entity whose corporate relationship with Hilton is unidentified-that allows it to advertise on Hilton's website.*fn56 But contracting with an in-forum entity is not sufficient to create jurisdiction.*fn57 And Plaintiffs offer no facts that demonstrate the nature and terms of the agreements between Allen Stacy and Hilton or the amount and breadth of the services performed by Hilton on Allen Stacy's behalf in Pennsylvania. The Court can therefore determine only that Hilton and Allen Stacy have a franchise relationship that involves some services. But that relationship, standing alone, is insufficient for this Court to find jurisdiction over Allen Stacy.*fn58

Plaintiffs' argument that Hilton's Pennsylvania contacts can be imputed to Allen Stacy under an "apparent authority" theory*fn59 is likewise unavailing. Apparent authority requires some act, either conduct or words, by the purported principal that leads a third party to reasonably believe the apparent agent is authorized to act for it.*fn60 Here, Plaintiffs' assertion that Hilton's advertising and branding led them to believe they were dealing with Hilton, not with Allen Stacy, does not meet this standard.*fn61 While under some circumstances that might be sufficient to impute Allen Stacy's jurisdictional contacts to Hilton,*fn62 it is not sufficient for the reverse. Plaintiffs have identified no conduct by Allen Stacy, other than its ordinary conduct as a franchisee, that led them to reasonably believe that Hilton was authorized to act as its agent. Indeed, under Plaintiffs' approach, whenever a franchisor and franchisee rely on a system of common advertising and branding-typical of most franchised businesses-any court with jurisdiction over the franchisor would have jurisdiction over the franchisee. And that cannot comport with due process.*fn63

Accordingly, Plaintiffs have not yet demonstrated that Hilton's contacts may be imputed to Allen Stacy.

b. General Jurisdiction Over Allen Stacy

The standard for general jurisdiction is demanding: contacts must be "continuous and systematic" and facts supporting them "extensive and persuasive."*fn64 Factors courts consider include: "whether a defendant's activities in the state are a continuous and central part" of its overall business; the nature and quality of business contacts it initiated in the state; the amount of revenue derived in the state; whether the defendant conducts direct sales, or has a sales force, in the forum; and whether it targets advertising to forum-state residents.*fn65

Under this standard, even if Plaintiffs could establish an agency relationship with Hilton, they have not yet identified sufficient relevant contacts to support a finding of general jurisdiction over Allen Stacy. First, Plaintiffs apparently, but mistakenly, believe that if Hilton is Allen Stacy's agent and Hilton is subject to general jurisdiction in this state, then so, too, is Allen Stacy. Only Hilton's contacts in Pennsylvania that are made within the scope of its purported agency relationship or that directly benefit Allen Stacy are relevant to this Court's jurisdictional inquiry as to Allen Stacy.*fn66 And though Plaintiffs present significant evidence of Hilton's activities in Pennsylvania,*fn67 except for Hilton's reservation website, Plaintiffs have not presented any facts suggesting that these contacts were within the scope of an agency relationship with Allen Stacy.

Second, many of the advertising contacts Plaintiffs have identified are entirely irrelevant to this Court's inquiry. Plaintiffs go to great lengths to demonstrate extensive state-focused advertising efforts of Hilton and Pennsylvania-based Hilton affiliates to promote Pennsylvania hotels.*fn68 Plaintiffs undoubtedly take this tack because only extensive advertising specifically geared toward attracting forum residents, rather than national advertising, is a relevant contact for purposes of general jurisdiction.*fn69 Though Plaintiffs have demonstrated at least some Pennsylvania-targeted advertising, they have not shown that any of the Hilton entities undertook those activities on behalf of Allen Stacy such that the contacts could be imputed to it. That the Orazis were inclined to stay at the Texas Hampton Inn because of unilateral advertising activities of Pennsylvania hotels does not subject Allen Stacy to general jurisdiction.*fn70 More importantly, though Plaintiffs have demonstrated that Hilton and its in-state affiliates' advertising activities are geared toward attracting stays at Pennsylvania hotels, they have not shown, as they must,*fn71 advertising geared toward attracting Pennsylvanians to stay at the Allen, Texas hotel. For the same reason, the more general advertising activities Plaintiffs identify*fn72 are likewise insufficient to subject Allen Stacy to jurisdiction even if conducted directly by Allen Stacy or pursuant to an agency relationship.*fn73

Plaintiffs reliance on Hilton's interactive reservation website is likewise unavailing because, without more, even a commercial website permitting reservations is insufficient to confer general jurisdiction over the site operator.*fn74 In this Circuit, the greater the "interactivity and commercial nature of the exchange of information" on the site, the more likely it is that jurisdiction is proper.*fn75 But "the advent of the Internet did not alter the Third Circuit's requirement that the Plaintiff make a very high showing before a court exercises general jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant."*fn76 For general jurisdiction, "[w]here a website is interactive, the court must analyze whether the website is targeted specifically to Pennsylvanians and whether the website is central to the defendant's business in Pennsylvania."*fn77 In addition to other evidence of centrality or targeting, courts look to the amount of sales to, or number of transactions with, forum residents.*fn78

Here, Plaintiffs have demonstrated a high degree of commercial interactivity of Hilton's website,*fn79 but have failed to show the site was targeted toward Pennsylvanians or central to either Allen Stacy's or Hilton's business in Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs have not presented any evidence of the amount of sales or number of transactions between Hilton and Pennsylvania residents via the website, much less between Allen Stacy and Pennsylvanians. Nor have they presented any other evidence that the business generated from the website was in any way central to either entity's business. Accordingly, Plaintiffs have not demonstrated that Hilton's online reservation services, even if within the scope of any agency relationship with Allen Stacy, is sufficient for general jurisdiction over Allen Stacy.

c. Specific Jurisdiction Over Allen Stacy

Similarly, even if agency were found, Plaintiffs have not made a prima facie showing of specific jurisdiction over Allen Stacy. For specific jurisdiction, the plaintiff's cause of action must "arise out of or relate to at least one of the defendants activities" in the forum state.*fn80

Additionally, the defendant must purposefully direct its activities at the forum; its forum-state contacts cannot be merely fortuitous in that they result from the unilateral acts of another.*fn81

Plaintiffs have sufficiently demonstrated that the Orazi's claims arise from or relate to Hilton's contacts in Pennsylvania.*fn82 In O'Connor v. Sandy Lane Hotel Co.,*fn83 the Third Circuit held that to satisfy that requirement, the contacts must have been more than the but-for cause of the injury, but need not rise to the level of proximate cause.*fn84 Instead, the nature of the contact must have been such that the defendant could reasonably have expected to enjoy the benefits of the forum's laws and thus be subject to its obligations.*fn85 In O'Connor, forum contacts-direct mail solicitation and subsequent phone calls-prompted the Pennsylvania plaintiff to enter into a contract while in Pennsylvania for spa services provided at the non-resident defendant's hotel. The contract was sufficiently related to the plaintiff's tort claim based on injuries that later occurred at the spa because, the court reasoned, the contract gave rise to an obligation to act without negligence.*fn86

Under the O'Connor court's approach, Plaintiffs' claims are sufficiently related to Mr. Orazi's online reservation in Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs assert that "Defendants' misrepresentation, via the Hilton website, that they would provide a handicapped room... caused the plaintiffs to stay at the Hampton Inn."*fn87 And a fair reading of Mr. Orazi's affidavit supports the conclusion that he entered into a binding contract in Pennsylvania based on the website's representation that a handicapped-accessible room was available.*fn88 The contract is thus sufficiently related to the Orazi's tort claims based on the later negligent performance of that contract.*fn89

Plaintiffs have not shown, however, that either Hilton or Allen Stacy purposefully directed their activities at Pennsylvania. The "mere operation of a commercially interactive web site" that is accessible in the forum is insufficient to demonstrate the website operator purposefully directed its activities at the forum.*fn90 The defendant must also either "intentionally target[] the site to the forum state, and/or knowingly conduct[] business with forum state residents via the site" to satisfy the purposeful availment requirement.*fn91 To determine whether a defendant knowingly conducted business with forum residents via a website, courts have looked to the number of web-based transactions with forum residents as a proxy for knowledge where there is "no indication that the website owner knew of any transactions" with forum residents.*fn92

For specific jurisdiction, however, a lesser showing of web-based transaction is required than for general jurisdiction.*fn93 But, as noted, Plaintiffs have not presented any evidence of the extent of online transactions between either Hilton or Allen Stacy and Pennsylvanians, nor any other evidence that Allen Stacy, through Hilton, purposefully availed itself of this forum's protections.

3. Jurisdictional Discovery

Though Plaintiffs have not made a prima facie showing of jurisdiction over Allen Stacy and Hampton, they are entitled to jurisdictional discovery limited to information regarding Defendants' contacts with Pennsylvania and the relationship between and among Defendants.*fn94

Courts should permit jurisdictional discovery unless the plaintiff's jurisdictional claims are "clearly frivolous."*fn95 Indeed, the Third Circuit has characterized jurisdictional discovery as the plaintiff's "right" when the plaintiff has alleged sufficient facts to suggest with "reasonable particularity the possible existence of the requisite contacts between [the party] and the forum state."*fn96 Discovery may be particularly important where a plaintiff is faced with the difficult task of establishing jurisdiction over a corporate defendant.*fn97

Here, Plaintiffs have made the required showing. They have alleged sufficiently particularized facts regarding Hilton's contacts with the Commonwealth and Allen Stacy's relationship with Hilton and other Defendants to suggest that discovery may reveal an agency relationship and in-forum contacts that, when imputed to Allen Stacy, may be sufficient for jurisdiction over Allen Stacy. And though Plaintiffs make only meager jurisdictional assertions regarding Hampton Inn, Plaintiffs have alleged sufficient facts as to the presence of Hampton-related entities within Pennsylvania and at least an inchoate relationship between Hampton Inn and Hilton to warrant discovery. Finally, discovery is particularly important here where each of the Defendants is a corporation and much of the information that Plaintiffs require to evaluate the nature of the relationships among the Defendants and the extent of their contacts with this forum, such as the franchise agreement, other contracts and transactional data, is publicly inaccessible and controlled by Defendants.*fn98

Accordingly, Plaintiffs' allegations and evidence warrant jurisdictional discovery limited to information regarding the relationship among Hilton, Hampton Inn, Gateway Group and Allen Stacy, as well as their direct or indirect contacts with Pennsylvania and this District.*fn99

B. Venue & Transfer

Moving Defendants also seek dismissal on independent grounds of improper venue or, in the alternative, transfer to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas on the basis of forum non conveniens.*fn100

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a), venue is properly laid in either:

(1) a judicial district where any defendant resides, if all defendants reside in the same State,

(2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred,... or (3) a judicial district in which any defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction at the time the action is commenced, if there is no district in which the action may otherwise be brought.*fn101

Defendants argue that none of these requirements are satisfied here because: (1) no Defendant resides in Pennsylvania; (2) all the acts or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred in Texas, not this District; and (3) venue could be laid in the Eastern District of Texas.*fn102

Plaintiffs counter that Section 1391(a)(2)'s requirement that a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred in the district is met because Mr. Orazi reserved the handicapped accessible room and received confirmation of that reservation in this District, and because Defendants' misrepresentation about the availability of handicapped accommodations, and the Orazi's reliance on it, occurred here.*fn103 For the reasons that follow, though the Court agrees with Defendants that venue cannot be laid in this District under Section 1391(a)(2), it declines to rule on the applicability of 1391(a)(1) and (a)(3) or Defendants' request for transfer until after the close of jurisdictional discovery and renewal of Defendants' motion.

Section 1391(a)(2) requires that a "substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred" in this District.*fn104 To make that determination, the Court evaluates the nature of the claims, the events that gave rise to them and where those events or omissions occurred.*fn105 Though the substantiality standard permits venue in more than one district, the events or omissions must bear a close nexus to the claim.*fn106 Those that are "qualitatively central"-that is, without them, the plaintiff cannot prevail-meet that standard.*fn107

Here, Plaintiffs' claim is for negligence, which arises where the duty of care is violated,*fn108 and all of the negligent acts or omissions alleged in the Complaint occurred in Texas.*fn109 In a strained characterization of Defendants' alleged omissions, Plaintiffs assert that subsection (a)(2)'s substantiality requirement is satisfied because Hilton's online confirmation in Pennsylvania of the Orazis' reservation for a handicapped room constituted a failure to warn Plaintiffs of a dangerous condition.*fn110 But nowhere in their Complaint do Plaintiffs allege among the relevant negligent acts a failure to warn of the unavailability of handicapped accommodations at the time of the reservation or registration. Instead, the Complaint alleges failure to provide notice of the hazards "associated with the tub," failure to place "warnings or barricades" to prevent the injury, and failing to have "mats, cones, or other barriers in place to warn persons" of the unsafe conditions.*fn111 Plainly, each alleged instance of failure-to-warn occurred at the Texas location.

The event that occurred in this District relating to the Orazis' claim is more accurately characterized as the execution of a contract to provide handicapped accommodations and the creation of a duty of care in fulfilling its terms. The Court, however, can find no support for the proposition that the act giving rise to the duty of care also constitutes an act or omission giving rise to a negligence claim. Instead, courts in this Circuit and elsewhere have found that in negligence and comparable claims for breach of duty, a "substantial part of the events or omissions" occurred in the district or districts where the acts constituting breach occurred not where the contract under which the duty arose was executed.*fn112 Indeed, although damages, like duty of care, is an element of a negligence claim and thus arguably central to the claim, courts appear to consistently reject assertions that venue is proper under § 1391(a)(2) in the district in which the damages were incurred.*fn113 Plaintiffs would be on more solid footing if their claim sounded in contract, misrepresentation or fraud, where the misrepresentation itself forms part of the wrongdoing.*fn114 But Plaintiffs' claims sound in tort, and a substantial part of the events giving rise to them did not occur in this District. Accordingly, venue may not be laid under Section 1391(a)(2).*fn115

While subsection (a)(2) is inapplicable, a venue inquiry under Section 1391(a)(1) is premature because it is inherently tied to this Court's jurisdictional inquiry. First, Section 1391(a)(1) requires that all defendants reside in the same state. Corporate defendants "reside" in a state if they are subject to personal jurisdiction there.*fn116 Though Hilton and Gateway Group thus clearly reside in Pennsylvania,*fn117 whether Allen Stacy and Hampton Inn are likewise Commonwealth residents depends on the results of jurisdictional discovery. Second, Section 1391(a)(1)'s requirement that at least one Defendant reside in this District likewise depends on the results of discovery. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c), in a multi-district state, a corporation that is subject to personal jurisdiction at the time the action began is deemed to "reside" in any district in which its contacts are sufficient to subject it to personal jurisdiction were that district a separate state, or, if there is no such district, the district in which its contacts are most significant.*fn118 Jurisdictional discovery will thus inform this Court's determination as to whether at least one Defendant has sufficient contacts with this District. Accordingly, the Court defers its determination as to the propriety of venue under Section 1391(a)(1) until after jurisdictional discovery.*fn119

Finally, because Section 1391(a)(3) provides only a fallback basis for venue,*fn120 this Court defers consideration of whether venue is proper until applicability of (a)(1) can be determined. Similarly, because the propriety of venue in this District determines whether this Court considers transfer pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404 or § 1406(a), the Court likewise defers ruling on transfer of venue until after it determines whether venue may be laid here.*fn121


For the foregoing reasons, the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants Hampton Inn, Allen Stacy and Gateway Group is denied with leave to renew following the close of jurisdictional discovery.

An appropriate Order follows.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.