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George Ellis and Debra Ellis v. Marriott International Inc

December 19, 2011

GEORGE ELLIS AND DEBRA ELLIS, PLAINTIFFS
v.
MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL INC., DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley

MEMORANDUM

Before the court is defendant's motion to dismiss (Doc. 7) and plaintiffs' motion to amend the complaint (Doc. 9). Defendant Marriott International Inc. ("Marriott") argues that the plaintiffs' complaint should be dismissed, or in the alternative, the case should be transferred to the United States District Court of Hawaii pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404. The matter is ripe for disposition and for the reasons stated below, this court will transfer the case to the District of Hawaii.*fn1

Background

This case arises from a personal injury sustained by Plaintiff George Ellis at a Hawaii hotel. On February 18, 2009, George Ellis was a guest at Marriott Kauai Resort, in Kalapaki Beach, Hawaii. (Compl. ¶¶ 3, 7 (Doc.

1)). He slipped and fell on wet tile upon entering a hotel restaurant. (Id. ¶ 8). HPTMI Hawaii, Inc. owns the hotel. (Doc. 7, Ex. A ¶ 9). HPTMI Hawaii is an independently operated entity and is not affiliated with Marriott or any of its subsidiaries. (Id. ¶ 11). Essex House Condominium Corporation ("Essex") manages the day to day operations of the hotel. (Doc. 7, Ex. A ¶ 10). Essex is a subsidiary of Marriott. (Id. ¶ 12).

On February 18, 2011, plaintiffs filed their complaint against Marriott.

(Doc. 1). Plaintiffs George Ellis, along with his wife Debra Ellis, allege negligence and loss of consortium. On June 13, 2011, Marriott filed a motion to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint for insufficient service, insufficient pleadings and forum non conveniens. (Doc. 7). In the alternative, Marriott argues that this case should be transferred to the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404 ("Section 1404"). (Id.) On June 29, 2011, this court issued an order directing plaintiffs to file a brief in opposition to the motion to dismiss, as the deadline for its filing passed. (Doc. 8).

On July 9, 2011, plaintiffs filed a motion to amend their complaint to modify the allegations against Marriott, as well as to add an additional defendant, Essex. (Doc. 9). In plaintiffs' brief in support of the motion, they did not address the issues raised in Marriott's motion to dismiss/transfer. On July 20, 2011, Marriott filed a brief in opposition to the motion to amend the complaint (Doc. 10), bringing the case to its present posture.

Jurisdiction

This court has jurisdiction pursuant to the diversity jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The plaintiffs are residents of Pennsylvania, and the defendant is a corporation with its principal place of business in Maryland. Because we are sitting in diversity, the substantive law of Pennsylvania shall apply to the instant case. Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 158 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938)).

Discussion

Marriott argues that the plaintiffs' complaint should be dismissed, or in the alternative, be transferred to the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii. Marriott argues that the premises where the accident occurred, the witnesses and the relevant hotel and medical records are all located in Hawaii. Marriott contends the private and public interest factors relevant to the consideration of transferring the case to another district weigh in the favor of transferring the case to the District of Hawaii. We agree.

Marriott brings this motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), which provides, "[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought." The party making the motion to transfer has the burden of establishing the need for transfer. Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995). Courts consider a variety of factors in determining the proper forum, and "[w]hile there is no definitive formula or list of the factors to consider . . . courts have considered many variants of the private and public interests protected by the language of § 1404(a)." Id. It is within the district court's discretion to transfer a case to another district. In re United States, 273 F.3d 380, 387 (3d Cir. 2001).

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals articulated several factors for a district court to consider in determining whether to transfer a case, including both "private" and "public" interest factors. The "private interest" factors include: plaintiff's forum preference as manifested in the original choice; defendant's preference; whether the claim arose elsewhere; the convenience of the parties as indicated by their relative physical and financial condition; the convenience of the witnesses--but only to the extent that the witnesses may actually be unavailable for trial in one of the fora; and the location of ...


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