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Degregorio v. Marriott International, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 13, 2017

VENICE DEGREGORIO, et al. Plaintiffs
v.
MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL, INC., et al. Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NITZA I. QUIÑONES ALEJANDRO, J.

         INTRODUCTION

         Before this Court is a motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction and forum non conveniens filed, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 12(b)(2), by Defendants Marriott International, Inc. (“Defendant Marriott”) and JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort & Spa, [1] [ECF 4], and the response in opposition thereto filed by Plaintiffs Venice DeGregorio and Nicholas DeGregorio (“Plaintiffs”). [ECF 5]. In their motion, Defendants primarily argue that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over them because Defendants are not “at home” in Pennsylvania, as required by the seminal Supreme Court decision, Daimler AG v. Bauman, ___ U.S. ___, 134 S.Ct. 746 (2014), and because Plaintiffs' negligence claims do not arise out of any contacts Defendants have with Pennsylvania.

         The issues presented in the motion have been fully briefed and are ripe for disposition.[2]After careful consideration, for the reasons set forth herein, Defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction is granted.

         BACKGROUND[3]

         The following is a salient summary of the facts relevant to the issue of whether this Court has personal jurisdiction over Defendants. Based upon these facts, this Court concludes it lacks personal jurisdiction over Defendants.

         Plaintiffs are husband and wife, and residents of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. On April 9, 2016, while registered guests at the JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort & Spa, in San Jose del Cabo Mexico (the “JW Hotel”), Plaintiff Venice DeGregorio slipped and fell on a slippery tiled incline next to the hotel pool, causing her to suffer various injuries to her wrist, shoulder, and forearm. Plaintiffs allege that Mrs. DeGregorio's injuries were caused by or resulted from Defendants' negligence.[4]

         In their complaint, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Marriott is a business entity organized and existing under the laws of the State of Maryland, with a principal place of business located in Maryland. Plaintiffs further allege that the JW Hotel is a business entity organized and existing under the laws of Mexico, with a principal place of business located in Mexico.

         In support of their motion to dismiss, Defendants attached the declaration of Andrew Wright, Esquire, Vice President and Senior Counsel of Defendant Marriott, to provide and correct various jurisdictional facts. In the declaration, Mr. Wright attests that Defendant Marriott is actually incorporated in Delaware, rather than in Maryland as alleged by Plaintiffs, and confirms that Defendant Marriott's principal place of business is located in Maryland. Mr. Wright also attests that Defendant Marriott never owned, controlled or operated the JW Hotel. Defendants also attached the declaration of Rafael Herrero, an attorney for Operadora Punta Peninsula, S.A. de C.V. (“OPP”) and Operadora Misión San Jose, S.A. de C.V. (“OMSJ”), two separate business entities incorporated in and maintaining their principal places of business in Mexico. According to Mr. Herrero, the JW Hotel, where Plaintiffs vacationed and have incorrectly named as a defendant in this lawsuit, is owned by OPP and is operated by OMSJ.

         In their response to Defendants' motion to dismiss, Plaintiffs do not offer any rebuttal to the jurisdictional facts set forth in the sworn declarations above-referenced. Plaintiffs merely point to the hundreds of hotels within the Eastern District of Pennsylvania purportedly owned and operated by Defendant Marriott and advertised on Defendant Marriott's website, as sufficient minimum contact to support personal jurisdiction in this matter.[5]

         LEGAL STANDARD[6]

         Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2), a defendant may move to dismiss a claim for lack of personal jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). Once a defendant has raised this jurisdictional defense, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to present a prima facie case establishing jurisdiction over the nonresident defendant in the forum. Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 368 (3d Cir. 2002); see also Miller Yacht Sales, Inc., v. Smith, 384 F.3d 93, 97 (3d Cir. 2004) (“[W]hen the court does not hold an evidentiary hearing on the motion to dismiss, the plaintiff need only establish a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction.”). A plaintiff has the burden to show, “with reasonable particularity, ” enough contact between the defendant and the forum to support the exercise of personal jurisdiction by the forum state. Mellon Bank v. Farino, 960 F.2d 1217, 1223 (3d Cir. 1992) (internal citations omitted); see also Action Mfg. Co. v. Simon Wrecking Co., 375 F.Supp.2d 411, 418 (E.D. Pa. 2005) (“In order to establish a prima facie case, the plaintiff must present specific facts that would allow the court to exercise jurisdiction over the defendant.”).

         In determining the existence of personal jurisdiction, courts “must accept all of the plaintiff's allegations as true and construe disputed facts in favor of the plaintiff.” Pinker, 292 F.3d at 368. Once the plaintiff's “allegations are contradicted by an opposing affidavit . . . [he or she] must present similar evidence in support of personal jurisdiction.” In re Chocolate Confectionary Antitrust Litig., 602 F.Supp.2d 538, 556 (M.D. Pa. 2009). To counter opposing affidavits, “[p]laintiffs may not repose upon their pleadings in this manner. Rather, they must counter defendant['s] affidavits with contrary evidence in support of purposeful availment jurisdiction.” Id. at 559. To that end, “[t]he plaintiff must respond to the defendant's motion with ‘actual proofs;' ‘affidavits which parrot and do no more than restate [the] plaintiff's allegations . . . do not end the inquiry.'” Lionti v. Dipna, Inc., 2017 WL 2779576, at *1 (E.D. Pa. June 27, 2017) (quoting Time Share Vacation Club v. Atl. Resorts, Ltd., 735 F.2d 61, 66, n.9 (3d Cir. 1984)); see also Lehigh Gas Wholesale, LLC v. LAP Petro., LLC, 2015 WL 1312213, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 23, 2015) (“Plaintiff carries the ...


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