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Kurz v. Holiday Hospitality Franchising, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

October 7, 2019

SHIRLYN B. KURZ Plaintiff
v.
HOLIDAY HOSPITALITY FRANCHISING, LLC, et al. Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NITZA I. QUIÑONES ALEJANDRO, J.

         INTRODUCTION

         Before this Court is a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue or, alternatively, to transfer venue, filed by Defendants Holiday Hospitality Franchising LLC (“Defendant Holiday Hospitality”), and Prammish, LLC (“Defendant Prammish”) (collectively “Defendants”), [ECF 6], and the response in opposition thereto filed by Plaintiff Shirlyn B. Kurz (“Plaintiff”). [ECF 7]. In their motion, Defendants primarily argue that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over them because they are not “at home” in Pennsylvania, as required by the seminal Supreme Court decision, Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117 (2014), and because Plaintiff's 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. After careful consideration, for the reasons set forth herein, Defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction is granted.

         BACKGROUND [1]

         Between November 29, 2018, and November 30, 2018, Plaintiff was a guest at the Holiday Inn, located in Santee, South Carolina. According to Plaintiff, the hotel was owned and/or operated by Defendants. Sometime during Plaintiff's stay at the hotel, she was the victim of a theft of several pieces of her jewelry. Plaintiff alleges that the theft was the result of Defendants' negligence. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Holiday Hospitality maintains its principal place of business in Atlanta, Georgia, and that Defendant Prammish maintains its principal place of business in Santee, South Carolina.

         In support of their motion to dismiss, Defendants attached the affidavits of Jenny Tidwell, Vice President of Holiday Hospitality Franchising, LLC, and Sheela Bivek, the owner and operator of Prammish, LLC, to provide various jurisdictional facts. In her affidavit, Ms. Tidwell attests that Defendant Holiday Hospitality is incorporated in Delaware and confirms that Defendant Holiday Hospitality's principal place of business is located in Atlanta, Georgia. In her affidavit, Ms. Bivek attests that Defendant Prammish, LLC, is incorporated in and also confirms that it maintains its principal place of business in South Carolina.

         In her response to Defendants' motion, Plaintiff offers no rebuttal to the jurisdictional facts set forth in the above-referenced affidavits. Instead, Plaintiff points to the numerous hotels within the Eastern District of Pennsylvania purportedly owned, operated, franchised, and advertised by Defendant Holiday Hospitality, as sufficient minimum contact to support personal jurisdiction in this matter.

         LEGAL STANDARD [2]

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“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 non-resident 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 state 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 burden to prove personal jurisdiction using ‘affidavits or other competent evidence.'”) (quoting Metcalfe v. Renaissance Marine, Inc., 566 F.3d 324, 330 (3d Cir. 2009)); In re Chocolate Confectionary, 602 F.Supp.2d at 556-57 (a plaintiff must present contrary evidence in the form of “actual proofs[.]”).

         DISCUSSION

         As noted, Defendants are corporate entities incorporated and maintaining principal places of business outside Pennsylvania. Defendants move to dismiss this action based on the lack of requisite sufficient minimum contacts with Pennsylvania to support personal jurisdiction in this forum. Defendants have offered two sworn affidavits in support of their motion in which the affiants attest that Defendants are neither incorporated nor maintain a principal place of business in Pennsylvania. Plaintiff has not contested these jurisdictional facts[3] but has instead relied on Defendant Holiday Hospitality's purported ownership and/or franchising of other hotels located in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to argue that these contacts are sufficient to give rise to personal jurisdiction over Defendants. Plaintiff, however, is mistaken.

         A federal court may assert jurisdiction over a nonresident of the forum state to the extent authorized by the law of the forum; here, Pennsylvania. Remick v. Manfredy, 238 F.3d 248, 255 (3d Cir. 2001). Pennsylvania's long-arm statute grants jurisdiction coextensive with that permitted by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Id.; see also 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. ยง5322(b). Therefore, this Court's analysis must ...


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