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WEBER v. JOLLY HOTELS

September 12, 1997

EILEEN WEBER, Plaintiff,
v.
JOLLY HOTELS, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WOLIN

OPINION

 WOLIN, District Judge

 This case arises out of an accident plaintiff, Eileen Weber, had while a guest at one of defendant's, Itajolly Compagnia Italiana Dei Jolly Hotels, hotels in Italy. Defendant moves this Court to dismiss the action for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court will not grant the motion to dismiss despite concluding that it does not have jurisdiction over defendant. Instead, the Court will grant plaintiff's request to transfer the case to the Southern District of New York because the statute of limitations governing plaintiff's claim prevents the Court from dismissing the case without prejudice.

 BACKGROUND

 Defendant is an Italian corporation and its principal place of business is in Valdagno, Italy. (Zanuso Cert. P 2). Defendant owns and operates thirty-two hotels in Italy, and independent subsidiaries own and operate hotels in Holland, France, Belgium, and New York. (Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Interrog. No. 2). (Zanuso Cert. P 2). Defendant does not conduct any business in New Jersey. (Zanuso Cert. P 4). However, it does provide "photographs of hotel rooms, descriptions of hotel facilities, information about numbers of rooms and telephone numbers" on the Internet. (Pl.'s Br. in Opp. at 10).

 In July 1993, defendant and Grand Circle Travel, a Massachusetts corporation, entered into an agreement whereby one of defendant's hotels, the Jolly Diodoro Hotel in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, would allot a certain number of rooms per week at the hotel for Grand Circle Travel during the 1994 calendar year. (Def. Ex. C). The agreement provided that defendant would bill Grand Circle Travel for the rooms that it booked. (Def. Ex. C). Defendant also promised not to accept any bookings for the Jolly Diodoro Hotel from five enumerated tour groups or any other company claiming to represent the American Association of Retired Persons ("AARP"). (Def. Ex. C).

 Grand Circle Travel and plaintiff have a relationship that dates back to 1976 when plaintiff embarked on a travel tour arranged by Grand Circle Travel. (Pl. Aff. P 5). After the first trip, Grand Circle Travel sent plaintiff information and brochures about trips, tours, and travel attractions. (Pl. Aff. P 7). Through the years, plaintiff went on trips arranged by Grand Circle Travel. (Pl. Aff. P 8). In late 1993 or early 1994, Grand Circle Travel sent plaintiff a brochure that described a tour of Italy. (Pl. Aff. P 9). On February 25, 1994, plaintiff booked a trip to Italy through Grand Circle Travel. (Pl. Aff. P 10). Included in the trip was a stay at the Jolly Diodoro Hotel. (Pl. Aff. P 10).

 On December 7, 1994, plaintiff sustained injuries when she fell at the Jolly Diodoro Hotel. (Pl. Aff. P 3). At the time of the accident, plaintiff was a guest of the hotel. Plaintiff is a citizen of New Jersey and a member of AARP. (Pl. Aff. P 6).

 On June 26, 1995, plaintiff filed a Complaint and Jury Demand in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County. She alleged that defendant knew or should have known of the dangerous condition on its premises. (Pl. Compl. P 4). The case was removed to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey on diversity grounds.

 Defendant now moves the Court to dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction.

 DISCUSSION

 1. Personal Jurisdiction: Standards

 Rule 4(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a district court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant to the extent allowed by the long-arm statute of the state where the court sits. New Jersey's long-arm statute permits the exercise of personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant to the full extent permitted by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. See N.J. Sup. Ct. R. 4:4-4(c)(1); see also DeJames v. Magnificence Carriers, Inc., 654 F.2d 280, 284 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1085, 70 L. Ed. 2d 620, 102 S. Ct. 642 (1981); Doumani v. Casino Control Comm'n, 614 F. Supp. 1465, 1471 (D.N.J. 1985).

 The purpose of restricting personal jurisdiction is to protect the individual interests of non-resident defendants. See United States v. Morton, 467 U.S. 822, 828, 81 L. Ed. 2d 680, 104 S. Ct. 2769 (1984); World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 291, 62 L. Ed. 2d 490, 100 S. Ct. 559 (1980). A court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant only where "minimum contacts" exist such that the exercise of jurisdiction "does not offend 'traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'" International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 90 L. Ed. 95, 66 S. Ct. 154 (1945) (quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463, 85 L. Ed. 278, 61 S. Ct. 339 (1940)). A defendant establishes minimum contacts with a forum state by committing some act by which he purposefully avails himself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum state, thus invoking the benefits and protection of its laws. See Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253, 2 L. Ed. 2d 1283, 78 S. Ct. 1228 (1958). These contacts must be of the nature such that the individual non-resident defendant "should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there." Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 474, 85 L. Ed. 2d 528, 105 S. Ct. 2174 (1985) (citing World-Wide Volkswagen, 444 U.S. at 297). What constitutes minimum contacts varies with the "quality and the nature of defendant's activity." Hanson, 357 U.S. at 253.

 A defendant can be subject to either specific or general personal jurisdiction in a forum state. To assert "general" jurisdiction, a plaintiff must establish that defendant's contacts with the forum state are so "continuous and substantial" with the forum state that the defendant should expect to be haled into court on any cause of action. Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414-16 & 414 n.9, 80 L. Ed. 2d 404, 104 ...


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