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Kase v. Seaview Resort & Spa

February 20, 2009

HEATHER KASE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SEAVIEW RESORT & SPA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simandle, District Judge

HON. JEROME B. SIMANDLE

OPINION

This action had its genesis in the tragic death of Pennsylvania resident Nathan E. Kase, who became intoxicated while at the Marriott Seaview Resort & Spa in Galloway, New Jersey, fell down a flight of stairs at the hotel, and died several weeks later. He left behind two very young children and his wife, Heather Kase, the plaintiff in this matter both individually and as administrator of the Estate of Nathan Kase and administrator ad prosequendum of that Estate ("Plaintiff").

Plaintiff asserts wrongful death and survivorship claims on behalf of her late husband. At issue before the Court, however, are not the circumstances of Mr. Kase's death, but the law to be applied to Plaintiff's pursuit of a remedy for that death.

Defendants Marriott Hotel Services, Inc. and LaSalle Hotel Operating Partnership, L.P. ("Defendants") have brought this motion for partial summary judgment on the choice of law to be applied to Plaintiff's request for damages [Docket Item 32].*fn1

Plaintiff's complaint seeks the application of the Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act and Survival Act, while Defendants urge the Court to apply the New Jersey Wrongful Death Act and Survival Act. The Court, having considered the matter and for the reasons set out below, finds that New Jersey law should be applied to the calculation of damages in this litigation.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Allegations

Plaintiff's complaint chronicles the events that allegedly led to Nathan Kase's death.*fn2 On April 15, 2005, Mr. Kase arrived at the Seaview Resort & Spa in Galloway, New Jersey ("Seaview Resort" or "hotel"), for a weekend business function organized by his employer, the law firm of Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen, LLP ("Wolf Block"). (Compl. ¶ 31.) This trip came after lengthy correspondence between Seaview Resort, which is owned and operated by Defendants, and Wolf Block's Philadelphia office. (Pl. Opp'n at 2-3.) The Complaint alleges that on the evening of Mr. Kase's arrival, he attended an event where hotel employees served him multiple alcoholic beverages, after which he went to the hotel lounge, where hotel employees served him more alcoholic drinks even though he was visibly intoxicated. (Compl. ¶¶ 32-34.) Finally, Mr. Kase left the lounge to head downstairs to the hotel's game room, which required him to navigate what Plaintiff describes as a stairway rendered hazardous by poor design and maintenance. (Id. ¶¶ 35-36.) Mr. Kase proved unable to climb down the stairs, and instead fell down the flight of stairs and landed at the bottom. (Id. ¶ 39.) As a result of this fall, he suffered severe injuries and had to be transported to Atlantic City Hospital, where testing showed that he had a blood alcohol content of 248 milligrams per liter. (Id. ¶¶ 38-39.) On May 10, 2005, Mr. Kase died, allegedly as a result of his fall at Seaview Resort. (Id. ¶ 38.)

At the time of his death, Mr. Kase and his wife and children were residents of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff now resides in Atlanta, Georgia. (Id. ¶ 1.) Defendant Marriott Hotel Services, Inc. is incorporated in Delaware and has its principal place of business in Maryland. (Id. ¶ 9; Answer ¶ 9.) Defendant LaSalle Hotel Operating Partnership is a Delaware limited partnership, also with its principal place of business in Maryland.*fn3 (Compl. ¶ 14; Answer ¶ 14.) Plaintiff alleges Defendants engage in extensive advertising for the Seaview Resort in and around Philadelphia. (Pl. Opp'n at 2-3.)

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed her complaint in this matter on April 12, 2007, asserting diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. In her complaint, she sets forth a wrongful death claim (Count I), a survival action (Count II), and a claim for loss of consortium (Count III). She further asks that the Court apply Pennsylvania law to her wrongful death and survival actions. Defendants responded, as explained above, with the instant motion for partial summary judgment on choice of law.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of ...


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