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D'Elia v. Grand Caribbean Co.

March 30, 2010

MARIANNE P. D'ELIA AND FRANCIS J. D'ELIA, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
GRAND CARIBBEAN COMPANY, LTD., INDIVIDUALLY AND D/B/A THE ROYAL CARIBBEAN, THE ROYAL RESORTS GROUP, ROMBEC, S.A. DE C.V., OPERADORA REAL CARIBE, S.A. DE C.V., INTERVAL SERVICING COMPANY, LLC, JOHN DOE(S) I-X (FICTITIOUS NAMES), ABC, INC. I-X (FICTITIOUS NAMES), XYZ COMPANIES I-X (FICTITIOUS NAMES), AND JOHN FOES I-X (FICTITIOUS NAMES), DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

Plaintiffs, Marianne P. D'Elia and Francis J. D'Elia, are a married couple who own a timeshare interest in a resort in Cancun, Mexico. While visiting the resort in Cancun, Marianne slipped on the floor and suffered severe injuries. As a result, plaintiffs filed suit in this Court, alleging four counts against several defendants involved in the ownership and operation of, and ancillary matters associated with, the resort where Marianne was injured. Among those defendants are Grand Caribbean Company, Ltd. ("Grand Caribbean"), also known as The Royal Caribbean, The Royal Resorts Group, Rombec, S.A. de C.V. ("Rombec"), Operadora Real Caribe, S.A. de C.V. ("Real Caribe"), and Interval Servicing Company, LLC ("Interval Servicing").*fn1

In response to plaintiffs' action, Interval Servicing moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that a forum selection clause in plaintiffs' agreement with Grand Caribbean designates Mexico as the proper venue for this case. Alternatively, Interval Servicing submits that the doctrine of forum non conveniens also warrants dismissal of this case. Plaintiffs oppose Interval Servicing's motion.

For the reasons expressed below, Interval Servicing's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint is denied.

I. JURISDICTION

This Court exercises subject matter jurisdiction over the underlying claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. There is complete diversity between plaintiffs and defendants in the underlying action. Plaintiffs, Marilyn and Francis D'Elia, are citizens of the State of New Jersey. Defendant, Grand Caribbean, is incorporated in the Cayman Islands with its principal place of business in Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Defendants, The Royal Resorts Group, Rombec, and Real Caribe, are all incorporated in Mexico with their principal places of business in Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Defendant, Interval Servicing, is a limited liability company organized in the State of Florida with its principal place of business in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Interval Servicing's sole member, David F. Wright, is a citizen of the State of Arizona. Plaintiff alleges that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.00.

II. BACKGROUND

Beginning in 1990, plaintiffs were timeshare owners at The Royal Caribbean resort ("resort") and, thus, traveled to Cancun, Mexico on multiple occasions.*fn2 In early April 2007, plaintiffs traveled to Cancun to spend several days at the resort. Upon arrival plaintiffs signed a registration card. Featured in the middle of the card was a provision translated in both English and Spanish. Germane to the present motion, the provision read, in part:

I, the undersigned, with my signature below, hereby accept the following: . . . 3) I understand that the laws of the United States of Mexico, to the exclusion of the laws of any other jurisdiction whatsoever, shall apply to and shall govern, and the courts and authorities of the United States of Mexico shall have exclusive jurisdiction over any claim arising from any accident, injury or illness occurring during my stay at the Resort, or as a consequence thereof . . . .*fn3 Each plaintiff signed the registration card.

On or about April 10, 2007, while proceeding along a walkway on the sixth floor of the resort, leading to an elevator near a villa, Marianne D'Elia lost her footing and fell to the ground. She sustained severe injuries, including a tear in her left rotator cuff.

As a result of the accident, plaintiffs filed suit in this Court against several defendants, including Grand Caribbean, The Royal Resorts Group, Rombec, and Real Caribe --- all Mexican entities, say plaintiffs, who own, operate, manage, and or market the resort where Marianne was injured. Plaintiffs also named as a defendant Interval Servicing who, according to plaintiffs, also managed the resort and handled the management and operation of certain business and administrative duties for the other defendants, including collecting fees and arranging travel accommodations. As part of their complaint, plaintiffs allege that all of the defendants acted negligently in caring for and protecting plaintiffs during their time at the resort, thereby creating the dangerous conditions that caused Marianne to slip and fall on the premises. In light of defendants' alleged liability, plaintiffs seek recovery for negligence and loss of consortium, as well as punitive damages. Plaintiffs state that defendants are liable individually, jointly, and severally.

On or around August 18, 2009, Interval Servicing moved to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint on the grounds of the forum selection clause featured on the registration card and, alternatively, the doctrine of forum non conveniens. Plaintiffs oppose Interval Servicing's motion.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard for Motion to ...


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