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Alex Valenti and Kyle Valenti v. Marriott

March 10, 2011

ALEX VALENTI AND KYLE VALENTI,
A MINOR, BY HIS PARENTS AND NATURAL GUARDIANS, JAMES AND LAURA VALENTI, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL, INC., ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thompson, U.S.D.J.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION & ORDER

INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the Court upon Defendants Marriott International, Inc., Marriott Ownership Resorts, Inc., and Marriott Ownership Resorts, Inc, d/b/a Marriott Vacation Club International's (collectively, "Marriott" or "Defendants") Motion to Dismiss [docket # 19]. Plaintiffs Alex and Kyle Valenti oppose the motion [24]. The Court has decided the motion upon consideration of the parties' written submissions, without holding oral argument, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b). For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be deferred (denied without prejudice to Defendants' ability to renew the motion) until the completion of factual discovery.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs' Complaint alleges the following. In March 2009, the Valenti family-James and Laura and their sons, Alex and Kyle-booked a resort vacation at Marriott's Aruba Surf Club located in Aruba. (Compl. ¶ 12) [1]. They left their New Jersey home for Aruba on June 23, 2009. (Id. at ¶ 13.) While at Marriott's Aruba Surf Club, they made use of the club'sbeachfront premises and the beach and services provided by Marriott on the beach, including reserved chairs, towels, security, food, and drinks. (Id. at ¶ 14.) On June 24, Marriott employees or agents encouraged the Valentis to take part in amusement activities provided by local vendors operating on the beach. (Id. at ¶ 15.) Following this suggestion, Kyle and Alex booked a speedboat tube ride, in which participants ride on an inflatable tube towed at high speeds behind a small boat. (Id. at ¶¶ 16--17.)

During the ride, the operator of the boat made a sharp turn that caused the towed inflatable tube to crash into a moored boat, throwing Kyle, Alex, and a third rider from the tube. (Id. at ¶ 19.) Kyle was thrown over the moored boat and landed forcefully in the water, causing him injuries. (Id. at ¶ 21.) Alex and the other rider collided with the moored boat; Alex suffered serious injuries and was knocked semi-unconscious. (Id. at ¶¶ 22--23.) Kyle swam to his brother, held his head above water, and helped him back into the tube, which was then towed to shore. (Id. at ¶ 23.) Alex was hospitalized in intensive care in Aruba for four days, where he was treated for internal and external injuries including a broken arm, broken ribs, fluid in his lungs, lacerations to his liver, and damage to his kidneys. (Id. at ¶¶ 24--25); (Opp'n Br. 17). When his condition worsened, he was airlifted to a trauma hospital in Florida for further treatment. (Compl. ¶ 26.) He remained in the intensive care unit of the Florida hospital for sixty days, during which he underwent several more surgeries and procedures, including dialysis, transfusions, and removal of his right kidney. (Id. at ¶¶ 27--28); (Opp'n Br. 17.) When he was released from the hospital in Florida, he returned to New Jersey where he underwent an additional sixty days of physical therapy and follow-up treatments. (Opp'n Br. 17.) Some of his injuries may be permanent. (Compl. ¶ 28.)

Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit on February 16, 2010 [1]. The Complaint alleges that the Defendants knew or should have known of the risks of the tube ride and that the vendors were not competent and able to provide a safe ride, (id. at ¶¶ 30--31), yet Defendants took no reasonable steps to stop the vendors from offering the ride, failed to warn resort guests of the dangers (and, in fact, encouraged participation), and generally permitted the unsafe attractions to remain on a beach area that the Plaintiffs claim was, or appeared to be, Defendants' property, (id. at ¶¶ 30--34.) Plaintiffs seek compensation for the medical costs, pain and suffering, and emotional distress suffered by Alex and Kyle.

Defendants now move to dismiss the Complaint based on forum non conveniens because the allegedly negligent conduct occurred in Aruba, the operative facts, witnesses, and evidence are in Aruba, and Aruba provides an adequate alternative forum for the litigation. Defendants also argue that Plaintiffs have failed to join necessary parties.

ANALYSIS

A.Legal Standard

Generally, a plaintiff's choice of forum should not be disturbed. Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 241 (1981). However, "a district court may dismiss an action based on forum non conveniens if 'an alternative forum has jurisdiction to hear the case,' and trial in the plaintiff's chosen forum 'would establish . . . oppressiveness and vexation to a defendant . . . out of all proportion to plaintiff's convenience,' or the 'chosen forum [is] inappropriate becauseof considerations affecting the court's own administrative and legal problems' . . . ." Delta Air Lines, Inc. v. Chimet, S.p.A., 619 F.3d 288, 294--95 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Piper Aircraft, 454 U.S. at 241). Under the established test for a forum non conveniens motion, a district court must (1) decide "whether an adequate alternative forum exists to hear the case," (2) "evaluate the amount of deference due to the plaintiff's choice of forum," and (3) "consider and balance the private and public interest factors" set forth in the Supreme Court's decision in Gulf Oil Corporation v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501 (1947). Id. at 295 (internal quotations and citations omitted). "The defendant bears the burden of persuasion at each stage of this analysis . . . ." Id.

Gilbert's "private factors" concern the interests of the litigants, whereas the "public factors" address the convenience of the forum. Piper Aircraft, 454 U.S. at 241 (citing Gilbert, 330 U.S. at 508-09). The private interest factors include: the relative ease of access to sources of proof; availability of compulsory process for attendance of unwilling, and the cost of obtaining attendance of willing, witnesses; possibility of view of premises, if view would be appropriate to the action; and all other practical problems that make trial of a case easy, expeditious and inexpensive.

Gilbert, 330 U.S. at 508. The public interest factors include: the administrative difficulties flowing from court congestion; the "local interest in having localized controversies decided at home"; the interest in having the trial of a diversity case in a forum that is at home with the law that must govern the action; the avoidance of unnecessary problems in conflict of laws, or in the ...


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