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Badia v. Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

February 10, 2017

KAREN BADIA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
HAMANASI ADVENTURE AND DIVE RESORT, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC. 13)

          Leo T. Sorokin United States District Judge.

         Plaintiffs sue for injuries they suffered while on vacation in Belize, allegedly due to the negligence of their resort and of a resort employee. The resort has moved to dismiss. The Court is sympathetic to Plaintiffs but concludes it lacks personal jurisdiction. Thus, the Court ALLOWS the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 13) and DISMISSES this action.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On February 16, 2016, Plaintiffs Karen Badia, Jared Badia, Susan Badia, I.B. (a minor), and Joan Dillon filed a Complaint against Defendants Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort (“Resort”) and Emeiliano Sho. Doc. 1. Karen and Jared Badia are residents of Massachusetts. Id. at 1. Susan Badia, I.B. and Ms. Dillon are residents of New York. Id. Defendants are located in Belize. Id. at 2. Plaintiffs assert jurisdiction based upon the diversity of the parties. Id.

         Plaintiffs allege the following:[1] On or about February 22, 2013, they were guests of the Resort and “took part in activities featured, advertised and solicited by [the Resort], including but not limited to providing transportation for hotel guests to and from various locations.” Id. at 3. Defendant Emeiliano Sho “was retained by [the Resort] to work as a driver and tour guide.” Id. Sho operated a Resort-owned van in order to transport Plaintiffs to Tikal, Guatemala. Id. Sho operated the van “at an unreasonable rate of speed and collided with a vehicle and trailer, causing the airbags to deploy, the windshield to shatter, and significant damage to the van.” Id. at 3-4. Each of the Plaintiffs sustained significant injuries, including fractures. Id. at 4-5.

         Plaintiffs claim Sho was negligent in his operation of the van, and the Resort was negligent for entrusting the vehicle to Sho, its employee. Id. at 5. They seek compensatory damages. Id. at 6.

         The Resort moves to dismiss for ineffective service of the Complaint, lack of personal jurisdiction, and forum non conveniens.[2] Doc. 13.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiffs argue that the Court has specific personal jurisdiction over the Resort.[3] Doc. 20 at 7. The Resort disagrees. Doc. 14 at 8.

         A. Legal Background

         “The plaintiff has the burden of establishing that jurisdiction over the defendant lies in the forum state.” Baskin-Robbins Franchising LLC v. Alpenrose Dairy, Inc., 825 F.3d 28, 34 (1st Cir. 2016) (citation omitted). “Faced with a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, a district court may choose from among several methods for determining whether the plaintiff has met its burden, ” the “most common[]” being the prima facie method. Id. (citations, internal quotation marks, and alterations omitted); A Corp. v. All American Plumbing, 812 F.3d 54, 58 n.5 (1st Cir. 2016) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Under that method, the plaintiff must “proffer evidence which, taken at face value, suffices to show all facts essential to personal jurisdiction.” Baskin-Robbins, 825 F.3d at 34 (citations omitted). “It is not enough for [a plaintiff] to rely on unsupported allegations in its pleadings.” A Corp., 812 F.3d at 58 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). “Rather, [the plaintiff] must put forward evidence of specific facts to demonstrate that jurisdiction exists.” Id. (citations and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Carreras v. PMG Collins, LLC, 660 F.3d 549, 552 (1st Cir. 2011) (“A court need not . . . credit bald allegations or unsupported conclusions.”). The Court “must accept [Plaintiffs'] properly documented evidentiary proffers as true and construe them in the light most favorable to [their] jurisdictional claim.” A Corp., 812 F.3d at 58 (citations omitted). The Court will “also consider facts offered by [the Resort], to the extent that they are not disputed.” Id. (citation omitted).

         “In determining whether a non-resident defendant is subject to its jurisdiction, a federal court exercising diversity jurisdiction is the functional equivalent of a state court sitting in the forum state.” Baskin-Robbins, 825 F.3d at 34 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, Plaintiffs must show that the Court's “assertion of personal jurisdiction over [the Resort] would satisfy the requirements of both the Due Process Clause of the federal Constitution and the Massachusetts long-arm statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 223A, § 3.”[4] Id.

         B. Relevant Facts[5]

         Michael Badia accessed the Resort's website through a linked advertisement on the website TripAdvisor.[6] Doc. 20-2 at 1. The Resort's website contains “numerous boastful testimonials from Massachusetts residents who stayed at the resort which are intended to attract additional Massachusetts residents to the resort.” Doc. 20 at 12 (citing Doc. 20-9). The Resort's website directed Mr. Badia to enter his contact information so that it could contact him “for purposes of discussing services and travel packages it offered.” Doc. 20-2 at 1. A Resort representative then sent Mr. Badia an email, communicating to him the Resort's ...


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