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Bean v. Johnson & Wales University

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

October 9, 2019

LORETTA BEAN, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHNSON & WALES UINIVERSITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          Nathaniel M. Gorton United States District Judge

         This case arises from a slip and fall accident in which Loretta Bean (“Ms. Bean” or “plaintiff”) alleges she suffered severe, unspecified injuries as a result of the negligence of Johnson and Wales University (“JWU”, “the University”, or “defendant”). Pending before the Court is JWU's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. For the reasons that follow, this motion will be allowed and the case will be transferred to the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island for further proceedings.

         I. Background

         A. The Parties

         Plaintiff Loretta Bean is a resident of Massachusetts. Defendant Johnson and Wales University is a Rhode Island nonprofit corporation with its principal place of business in Rhode Island. JWU owns an equestrian facility (“the Equestrian Facility”) in the Town of Rehoboth, Massachusetts where JWU students can enroll in classes in equine studies and riding. The University has no other campus or office facility in Massachusetts.

         At the time of the alleged accident, JWU owned and operated a Radisson Hotel (“the hotel” or “the Radisson”) located in Warwick, Rhode Island, near the T.F. Green Airport. According to the complaint, the Radisson offered an airport parking package, which allowed hotel guests to park their cars at the hotel for up to 15 days without charge while they travelled.

         B. The Accident

         Ms. Bean's complaint provides little detail regarding her alleged injury. She alleges that she planned to travel to Florida and made a reservation on a flight departing from T.F. Green Airport. She claims that, due to an advertisement, she booked the parking package directly with JWU from her home in Massachusetts and, on February 21, 2016, drove to the Radisson where she stayed overnight. The next morning, Ms. Bean avers that as she was leaving the hotel, she tripped and fell because of the unspecified negligence of JWU. Ms. Bean does not describe the circumstances or cause of her fall but claims that she has suffered severe injuries which have required ongoing medical treatment and caused her pain and suffering. Nor does Ms. Bean elaborate on her injuries other than to claim medical expenses of $55, 006.55.

         C. Procedural History

         On May 6, 2019, Ms. Bean filed a complaint in the Massachusetts Superior Court for Plymouth County. JWU filed a timely notice of removal, invoking this Court's federal diversity jurisdiction. Shortly thereafter, the University filed a motion to dismiss the claims against it for lack of personal jurisdiction. It submits that 1) the Massachusetts long-arm statute, G.L. c. 223A, § 3, (“long-arm statute”) provides no basis for asserting personal jurisdiction over JWU because the claim by the plaintiff does not arise from the University's transaction of business in Massachusetts, 2) plaintiff has not alleged facts sufficient to establish general personal jurisdiction over JWU in Massachusetts and 3) JWU is not subject to specific jurisdiction here because Ms. Bean's claims do not arise out of in-state contacts by JWU nor has JWU purposefully availed itself of the benefits and protections of Massachusetts laws.

         JWU also contends that the Court should dismiss plaintiffs' claims rather than transfer them to the District of Rhode Island because such a transfer would circumvent the law and policy of Rhode Island and would not be in the interest of justice.

         Plaintiff responds that 1) JWU is subject to the long-arm statute because it solicits business in Massachusetts, and 2) JWU is subject to specific jurisdiction because Ms. Bean's claim arises out of the forum state activities of the University which purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting business in Massachusetts. She submits, in the alternative, that even if this Court lacks personal jurisdiction, the case should be transferred to the District of Rhode Island in the interest of justice.

         II. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction

          A. ...


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