Bean v. Johnson & Wales University
Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton: ORDER entered. MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: In accordance with the foregoing, defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction in this Court (Docket No. 9 ) is ALLOWED but plaintiff's action is hereby TRANSFERRED to the United States District Court of the District of Rhode Island for further proceedings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1631.So ordered. (Vieira, Leonardo)
United States District Court
District of Massachusetts
JOHNSON & WALES UINIVERSITY,
Civil Action No.
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
She alleges that she planned to travel to
Florida and made a reservation on a flight departing from T.F.
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.
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
Shortly thereafter, the University
filed a motion to dismiss the claims against it for lack of
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
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.
Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction
A. Legal Standard
On a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction,
the plaintiff bears the burden of showing that the court has
authority to exercise jurisdiction over defendants. Cossart v.
United Excel Corp., 804 F.3d 13, 18 (1st Cir. 2015).
here, a court will decide a motion to dismiss for lack of
personal jurisdiction without first holding an evidentiary
hearing, the Court applies the “prima facie” standard of review
and takes the plaintiff’s
properly documented evidentiary proffers as true and
construe[s] them in the light most favorable to
[plaintiff’s] jurisdictional claim.
A Corp. v. All Am. Plumbing, Inc., 812 F.3d 54, 58 (1st Cir.
However, a plaintiff cannot rely on “unsupported
allegations” and “must put forward evidence of specific facts to
demonstrate jurisdiction exists.” Id. (Internal citations
In a diversity suit, this Court acts as “the functional
equivalent of a state court sitting in the forum state.” See
Astro–Med, Inc. v. Nihon Kohden America, Inc., 591 F.3d 1, 8
(1st Cir. 2009).
As such, this Court must determine whether 1)
jurisdiction is permitted by the Massachusetts long-arm statute
and 2) the exercise of jurisdiction coheres with the Due Process
Clause of the United States Constitution. Id.
1. Massachusetts Long-Arm Statute
The Massachusetts long-arm statute, G.L. c. 223A, § 3,
provides, in relevant part, that a court may exercise personal
over a person, who acts... as to a cause of action in law
or equity arising from the person’s (a) transacting any
business in this commonwealth....
The requirements of the Massachusetts long-arm statute are
substantially similar to (although potentially more restrictive
than) those imposed by the Due Process Clause. See Copia
Commc'ns, LLC v. AMResorts, L.P., 812 F.3d 1, 4 (1st Cir. 2016)
(noting that “[r]ecently, however, we have suggested that
Massachusetts's long-arm statute might impose more restrictive
limits on the exercise of personal jurisdiction than does the
Constitution”). See also Baskin-Robbins Franchising LLC v.
Alpenrose Dairy, Inc., 825 F.3d 28, 34 (1st Cir. 2016).
In order for a court to exercise jurisdiction under the
long-arm statute, the plaintiff must show that the defendant
transacted business in Massachusetts and that plaintiff’s claim
arises out of that transacted business. Sigros v. Walt Disney
World Co., 129 F.Supp.2d 56, 63 (D. Mass. 2001) (citing Tatro v.
Manor Care, Inc., 416 Mass. 763, 767, 625 N.E.2d 549 (1994)).
Under Massachusetts law, “transacting any business” is
interpreted broadly. United Elec., Radio & Mach. Workers of Am.
v. 163 Pleasant St. Corp., 960 F.2d 1080, 1087 (1st Cir. 1992).
To determine whether a claim arises from a defendant’s
transaction of business, a court looks to whether the transacted
business was a “but for” cause of the harm alleged in the claim.
Cossart 804 F.3d at 18.
Based on the proffered evidence, Ms. Bean does not satisfy
the requirements of the long-arm statute.
She asserts that JWU
has “consistently and systematically reached into Massachusetts”
but alleges no specific facts to demonstrate that JWU or the
Radisson ever directed advertising into the Commonwealth.
Plaintiff has attached two screenshots of unknown origin from
the website “www.radison.com”, which purport to demonstrate that
an airport parking package was available and advertised in
There is no indication, however, that those
screenshots have any connection to Massachusetts, and plaintiff
does not suggest that this advertisement was targeted at her or
at other residents of Massachusetts.
According to the Director
of Sales and Marketing at the Radisson, the subject website and
promotional offer would have been available to any individual
worldwide with an internet connection.
Just because plaintiff
accessed a generally available website from Massachusetts does
not subject JWU to the long-arm statute.
See Mullane v. Zurich
Am. Ins. Co., No. 18-CV-12412-DJC, 2019 WL 2193497, at *3 (D.
Mass. May 21, 2019); Cossaboon v. Maine Med. Ctr., 600 F.3d 25,
35 (1st Cir. 2010).
Plaintiff cites caselaw from this District wherein courts
have held that similar advertisements can subject a defendant to
personal jurisdiction but those cases address obviously
distinguishable fact scenarios involving direct, targeted
contact between a defendant and Massachusetts consumers. See
Nandjou v. Marriott International, Inc., 2019 WL 1903382 (D.
Mass. April 29, 2019) (finding the defendant was subject to
personal jurisdiction because Marriott directly targeted
plaintiff by sending her direct mail advertisements); Sigros 129
F.Supp.2d at 63 (finding personal jurisdiction over a Florida
resort where plaintiff had received mail “against a backdrop of
constant solicitation of business in Massachusetts over a period
of years by way of numerous advertisements” and received
specific assurances by phone regarding a trip).
Ms. Bean has
not alleged that JWU engaged in similar targeting.
Furthermore, Ms. Bean submits that the Equestrian Facility
subjects JWU to jurisdiction under the long-arm statute.
order to satisfy the long-arm statue based on a defendant’s
interest in real property, however, there must be some
connection between the claims at issue and the property.
Schaefer v. Cybergraphic Sys., Inc., 886 F. Supp. 921, 924 (D.
Ms. Bean alleges no connection between JWU’s
ownership of the Equestrian Facility and her slip and fall
injury in Rhode Island.
The University’s ownership of an
educational facility in the Commonwealth does not subject it to
personal jurisdiction under the long-arm statute in this case.
For the stated reasons, plaintiff has failed to satisfy the
requirements of the long-arm statute and the Court need not
elaborate on its consideration of jurisdictional issues.
interest of completeness, however, and assuming arguendo that
the plaintiff’s claim does satisfy the Massachusetts long-arm
statute, the Court proceeds to consider whether it has personal
jurisdiction under the Due Process Clause.
2. General Jurisdiction
Because JWU is a Rhode Island corporation with a principal
place of business in Rhode Island and plaintiff does not assert
that JWU is subject to general jurisdiction in Massachusetts,
the Court proceeds to consider whether it has specific personal
3. Specific Jurisdiction
This Court may assert specific jurisdiction when a
defendant has certain minimum contacts with Massachusetts such
that the maintenance of the suit does not offend “traditional
notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Int'l Shoe Co. v.
State of Wash., Office of Unemployment Comp. & Placement, 326
U.S. 310, 316 (1945)(internal quotation marks omitted).
order for jurisdiction to comport with due process,
1) plaintiff’s claim must be related to the defendant’s
contacts, 2) defendant’s contacts must be purposeful and 3)
jurisdiction must be reasonable. See Sawtelle v. Farrell, 70
F.3d 1381, 1389 (1st Cir. 1995).
To satisfy the relatedness inquiry, the cause of action
must arise from or relate to the defendant’s contacts with the
As applied to a tort claim, the key inquiry is
whether the in-forum conduct caused the injury. See United
States v. Swiss Am. Bank, Ltd., 274 F.3d 610, 622 (1st Cir.
In contrast to the “but for” analysis under the long-arm
statue, the First Circuit uses “something like a proximate cause
standard” to determine whether a defendant’s contacts are
sufficiently related to satisfy due process.
Children’s Hosp., 432 F.3d 50, 61 (1st Cir. 2005) (quoting
Cambridge Literary Props., Ltd. v. W. Goebel Porzellanfabrik
G.m.b.H & Co. Kg., 295 F.3d 59, 65 (1st Cir. 2002).
test is a “flexible, relaxed standard” it still requires a
causal connection between the claim and defendant’s forum
related conduct. Lewis v. Walt Disney Parks & Resorts U.S.,
Inc., No. CV 18-11947-DJC, 2019 WL 1505964, at *4 (D. Mass. Apr.
5, 2019)(internal quotations omitted).
Ms. Bean has not established a nexus between JWU’s alleged
conduct in Massachusetts and her claim.
With respect to the
alleged tort, all relevant conduct occurred in Rhode Island.
Without more, Ms. Bean’s conclusory contention that she would
not have stayed at the Radisson but for an advertisement on a
generally accessible website is not enough to satisfy the
relatedness prong. See Badia v. Hamanasi Adventure & Dive
Resort, No. 16-CV-10252-LTS, 2017 WL 551817, at *4 (D. Mass.
Feb. 10, 2017)(declining to exercise jurisdiction over a
Belizean resort where plaintiffs could not show that
“the Resort's advertising, website...or sale of the travel
package...‘caused the injur[ies]’ Plaintiffs suffered in
Because Ms. Bean has offered only two screenshots of
unknown origin and a conclusory declaration, she has not met her
burden to demonstrate that the alleged injury sustained in Rhode
Island is related to any contact between JWU and Massachusetts.
b. Purposeful Availment
The foundations of the purposeful availment inquiry are
voluntariness and foreseeability.
The court can exercise
personal jurisdiction only over a defendant whose contacts are
represent a purposeful availment of the privilege of
conducting activities in the forum state, thereby invoking
the benefits and protections of that state's laws and
making the defendant's presence before the state's courts
Hannon v. Beard, 524 F.3d 275, 284 (1st Cir.2008).
Plaintiff asserts that JWU’s advertisement of the parking
package constitutes purposeful and voluntarily contact with
Massachusetts such that the University purposefully availed
itself of doing business in Massachusetts.
Again, Ms. Bean
relies on the two screenshots from a website which she claims
demonstrate that JWU voluntarily and deliberately solicited
business in Massachusetts and could reasonably expect to be
haled into its courts.
Consistent with the long-arm statute
analysis, Ms. Bean’s proffered evidence does not support her
contention that JWU has availed itself of the privilege of doing
business in Massachusetts.
There is no evidence that the
screenshots have any connection to the Commonwealth and
plaintiff does not suggest that the subject advertisement was
targeted at her or other Massachusetts residents.
available website, without more, does not support a finding that
defendants thereby reached into Massachusetts. See Media3
Techs., LLC v. CableSouth Media III, LLC, 17 F. Supp. 3d 107 (D.
Mass. 2014)(holding that defendant’s operation of a website
viewable in Massachusetts was insufficient, alone, to constitute
The final step in a personal jurisdiction analysis is a
Because Ms. Bean has not met her burden
under the relatedness and purposeful availment prongs of the Due
Process inquiry there is no need for the Court to address the
Because this Court does not have jurisdiction to hear Ms.
Bean’s claim it must either dismiss the case or transfer it to
the United States District Court of the District of Rhode Island
in whose jurisdiction the alleged negligent conduct occurred and
where the action could have initially been brought.
U.S.C. § 1631,
[w]henever a civil action is filed in a court . . . and that
court finds that there is a want of jurisdiction, the court
shall, if it is in the interests of justice, transfer such
action . . . to any other such court in which the action . . .
could have been brought at the time it was filed....
The First Circuit has determined that the text and legislative
history of § 1631 “establish a rebuttable presumption in favor
of transfer” and that this presumption is rebutted only if the
transfer is “not in the interest of justice.” Fed. Home Loan
Bank of Bos. v. Moody's Corp., 821 F.3d 102, 119 (1st Cir. 2016)
(abrogated on other grounds by Lightfoot v. Cendant Mortg.
Corp., 137 S. Ct. 553 (2017)).
When determining whether a
transfer is appropriate, the Court evaluates 1) whether the
action could have been brought in another federal court, 2)
whether a limitations period has run that would preclude filing
in the correct court and 3) whether the case is frivolous or
brought in bad faith. Shelton Bros., Inc. v. Three Pirates, LLC,
No. CV 15-30140-MGM, 2017 WL 1227922, at *6–7 (D. Mass. Mar. 31,
2017) (quoting Britell v. United States, 318 F.3d 70, 74-75 (1st
None of those considerations weighs against transfer in
this case because: 1) Ms. Bean could have initially filed this
action in Rhode Island where her alleged injury and the
negligent conduct occurred; 2) the limitations period in Rhode
Island for negligence has run and but for a transfer, Ms. Bean
would be unable to pursue her claim; and 3) though her complaint
is rudimentary, there is no evidence that it was brought in bad
Given that the purpose and policy underlying § 1631 is
to ensure that, when practicable, cases will be resolved on the
merits, this Court will order the instant case transferred to
the District of Rhode Island.
In accordance with the foregoing, defendant’s motion to
dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction in this Court (Docket
No. 9) is ALLOWED but plaintiff’s action is hereby TRANSFERRED
to the United States District Court of the District of Rhode
Island for further proceedings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1631.
/s/ Nathaniel M. Gorton
Nathaniel M. Gorton
United States District Judge
Dated October 8, 2019
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