DUDHWALA v. CHOICE HOTELS INTERNATIONAL SERVICES CORPORATION et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Evelyn Padin on 9/19/2022. (dam)
Case 2:22-cv-00873-EP-MAH Document 22 Filed 09/19/22 Page 1 of 11 PageID: 138
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civil Action No. 22-873 (EP) (MAH)
CHOICE HOTELS INTERNATIONAL
SERVICES CORPORATION D/B/A CHOICE
PADIN, District Judge.
Plaintiff Neerav Dudhwala, a New Jersey resident, sued Defendant Choice Hotels
, a Delaware Company headquartered in Maryland,
for employment discrimination. Choice moves to dismiss
personal jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff opposes. For the reasons below, this
in part, declines to exercise personal jurisdiction, and transfers the
action to the District of Maryland.
Choice1 is a Delaware corporation that maintains its headquarters in Rockville, Maryland.
Compl. ¶ 1. On October 12, 2020, Choice Senior Vice President Janis Cannon hired Plaintiff as
the Director of Ascend Hotel Collection, a Choice sub-brand. Id. ¶¶ 3, 4.
¶ 1. Choice explains that the entity which employed Plaintiff (and therefore the proper defendant)
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for that position contained a requirement that he move to Rockville, Maryland, by August 31,
2021. Id. ¶ 7.
Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiff
affordable house that could fit his family of four. Id. ¶ 9. H
relocate by August 31, 2021, by renting space from his sister. Id. Cannon expressed concern that
this would violate the terms of
offer letter. Id.
On May 7, 2021, Plaintiff relayed his relocation plan to Human Resources Director Beth
McMahon. Id. ¶ 10. McMahon, like Cannon, expressed concern that his plan violated the offer
family. Id. ¶ 11. On May 13, 2021,
Rockville office, Cannon again expres
Id. ¶ 12.
On May 20, 2021, Cannon and McMahon met virtually with Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 13. McMahon
told Plaintiff that his relocation plan did not comply with the offer letter. Id. Plaintiff argued that
the letter did not mention his family. Id.
In June 2021, Choice introduced a hybrid work model permitting some remote work for
employees who were already based in Rockville. Id. ¶ 14. On June 8, 2021, at an in-person
meeting in Maryland
extended his relocation deadline one month, subject to the requirement that Plaintiff relocate at the
same time as his family. Id. ¶ 16.
offer and be deemed a voluntary resignation. Id. Plaintiff, again reminding McMahon of the
difficult housing market, adhered to his original relocation plan. Id. McMahon responded that
Plaintiff should submit his resignation by the next day. Id.
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Plaintiff declined. Id. ¶ 17. At a June 11, 2021 Zoom meeting, McMahon and Cannon
severance package for Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 18.
HR Officer Patrick Cimerola. Id. ¶ 20. On June 18, 2021, after a Zoom meeting with Cimerola,
Cimerola offered Plaintiff a two-month severance package. Id. ¶¶ 20-21. By the end of June,
Id. ¶ 20. Throughout his employment, Plaintiff was never
disciplined. Id. ¶¶ 6, 23.
health treatment. Id. ¶¶ 25-26.
Plaintiff filed the Complaint in New Jersey state court, alleging one count: violation of the
, specifically disparate treatment based upon
marital status. Id. ¶ 28, et seq. Plaintiff seeks back pay, front pay, punitive damages, and fees and
costs. Id. at p. 7. On February 17, 2022, Choice removed the matter to this Court on diversity
grounds. DE 1.
Choice now moves to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2) and (6) (DE 6), arguing
that this Court cannot exercise personal jurisdiction and that the Complaint fails to state a claim.
Because the Court agrees with
motion as to that argument, deny the remaining arguments without prejudice, and transfer the
matter to the District of Maryland.
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Rule 12(b)(2) permits a party to move to dismiss a case for lack of personal jurisdiction.
Mellon Bank PSFS Nat'l Ass'n v. Farino, 960 F.2d 1217, 1223 (3d Cir. 1992). Generally,
s allegations as true and construe disputed facts in favor of
Carteret Sav. Bank, FA v. Shushan, 954 F.2d 141, 142 n.1 (3d Cir. 1992). But when
Dayhoff Inc. v. H.J. Heinz Co., 86 F.3d
1287, 1302 (3d Cir. 1996).
Thus, to withstand a Rule 12(b)(2) motion, a plaintiff may not rely on the pleadings alone,
Share Vacation Club v. Atl. Resorts, Ltd., 735 F.2d 61, 66 n.9 (3d Cir. 1984). In conducting this
support. See, e.g., Shnayderman v. Cell-U-More, Inc., Civ. No. 18-5103, 2018 WL 6069167, at
*11 (D.N.J. Nov. 20, 2018) (using information from the plaintiff s complaint and declaration to
determine that the defendant did not travel to the forum state or solicit a loan from the plaintiff in
the forum state); Pausch LLC v. Ti-Ba Enters., Civ. No. 13-6933, 2014 WL 5092649, at *6-7
(D.N.J. Oct. 8, 2014) (using declarations from both parties to conclude that contacts with the forum
were insufficient for personal jurisdiction).
comports with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Marten v. Godwin, 499
F.3d 290, 296 (3d Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). The inquiry involves two steps:
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looking to the state requirements, then to the constitutional requirements. IMO Indus., Inc. v.
Kiekart AG, 155 F.3d 254, 259 (3d Cir. 1998).
In New Jersey, the two steps collapse into
law provides that cou
-resident defendant to the uttermost
Nicastro v. McIntyre Mach. Am., Ltd., 201
N.J. 48, 72 (2010), rev'd on other grounds sub nom., J. McIntyre Mach., Ltd. v. Nicastro, 564 U.S.
873 (2011). Thus, to establish personal jurisdiction, the Due Process Clause requires (1) minimum
contacts between the defendant and the forum; and (2) that jurisdiction over the defendant
Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S.
462, 476 (1985) (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 320 (1945)).
Once a plaintiff presents a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction by establishing
minimum contacts, the burden shifts to the defendant. Carteret Sav. Bank, 954 F.2d at 150 (citing
Burger King, 471 U.S. at 477). When sufficient minimum contacts have been established,
O'Connor v. Sandy Lane Hotel Co., 496 F.3d 312,
324 (3d Cir. 2007)
Burger King, 471 U.S. at 477.
Personal jurisdiction can be general or specific. Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117,
127 (2014) (citing Int'l Shoe Co., 326 U.S. at 317); see Metcalfe v. Renaissance Marine, Inc., 566
F.3d 324, 334 (3d Cir. 2009)
Choice correctly argues that it is not subject to either.
General jurisdiction requires only continuous and systematic contacts, and exists in
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substantial and of such a nature as to justify suit against it on causes of action arising from dealings
Id. (quoting Int'l Shoe Co., 326 U.S. at 318). Specific
Choice first argues that there is no general jurisdiction. To establish general jurisdiction,
a plaintiff must show that the quality and nature of a defendant co
in the forum state ... i.e.
Daimler AG v. Bauman,
571 U.S. 117, 131
general jurisdiction be found. BNSF Ry. Co. v. Tyrrell, 137 S. Ct. 1549, 1558 (2017) (citing Perkins
v. Benguet Consol. Mining Co., 342 U.S. 437 (1952) (finding general jurisdiction in Ohio where
war had forced the defendant corporation
owner to temporarily relocate the enterprise from the
Philippines to Ohio)).
This is not, as Plaintiff argues,
The Complaint acknowledges that
. ¶ 1. Plaintiff also does not dispute that Choice
is incorporated in Delaware. Choice Br. 13.
The Complaint does allege that Choice
including in Newark
In opposition, Plaintiff also argues that
hotels, employs numerous workers working at those hotels,
presumably maintains New Jersey
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bank accounts and files state taxes here, and maintains a Trenton
with at least a
dozen employees. Pl. Br. 17-18.
As Choice argues, however, this is not sufficient to establish general jurisdiction
more substantial business activity has been rejected as insufficient. BNSF Ry. Co., 137 S. Ct. at
1559 (holding that
over 2,000 miles of railroad track and more than 2,000 employees
Plaintiff allege that Choice is
Nor, as Choice also argues, does
more active in New Jersey than in other states. Chavez v. Dole
Food Co., 796 F.3d 261, 270 (3d Cir. 2015), vacated on other grounds (Sept. 22, 2015) (en banc).
Plaintiff also argues
between 2005 and 2021. Pl.
Br., Exh. A. As Choice notes in opposition, however, the judgments cited by Plaintiff involved
nor could the Court locate any
for the proposition that pursuing unrelated actions in a state as a plaintiff establishes general
jurisdiction there as a defendant. Choice Reply 9.
In the alternative, Plaintiff urges the Court to find specific jurisdiction based on the
underlying events. Analyzing specific jurisdiction requires: (1) that
, Burger King, 471 U.S. at 472; (2) that plaintiff
, Helicopteros, 466 U.S. at 414; and (3)
the consideration of additional factors to ensure that the assertion of jurisdiction otherwise
Burger King, 471 U.S. at 476 (quoting Int'l
Shoe, 326 U.S. at 320). Specific jurisdiction is evaluated on a claim-by-claim basis. Marten v.
Godwin, 499 F.3d 290, 296 (3d Cir. 2007).
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here. Pl. Br. 19. Specifically, fourteen Choice
; Plaintiff conducted
most business from his home office in Rockaway, New Jersey;
included Choice franchise owners in Princeton, New Jersey, with whom he had lunch in Princeton;
portfolio included current and potential New Jersey franchisors. Id.
19-20; Pl. Exh. B.; Pl. Decl. ¶¶ 3-4.
Choice argues that the Court cannot consider these facts, and disputes their accuracy.
on the Trenton location of the New Jersey Department of the Treasury, Division of Taxation).
When evaluating a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, courts may consider facts
outside of the complaint. Patterson by Patterson v. F.B.I., 893 F.2d 595, 603-04 (3d Cir.1990).
Even considering those facts, however, they do not justify the exercise of specific jurisdiction. 2
of conducting activities within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its
Isaacs v. Arizona Bd. of Regents
Burger King, 471
U.S. at 475.
underlying controversy, principally, an activity or an occurrence that takes place in the forum State
Ford Motor Co. v. Montana Eighth Jud. Dist.
Ct., 141 S. Ct. 1017, 1025 (2021) (emphasis added)).
Because the Court accepts the allegations, it need not consider
alternative, for limited jurisdictional discovery.
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-resident has contracted with a resident of the forum state is not, by
Mellon Bank (East) PSFS,
Nat. Ass'n v. Farino, 960 F.2d 1217, 1223 (3d Cir. 1992); see Magill v. Elysian Glob. Corp., No.
intiff's physical location in
New Jersey is the only factor that connects this dispute to New Jersey. Plaintiff s claims against
defendants would be identical if he lived anywhere else in the world
v. St. James Smokehouse, Inc., 2015 WL 1399121, at *1 (D.N.J. 2015) (finding that defendants
continuously relied upon the plaintiff to perform essential business functions from a New Jersey
office, offered to purchase and ship office equipment to plaintiff in New Jersey, engaged in
continuous business and email interactions for almost two years, and that New jersey had an
interest in protecting its consumers from the allegedly mislabeled fish that defendants sold in New
marital and/or familial discrimination based on his
termination from a Maryland job. Or as Choice accurately summarizes, Plaintiff was allegedly
terminated from a Maryland-based position, by Choice employees outside of New Jersey,
because he would not move his family to Maryland
Choice Reply 12. Indeed, while
this motion was pending, Plaintiff filed a state administrative civil rights claim in Maryland. DE
12. There is, in other words, little
this forum, and
therefore no basis for this Court to exercise specific personal jurisdiction.
Having declined jurisdiction, there remain two additional considerations. First, dismissal
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regarding dismissal of the Complaint for failure to state a claim. The Court will therefore deny
rejudice, reserving it for the proper forum.
The second consideration is that forum. Based on the dismissal for lack of personal
jurisdiction, this Court must determine whether dismissal or transfer is appropriate. This issue is
governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1
See Chavez v. Dole Food Company, Inc., 836 F.3d 205, 224 (3d Cir. 2016). That provision states:
[Where a] court finds that there is a want of jurisdiction, the court shall, if it is in
the interest of justice, transfer such action or appeal to any other such court ... in
which the action or appeal could have been brought at the time it was filed or
noticed, and the action or appeal shall proceed as if it had been filed in or noticed
for the court to which it is transferred on the date upon which it was actually filed
in or noticed for the court from which it is transferred.
28 U.S.C. § 1631.
Here, Plaintiff requested transfer to the District of Maryland
principal place of business,
jurisdiction. Pl. Br. 23.
arguments regarding the applicability of Maryland law, transfer to the District of Maryland is
on is GRANTED IN PART. This Court declines
to exercise personal jurisdiction and will transfer the matter to the District of Maryland. The
remainder of the motion is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. An appropriate order follows.
Dated: September 19, 2022
Evelyn Padin, U.S.D.J.
Rockville, Maryland is the Montgomery County seat, and therefore the Court will direct transfer
to the Southern Division in Greenbelt, Maryland.
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