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Ure v. Oceania Cruises, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

June 1, 2017

DIANE URE and THOMAS URE, JR., Plaintiffs,
v.
OCEANIA CRUISES, INC. and FABIAN BONILLA, M.D., Defendants.

          ORDER

          DARRIN P. GAYLES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS CAUSE came before the Court upon Defendant, Fabian Bonilla, M.D.'s, Limited Appearance for the Purpose of Moving to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction [ECF No. 133]. The Court has reviewed the Motion and the record and is otherwise fully advised. Based thereon, the Court grants the Motion.

         BACKGROUND

         I. The Incident[1]

         Plaintiffs Diane Ure (“Mrs. Ure”) and Thomas Ure, Jr. (“Mr. Ure”) were passengers aboard Defendant Oceania Cruises, Inc.'s (“Oceania”) ship when Mrs. Ure fell ill. Defendant Fabian Bonilla, M.D. (“Dr. Bonilla”), Oceania's ship physician, treated Mrs. Ure for a gastrointestinal illness. After several days, Mrs. Ure's condition deteriorated, necessitating emergency medical treatment. Oceania recommended Bay View Hospital in Barbados and arranged for Mrs. Ure's transfer and on-shore treatment. Bay View mismanaged Mrs. Ure's treatment and/or was unable to adequately provide emergency care. Mrs. Ure suffered permanent injury, and later died, from her illness.[2]

         On November 25, 2014, Plaintiffs filed their Second Amended Complaint against Defendants.[3] Dr. Bonilla has moved to dismiss arguing that this Court does not have personal jurisdiction over him.

         II. Dr. Bonilla's Contact with Florida[4]

         Dr. Bonilla is a citizen of Ecuador. Although he works and resides onboard ships, his permanent address is in Ecuador. For the past eighteen years, Dr. Bonilla has been employed by two cruise ship companies, including Oceania, with their principal places of business in Miami, Florida. Dr. Bonilla's employment agreement with Oceania requires him to resolve all disputes relating to the agreement in Florida. Oceania interviewed, hired, and pays Dr. Bonilla and makes his ship assignments in and from its Miami offices.

         Dr. Bonilla does not own or rent property in Florida. He does, however, have a bank account and corresponding credit card with Wells Fargo Bank, which he opened in Key West using a friend's address in Hialeah, Florida. He later changed the address on his Wells Fargo account to another friend's address in Key Biscayne, Florida. Dr. Bonilla has never resided at the Hialeah or Key Biscayne addresses. He has written checks bearing the Hialeah and/or Key Biscayne addresses. Dr. Bonilla signed an agreement with Wells Fargo agreeing to resolve any disputes over his account in Florida.

         Dr. Bonilla attended periodic training in Florida. He has also communicated with Oceania and independent medical providers located in Florida while performing his duties aboard a ship.

         DISCUSSION

          I. Standard of Review

         “A plaintiff seeking to establish personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant ‘bears the initial burden of alleging in the complaint sufficient facts to make out a prima facie case of jurisdiction.'” Louis Vuitton Malletier, S.A. v. Mosseri, 736 F.3d 1339, 1350 (11th Cir. 2013) (quoting United Techs. Corp. v. Mazer, 556 F.3d 1260, 1274 (11th Cir. 2009)). Where a defendant challenges jurisdiction in a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2), as Dr. Bonilla does here, and submits evidence in support of his position, “the burden traditionally shifts back to the plaintiff to produce evidence supporting jurisdiction.” Meier ex rel. Meier v. Sun Int'l Hotels, Ltd., 288 F.3d 1264, 1269 (11th Cir. 2002). When a defendant satisfies its burden, the plaintiff, in order to justify the exercise of jurisdiction, must “substantiate the jurisdictional allegations in the complaint by affidavits or other competent proof, and not merely reiterate the factual allegations in the complaint.” Polskie Linie Oceaniczne v. Seasafe Transport A/S, 795 F.2d 968, 972 (11th Cir. 1986).

         A federal court sitting in diversity undertakes a two-step inquiry in determining whether personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant exists. First, the court must determine whether the exercise of jurisdiction is appropriate under Florida's long-arm statute. Mutual Serv. Ins. Co. v. Frit Indus., Inc., 358 F.3d 1312, 1319 (11th Cir. 2004). Second, the court must determine whether personal jurisdiction ...


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