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Fischer v. Island Hotel Co. Ltd.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida, Miami Division

February 7, 2018

GREGORY D. FISCHER Plaintiff,
v.
ISLAND HOTEL COMPANY LIMITED, a Bahamian Company; ATLANTIS HOLDINGS BAHAMAS LIMITED, a Bahamian company; and BREF BAHAMAS LTD, a Bahamian company. Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          JAMES LAWRENCE KING UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS CAUSE comes before the Court upon Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (DE #17). Therein, Defendants argue that this matter should be dismissed under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, as this dispute has no factual connection to Miami or to the Southern District of Florida, and The Bahamas is a more convenient and appropriate forum. This matter is fully briefed, [1] and as set forth below, the Court finds that Defendant's Motion should be granted, and that this matter should be dismissed without prejudice to Plaintiff seeking relief in The Bahamas.

         I. Background

         This negligence action arises out of personal injuries Plaintiff allegedly sustained while a guest at The Atlantis Resort (the "Resort") located on Paradise Island in The Bahamas. Plaintiff is a resident of Washington State. Defendants are Bahamian companies that collectively own and operate the Resort.

         Plaintiff alleges that he was using the Resort's water park feature and floating on an inner tube when a Resort employee pushed two other guests into Plaintiff. This caused Plaintiff to flip out of his inner tube, ultimately resulting in a torn quadricep tendon and a broken tooth. Plaintiffs ruptured tendon required surgical intervention to repair. Plaintiffs Complaint alleges six counts against Defendants; three sounding in negligence against each Defendant, and three asserting vicarious liability against each Defendant.

         Defendant's Motion to Dismiss seeks dismissal under the doctrine of forum non conveniens based on (1) the forum selection clause contained within the registration documents signed by and provided to Plaintiff upon arrival at the Resort-the signing of which document Plaintiff disputes-and alternatively (2) a straightforward application of the elements of the doctrine, arguing that notwithstanding Plaintiffs claim regarding the forum selection clause, all forum non conveniens factors weigh in favor of dismissal. As set forth below, the Court agrees with Defendants that-Plaintiffs dispute regarding his purported agreement to the forum selection clause aside-this case is properly dismissed under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, without prejudice to Plaintiff seeking relief in The Bahamas.

         II. Legal Standard

         "The doctrine of forum non conveniens permits a court with venue to decline to exercise its jurisdiction when the parties' and the court's own convenience, as well as the relevant public and private interests, indicate the action should be tried in a different forum." Pierre-Louis v. Newvac Corp., 584 F.3d 1052, 1056 (11th Cir. 2009). Dismissal of a complaint based on forum non conveniens is appropriate where:

1. the trial court finds that an adequate alternate forum exists which possesses jurisdiction over the whole case, including all of the parties;
2. the trial court finds that all relevant factors of private interest favor the alternate forum, weighing in the balance a strong presumption against disturbing plaintiffs' initial forum choice;
3. if the balance of private interests is at or near equipoise, the court further finds that factors of public interest tip the balance in favor of trial in the alternate forum; and
4. the trial judge ensures that plaintiffs can reinstate their suit in the alternate forum without undue inconvenience or prejudice.

Wilson v. Island Seas Investments, Ltd., 590 F.3d 1264, 1269 (11th Cir. 2009).

         "A defendant invoking forum non conveniens bears the burden in opposing the plaintiffs choice of forum." Beaman v. Maco Caribe, Inc.. 790 F.Supp.2d 1371, 1375 (S.D. Fla. 2011). "A plaintiffs choice of forum is entitled to deference, and there is a presumption in favor of a plaintiffs choice of forum, particularly where the plaintiffs are citizens of the United States." Wilson, 590 F.3d at 1269. "That deference and presumption do not dissolve just because the plaintiffs injury occurs outside of the United States." Prophet v. Int'l Lifestyles, Inc., 447 Fed.Appx. 121, 125 (11th Cir. 2011). However, "dismissal should not be automatically barred when a plaintiff has filed suit in his home forum. As always, if the balance of conveniences suggests that trial in the chosen forum would be unnecessarily burdensome for the defendant or the court, dismissal is proper." Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 256 n.23 (1981). Moreover, the presumption in favor of a plaintiff s chosen forum "applies with less force when the plaintiff has ...


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