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Wylie v. Island Hotel Company Limited

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

July 13, 2018

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

          FINAL ORDER OF DISMISSAL

          JAMES LAWRENCE KING, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the Order United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the matter for additional briefing on the undecided issue of whether enforceability and validity are distinct or synonymous inquiries in the context of international forum selection clauses. Additional briefing was submitted by the parties and Oral Argument was held on June 15, 2018. For the reasons set forth herein, it is hereby ORDERED that Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

         I. Background

         The Amended Complaint alleges that Ms. Wylie was taking part in the Sea Squirts -Little Aquarist Helpers attraction at Atlantis Resort when she slipped and fell on a step leading into a fish feeding pool. DE 25 at ¶ 27. Ms. Wylie is domiciled in Illinois. DE 25 at ¶ 2. The Defendants are all Bahamian corporations. DE 25 at ¶¶ 3, 7, and 11. The Amended Complaint further alleges that, as part of the registration process, Defendants present guests with a document entitled "Acknowledgement, Agreement, and Release." DE 25 at ¶ 25. Ms. Wylie alleges she neither signed the Release nor authorized anyone else to sign on her behalf. DE 25 at ¶¶ 25-26. The Release is titled:

ACKNOWLEGEMENT, AGREEMENT AND RELEASE "SEA SQUIRTS - LITTLE AQUARIST HELPERS" Read Before Signing

         DE 29-2 (emphasis in original). The six-paragraph release states in pertinent part:

I agree that any claims I may have against the Resort Parties resulting from any events occurring in The Bahamas shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, and further, I irrevocably agree to the Supreme Court of The Bahamas as the exclusive venue for any such proceedings whatsoever.

Id. The Release is signed by Plaintiffs husband, Andrew Wylie, and states "I represent and warrant that I have authority to sign on behalf of myself and the members of my traveling party ... and voluntarily agree to all the terms of this release" and lists Madison and Melissa Wylie as "names of family members or others in my group[.]" Id. Ms. Wylie did not sign the Release.

         This Court dismissed Plaintiffs lawsuit on January 5, 2017 after granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. See Final Order of Dismissal (D.E. 37). Plaintiff appealed the decision, and on September 1, 2017, the Eleventh Circuit determined the issues involved in resolving the appeal appear to be a matter of first impression in this Circuit and therefore sent the case back to this Court with instructions for further briefing by the parties and analysis. The Court held Oral Argument on June 15, 2018 where the parties presented their arguments and the Court considered the supplemental briefs filed by the Parties.

         II. Discussion

         The instant case is subject to dismissal for two reasons. First, regardless of the validity and enforceability of the forum selection clause, the doctrine of forum non conveniens mandates dismissal. Second, there is a valid and enforceable forum selection clause that binds Ms. Wylie as a non-signatory.

         a. Traditional Forum Non Conveniens Analysis Mandates Dismissal

         A traditional forum non conveniens analysis mandates that this case be dismissed, regardless of whether there is a valid and enforceable forum selection clause binding Ms. Wylie. Under the traditional doctrine of forum non conveniens, a district court has the inherent power to decline to exercise jurisdiction even when venue is proper. See Gulf Oil v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 506-07 (1947). In the absence of a forum selection agreement, to obtain forum non conveniens dismissal, "the moving party must demonstrate that (A) an adequate alternative forum is available, (B) the public and private interest factors weigh in favor of dismissal, and (C) the plaintiff can reinstate his suit in the alternative forum without undue inconvenience or prejudice." Leon v. Millon Air, Inc., 251 F.3d 1305, 1310-11 (11th Cir. 2001).

         For the reasons discussed at Oral Argument and in the Parties' briefing, all the criteria are met for forum non conveniens dismissal. It is well settled that The Bahamas is an adequate alternative forum. See, e.g., McGinn v. Kerzner Intern. Hotels Ltd., Case No.: 12-cv- 20536-Moore, at *5 (S.D. Fla. October 22, 2012) (noting Southern District Courts "consistently" hold that The Bahamas provides an adequate alternative forum); Miyoung Son v. Kerzner Intern. Hotels Ltd., 2008 WL 4186979 (S.D. Fla. Sept. 5, 2008) ("[T]he Court finds that the Supreme Court of The Bahamas is an adequate alternative forum for the instant action"); Horberg v. Kerzner Intern. Hotels Ltd.,744 F.Supp.2d 1284, 1290-91 (S.D. Fla. 2007) (ruling "[i]t is undisputed that Defendants are amenable to process in The Bahamas ... this Court has no reason to find other than that The Bahamas provides Plaintiff with an adequate alternative forum...."); Morrone v. Sun Intern. Hotels Ltd., Case No. 05-61600-Civ-Seitz/McAliley, at *5 (S.D. Fla. Sept. 22, 2006) ("[T]he Court finds The Bahamas to be an available and adequate alternative forum ...."); ...


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