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Gordon v. Sandals Resorts International, Ltd.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

November 4, 2019

Anat Gordon, Plaintiff,
v.
Sandals Resorts International, Ltd., Unique Vacations, Inc., Defendants.

          ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS

          Robert N. Scola, Jr., United States District Judge.

         The Plaintiff Anat Gordon filed suit against Sandals Resorts International, Ltd. (“Sandals”) and Unique Vacations, Inc. (“UVI”) for engaging in unfair and deceptive trade practices. Now before the Court is the Defendant UVI's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 10). Sandals has fully joined and adopted the grounds for dismissal raised in UVI's motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 11.) For the reasons set forth in this Order, the Court grants the motion to dismiss (ECF No. 10).

         1. Relevant Factual Background

         Gordon filed a nationwide class action complaint against the Defendants alleging that they engaged in deceptive and unfair practices in violation of Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (“FDUTPA”) and unjust enrichment under Florida law. Sandals is “the owner and operator of [nineteen] resorts located throughout the Caribbean.” (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 12.) “UVI is the sales, marketing, and public relations arm of Sandals.” (Id. at ¶ 13.)

         The complaint specifically alleges that the Defendants market their Travel Protection Plans (“TPP”) on the sandals.com website as an independently underwritten travel insurance policy offered by third parties. (Id. at ¶ 5.) The way the TPPs are marketed would lead a reasonable consumer to believe that they are contracting directly with the insurance provider to purchase the Travel Insurance Policy, and that the Defendants are passing the premiums through to the third-party insurance company. (Id. at ¶ 6.) In reality, the Defendants received an undisclosed kickback from the insurance providers for each policy sold through the TPPs. (Id. at ¶ 7.)

         Gordon booked a stay at the Defendants' resorts four times, and on two of those occasions, she purchased a TPP. (ECF No. 10 at 3.) In both of those instances, she booked a vacation at the resort in Turks & Caicos. (Id.) The second vacation that she booked with TPP insurance was scheduled to begin on November 11, 2019, which is after she filed this lawsuit. Plaintiff canceled her upcoming reservation, and the Defendants gave her a full refund for the TPP insurance. (Id. at 7.)

         Each time that the Plaintiff purchased a TPP, booked a hotel reservation, or paid for her stay, she was presented with terms & conditions that included a forum selection clause. (ECF No. 10 at 4.) The pertinent part of the forum selection clause reads:

17. FORUM SELECTION AND CHOICE OF LAW:
B. CLAIMS WHICH INCLUDE HOTEL AND/OR SANDALS RESORTS INTERNATIONAL LIMITED. THE FOREGOING IN PARAGRAPH 17.A. NOTWITHSTANDING, ANY Claims whatsoever arising from, in connection with, or incidental to any personal injury, illness or death, that include any claim whatsoever against sandals resorts international limited, or the hotel, hotel management company, and/or their affiliates, subsidiaries, directors, officers, or employees, and to which claim unique travel is also a party, shall be litigated solely and exclusively in the courts of the country in which the hotel is physically located.

(Id.) According to UVI, Gordon received the terms & conditions containing this forum selection clause at least thirteen times. (Id. at 5.)

         Additionally, each time she stayed at the hotel, she was provided with an On Resort Guest Registration that contained the following forum selection and choice of law provision:

8. Forum Selection and Choice of Law. The undersigned Guest(s) HEREBY KNOWINGLY AND VOLUNTARILY AGREES that any and all claims that each such Guest may have against Sandals Resorts International, Ltd., the hotel, hotel management company, and/or their partent corporation, affiliates, agents and representatives in connection with or in any way incident or related to the undersigned Guest's (of Guests') stay at the hotel/resort, shall be governed solely by the laws of Turks And Caicos as the exclusive choice of law, and further that the courts of Turks And Caicos shall be the exclusive venue/forum for any proceedings, claims, or litigation whatsoever.

(Id. at 6.) She signed and assented to this forum selection and choice of law provision all three times that she stayed at the Turks and Caicos ...


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