United States District Court, D. Vermont
OPINION AND ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC.
Geoffrey W. Crawford, Judge United States District Court
diversity action, plaintiffs Gerald Leonard and his wife Lila
Leonard, both residents of Vermont, sue defendant Shield
Hotel Management, LLC ("Shield" or
"hotel") for negligence. They allege that while
staying with their grandchildren at defendant's hotel in
Massachusetts, the children discovered a used hypodermic
needle in the room. (Doc. 5 ¶¶ 25-26.) Mrs. Leonard
"stuck" herself with the needle while attempting to
dispose of it. (Id. ¶¶ 28-30.) The
complaint alleges that defendant is subject to personal
jurisdiction in Vermont because defendant's hotel staff
formed a business relationship with plaintiff Gerald
Leonard's employer. (Id. ¶¶ 11-18.)
This relationship developed into an individual relationship
between the hotel and Mr. Leonard, constituting significant
contacts with Vermont. (Id. ¶¶ 21-24.)
Shield has filed a Motion to Dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(2), asserting that it is not subject to personal
jurisdiction in Vermont. (Doc. 9.) The court heard argument
on the motion on June 12, 2017, at which time the motion was
taken under advisement.
resolving the personal jurisdiction issue on the bases of a
motion to dismiss and supporting affidavits, the court
considers whether the plaintiff has made a prima facie
showing of jurisdiction over the defendant. DiStefano v.
Carozzi N. Am., Inc., 286 F.3d 81, 84 (2d Cir. 2001).
Allegations of the parties are "construed in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff and doubts are resolved in
the plaintiffs favor, notwithstanding a controverting
presentation by the moving party." A.I. Trade Fin.,
Inc. v. Petra Bank, 989 F.2d 76, 79-80 (2d Cir. 1993).
Shield Hotel Management, LLC owns the Hampton Inn in
Greenfield, Massachusetts. (Doc. 9 at 4.) In an effort to
attract business, Hampton Inn negotiated a corporate discount
with a company known as Kennametal to entice Kennametal
employees to stay at the hotel. (Doc. 10 at 2.) Mr. Leonard
was an employee of Kennametal for more than sixteen years.
(Doc. 10-1 ¶ 2.) He then became a contractor with the
company. (Id. ¶ 3.) His employment required him
to travel frequently to Kennametal's Massachusetts
locations. (Id. ¶¶ 4-5.) Mr. Leonard
stayed at the hotel approximately seventeen times in recent
years, staying a total of twenty-three nights. (Id.
¶ 5.) He received a discount because of his association
with Kennametal. (Id. ¶¶ 6, 7, 10.)
previous business trip, Mr. Leonard complained about a smoky
smell in his room. (Doc. 10-4.) He expressed his displeasure
by answering a survey sent by the hotel. (Id.) Hotel
staff responded with an email apologizing and encouraging Mr.
Leonard to return to the hotel. (Id.) The hotel
stated it would "make sure [the] housekeeping department
pays extra care." (Id.) In response, Mr.
Leonard spoke of recognizing hotel staff members and of his
intention to come back to the hotel. (Id.)
time of the incident, Mr. Leonard had traveled to the Hampton
Inn on business for Kennametal. (Doc. 10-1 ¶ 9.) He was
accompanied by his wife and grandchildren. (Doc. 5 ¶ 25;
Doc. 10-1 ¶ 9.)
Specific Personal Jurisdiction
personal jurisdiction must comply with a defendant's due
process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Waldman v.
Palestine Liberation Org., 835 F.3d 317, 331 (2d Cir.
2016). In order to satisfy a defendant's due process
concerns, a plaintiff must make "a threshold showing of
minimum contacts at the first stage of the inquiry."
Chloe v. Queen Bee of Beverly Hills, LLC, 616 F.3d
158, 164 (2d Cir. 2010). The court must also apply a standard
of fairness and reasonableness as to not violate
"traditional notions of fair play and substantial
justice." Int'l Shoe Co. v. State of Wash.,
Office of Unemployment Comp. & Placement, 326 U.S.
310, 316 (1945) (citing Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S.
457, 463 (1940)). The minimum contacts threshold is met if a
plaintiff can show that a defendant purposefully availed
itself of contact with the forum state and as a result could
reasonably foresee being subject to suit in that state.
Asahi Metal Indus. Co. v. Superior Court of Cal, Solano
Cty., 480 U.S. 102, 109 (1987); Real Good Toys, Inc.
v. XL Mack Ltd., 163 F.Supp.2d 421, 424 (D. Vt. 2001).
These minimum contacts are to be examined in the
"totality of the circumstances." Licci ex rel.
Licci v. Lebanese Canadian Bank, SAL, 673 F.3d 50, 62
(2d Cir. 2012) (citation omitted); see also Chloe,
616 F.3d at 164. Vermont's long-arm statute, 12 V.S.A.
§ 913(b), represents a "clear policy to assert
jurisdiction over individual defendants to the full extent
permitted by the Due Process Clause." Bechard v.
Constanzo, 810 F.Supp. 579, 582-83 (D. Vt. 1992). For
the reasons discussed below, the court concludes that minimum
contacts are present, and that exercising jurisdiction will
not violate traditional notions of fair play and substantial
conditions necessary to avoid dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(2) have been met by the facts asserted in
plaintiffs' complaint, its response to this motion, and
supplemental evidence including an affidavit and email
correspondence. The facts asserted make a threshold showing
that defendant established minimum contacts in Vermont by
deliberately developing and maintaining a commercial
relationship with Kennametal to host Vermont associates and
then by creating an individual relationship with Mr. Leonard.
argues that the alleged tort arose out of or related to
defendant's business activities in the state of
Massachusetts, not Vermont, and that there exists no nexus
between defendant and Vermont. (Doc. 9 at 3.) Where the
incident occurred is only one factor to be considered among
others in "totality of the circumstances" when
determining personal jurisdiction. Licci, 732 F.3d
at 170. The court finds numerous other factors ...