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Craig v. Sandals Resorts International

United States District Court, E.D. New York

November 20, 2014

LISA CRAIG, individually, and as Executrix and Personal Representative of the Estate of MARK WILEY LANE, and LISA CRAIG, as Parent and Natural Guardian of TREVOR LANE, Plaintiffs,
v.
SANDALS RESORTS INTERNATIONAL, THE VERANDA HOTEL, FAEZ LTD, GRACE BAY RESORTS, VERANDA MANAGEMENT SERVICES, LTD, Defendants

Decided November 18, 2014.

Page 323

For Lisa Craig, individually and as Temporary Executrix and Personal Representative of the Estate of Mark Wiley Lane, and as Mother and Natural Guardian of Trevor Lane, a minor, Plaintiff: Diane Paolicelli, William Hynes Mack, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Phillips & Paolicelli, LLP, New York, NY.

For Sandals Resorts International, Defendant: Jennifer Cohen Glasser, LEAD ATTORNEY, Akerman Senterfitt, Miami, FL; Scott Michael Kessler, LEAD ATTORNEY, Akerman Senterfitt LLP, New York, NY.

For Veranda Hotel, Faez Ltd., Grace Bay Resorts, Defendants: Mathew Paul Ross, LEAD ATTORNEY, Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, New York, NY; Abigail Deborah Elrod, Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, LLP, West Harrison, NY; Margaret M. Murphy, Wilson Elser Mosskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP, New York, NY.

For Veranda Management Services, Ltd, Defendant: Abigail Deborah Elrod, Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, LLP, West Harrison, NY.

Page 324

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

HON. WILLIAM F. KUNTZ, II, United States District Judge.

In March 2012, Mark Wiley Lane was snorkeling with his family in the Turks & Caicos Islands when he was killed in a speedboat accident. Lisa Craig, individually, as executrix and personal representative of Lane's estate, and as the parent and natural guardian of Trevor Lane (collectively, " Plaintiffs" ), now bring this action against Sandals Resorts International (" Sandals" ), the Veranda Hotel (" Veranda" ), Faez, Ltd., Grace Bay Resorts, and Veranda Management Services, Ltd. (" VMS" ), alleging common law causes of action for: (1) wrongful death, (2) conscious pain and suffering, (3) negligent infliction of emotional distress (" NIED" ), and (4) loss of consortium.

Defendant Sandals brings a motion to dismiss all claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Because Plaintiff has not established an agency relationship sufficient to tie Sandals to this case, the Court grants Sandals's motion and dismisses Plaintiffs' claims as to Sandals.

Defendants VMS, Veranda, Faez, and Grace Bay (the " Veranda Defendants" ) move to dismiss on several alternate grounds. They argue that forum non conveniens compels dismissal of the action;

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that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over the Defendants; and that Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim because Defendants had no duty to warn Mr. Lane. Because the facts of this case center in the Turks & Caicos Islands (" TCI" ), the Court grants the Veranda Defendants' motion as to forum non conveniens.

I. Factual Background

The following facts are taken from the Second Amended Complaint. Dkt. 52. (" Compl." ). For purposes of deciding Defendants' motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court assumes these facts to be true and construes them in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, the non-moving parties. See Ilarraza v. Medtronic, Inc., 677 F.Supp.2d 582, 584 (E.D.N.Y. 2009) (Wexler, J.).

Mark Lane and his wife, Plaintiff Lisa Craig, planned a vacation to the Turks & Caicos Islands (" TCI" ) with their four young sons in late March 2012. Compl. at ¶ 45. The Lane family traveled to TCI on March 23, 2012, and checked in to the Veranda Hotel later that afternoon. Id. at ¶ 46. The next morning, the Lane family allegedly approached a Veranda Hotel employee and asked for information on an appropriate place for the family to snorkel together. Id. at ¶ 47. In response, Plaintiffs claim, the Veranda Hotel employee directed the Lane family to an area immediately adjacent to the Veranda Hotel, known as Coral Garden, Lower Bight Providenciales (" the Accident Location" ). Id. In addition, the Veranda Hotel employee provided the Lane family with snorkeling equipment and instructed them to swim out past a series of yellow buoys at or near the Accident Location in order to snorkel. Id. at ¶ ¶ 48-49.

Plaintiffs allege that the Veranda Hotel, through its agents and employees, knew or should have known of dangerous boat traffic in the vicinity of the Accident Location due to previous accidents having occurred in that area. Id. at ¶ 50. For instance, a boat accident purportedly occurred near the Accident Location in 2006, causing the death of a swimmer. Id. at ¶ 53. Nevertheless, no employee of the Veranda Hotel warned Mr. Lane or his family of the dangers related to boat traffic in the Accident Location area, despite the fact that the Lane family had little, if any, opportunity to become aware of boat traffic in the vicinity of the Accident Location. Id. at ¶ ¶ 51-52.

The Lane family allegedly set out on their snorkeling excursion at approximately 2:30 PM on March 24, 2012. Id. at ¶ 55. After a short walk from the Veranda Hotel, Lane and his eight-year-old son, Trevor Lane, entered the water, using the snorkeling gear provided by the Veranda Hotel employee, and swam past the yellow buoys near the Accident Location. Id. at ¶ ¶ 56-57.

Around the same time as the Lane family set out on their snorkeling excursion, the neighboring Beaches Resort & Spa (" Beaches" ), which is wholly owned by Sandals, purportedly sent a group of its guests seaward on an inner-tubing excursion. Id. at ¶ ¶ 58. This inner-tubing excursion, which Plaintiffs claim was arranged by Beaches employees at the Beaches watersports desk, involved Beaches hotel guests being towed in an inner-tube behind a speedboat traveling close to the shoreline at a high speed. Id. at ¶ ¶ 59-60. The speedboat was captained by non-party Sugar Ray Alexander Smith (" Smith" ), who was neither a Sandals nor a Beaches employee. Id. at ¶ 61.

Beaches is an " all-inclusive" resort, meaning that meals, beverages, and the services of Beaches agents are either included in the guest's flat fee or charged to the guest's room. Id. at ¶ ¶ 72-74. Thus,

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the Beaches website instructs guests they will not need cash on the premises and that " the purchase of optional services from the resort outlets will be done by signing all charges to the guest's room folio." Id. at ¶ 73. Beaches made the arrangements for its guests to participate in the inner-tubing speedboat excursion led by Mr. Smith, but it did not provide those guests with information distinguishing the services of Mr. Smith from those of full-time Beaches employees. Id. at ¶ ¶ 75-76.

At approximately 2:45 PM on March 24, 2012, the speedboat driven by Smith violently and suddenly struck Lane, causing severe traumatic injuries. Id. at ¶ 62. Lane perceived the impending collision, allegedly causing pre-impact terror, and pushed his son Trevor Lane out of the speedboat's path moments before impact. Id. at ¶ 63. Bystanders helped Lane to the shore, and emergency medical services then transported Lane by ambulance to Cheshire Hill Medical Centre. Id. at ¶ ¶ 64-65. During this period of time, Lane had a heartbeat and faded in and out of consciousness. Id. at ¶ 66. After arriving at Cheshire Mill Medical Centre, Lane was pronounced dead at 4:50 PM. Id. at ¶ ¶ 67-68. An autopsy determined the cause of death to be massive blunt force trauma to the left arm, head, and neck. Id. at ¶ 69.

II. Procedural History

Plaintiffs filed their original complaint against Defendants on September 24, 2012. Dkt. 1. Following a pre-motion conference held before this Court on March 1, 2013, Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint on March 8, 2013, in large part to allege additional facts regarding the existence or absence of an agency relationship between Sandals and Mr. Smith. See Minute Entry of 3/1/2013; Compl. at ¶ ¶ 64-77. Sandals moved to dismiss on May 10, 2013. Dkt. 22. Plaintiffs then requested leave to file a Second Amended Complaint in order to add Veranda Management Services, Ltd., as a Defendant. Dkt. 37-1, at 1. The Court granted Plaintiffs permission to file the Second Amended Complaint on March 12, 2014, and instructed the parties that they were free to re-file their motions to dismiss against the Second Amended Complaint. See Dkt. 56. On March 31, 2014, Sandals renewed and adopted its previously filed motion to dismiss. Dkt. 58. Sandals also filed a supplemental memorandum of law addressing forum non conveniens on September 8, 2014. Dkt. 83.

On August 12, 2013, the Veranda Defendants filed the briefing papers regarding their " Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim and lack of personal jurisdiction and forum non conveniens." Dkts. 30-34. On September 8, 2014, the Veranda Defendants renewed their briefing papers as to the Second Amended Complaint. Dkts. 68, 69, 70 (" Veranda Memo." ), 71 (" Opp. to Veranda" ), 82 (" Veranda Reply" ).

DISCUSSION

I. Sandals's Motion to Dismiss


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