Specifically, the Dubai hotel where the injuries were sustained was owned by Mohamed Saeed Almulla & Sons, LLC, which was no longer a party to the case by the time a decision was rendered. However, Ritz-Carlton Bermuda (“RC Bermuda”) and Ritz-Carlton Delaware (“RC Delaware”) were also named in the lawsuit. Both companies are ultimately subsidiary of Marriott International Corp. – the parent company of the Dubai Ritz Carlton.
The hotel company had moved to dismiss Black’s suit alleging that the Court had no jurisdiction over RC Bermuda, and alleging that Black had failed to argue that RC Delaware exercised control over RC Bermuda in order to keep RC Delaware in court. As to the court’s jurisdiction over RC Bermuda, Black had argued that because Ritz-Carlton’s Maryland-based website is accessed by Californians with frequency, and because Ritz-Carlton advertises to California residents, jurisdiction over RC Bermuda was proper. Nevertheless, the Judge ruled that “[t]he court cannot find that jurisdictional defects may be cured by collapsing two independent subsidiaries into one on a tenuous and overbroad ostensible [legal] theory.” The Court went on to find that the suit against RC Delaware should also be dismissed because Black “failed to allege sufficient facts to show that RC Delaware continues to control or operate RC Dubai.”
Black had become injured after receiving allegedly negligent information from a member of the hotel staff, which according to Black, directly lead to her injuries in addition to ruining her vacation in Dubai. Specifically, she claimed that the hotel employee directed her through a doorway, where a drape obscured all view of the other side including steps that went down to the next floor. The hotel made efforts to accommodate Black following her injury by offering her two free nights stay at the hotel and an upgraded flight, but only on the condition that she sign a liability release form that would preclude a future lawsuit. Black chose to decline the offer and instead file suit against the hotelier.
Although Black’s claim has been dismissed, Judge Carter did grant Black permission to replead her case against RC Bermuda in a court with competent jurisdiction over such a case. As a result, it is still possible that Black will be able to collect on her claim and to receive compensation for the injuries she sustained. Nevertheless, it will be an uphill battle to bring a lawsuit in Bermuda, and Black’s best chance to collect for her injuries has probably already passed.
Black’s case shows that there are many more legal issues involved in a personal injury suit than the mere presence of negligence and sustaining of injuries. Corporate shells, jurisdiction, and agency theories can all come into the mix, especially when large corporate entities are involved. In other words, a successful suit requires a knowledgeable attorney, and that should be a client’s first priority in seeking to assert his or her rights.