Crocker v. Hilton Inter. Barbados, Ltd.

976 F.2d 797 (1st Cir. 1992).

Plaintiff and her husband, Massachusetts residents, made a prepaid reservation for Defendant’s hotel located in Barbados.  After traveling to Barbados and while as guests at Defendant’s hotel, Plaintiff was raped at knifepoint.

Plaintiff and her husband brought an action against the Defendant in the United States District Court located in Massachusetts.  Their complaint alleged counts for negligence and loss of consortium, and claims that the assault was perpetrated by a person who was neither a guest at the hotel nor a hotel employee.

The District Court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction.  The District Court also denied Plaintiffs’ motion to amend their complaint to add breach of contract, breach of habitability, and breach of warranty theories.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal and denial of the motion to amend.

The Court determined that a federal court may exercise in personam territorial jurisdiction over a party served outside the federal court’s home state only to the extent that such territorial jurisdiction is authorized by the home state’s long-arm statute.   Here, the Massachusetts long-arm statue provided that:

A court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a person, who acts directly or by an agent, as to a cause of action in law or equity arising from the person’s (a) transacting any business in this commonwealth . . .

The Court determined that the “arising from” language in the Massachusetts long-arm statute mirrored the federal constitutional relatedness requirement.

The Court held that Plaintiff’s action did not arise from Defendant’s “transaction any business” in Massachusetts.  Importantly, the Court determined that the act of making a prepaid hotel reservation from the forum unrelated to an alleged breach of the resulting implied covenant of habitability.  The court held that “the implied covenant . . . arises when the guest checks in, is assigned some specific space, and receives a key or other means of access to that space.”  These acts had, of course, taken place outside of the forum (specifically, in Barbados).

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