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Sexual assault of minor hotel guest during family vacation: Where should lawsuit be heard?

Sexual assault of minor hotel guest during family vacation: Where should lawsuit be heard?

In this week’s article, we discuss the case of Jane Doe v. The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company, LLC, 2016 WL 6440376 (3d Cir. 2016) in which Plaintiffs-Appellants “initiated this action against (Defendant) Appellee The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company, LLC alleging that Appellee’s negligence resulted in two sexual assaults on their minor daughter while the family was vacationing at one of Appellee’s hotels in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. Appellants appeal orders of the United State District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (1) dismissing their Amended Complaint on forum non conveniens grounds…we affirm the orders of the District Court”.

Terror Targets Update

Paris, France

In Breeden, Car Slams Into Soldiers in Paris Suburb, (8/9/2017) it was noted that “The police were on the hunt Wednesday for a driver who plowed a dark BMW into soldiers in a Paris suburb, injured six of them in what the town’s mayor called an act of ‘despicable aggression’…The Paris prosecutor’s office opened a terrorism investigation, France has been on a constant alert for more than two years and the attack is consistent with numerous past assaults on police officers and soldiers”.

Give Us Cheap Seats, Please

In US flyers prefer cheap seats over perks, poll finds, (8/7/2017) it was noted that “U.S. airlines striving to boost profitability are up against an army of penny-pinching customers who would rather sit in a dreaded middle seat than pay more to fly, says a Reuters/Ispos opinion poll released on Wednesday….But the poll showed 83 percent of Americans put ticket prices among their chief considerations when booking personal travel, outweighing travel perks or an airline’s reputation. Sixty percent of those polled said they would not pay extra to avoid being assigned a middle seat”.

Airlines Bumping Fewer Passengers

In Stevens, Airlines Are Bumping Fewer Passengers, U.S. Report Says, (8/8/2017) it was noted that “Domestic airlines are bumping passengers off flights at the lowest rate since 1995, according to a new federal report-a decline that may been accelerated by the fallout from an April episode in which a man was dragged off a United Airlines flight. The 12 domestic carriers that report data on the number of passengers who are involuntarily denied boarding posted a bumping rate of 0.44 per 10,000 passengers during the second quarter of 2017…That was the lowest quarterly rate within historical records dating back more than two decades, officials said in a statement”.

Your Fingerprint, Please

In Delta launches biometrics boarding at Reagan Washington National Airport, (7/20/2017) it was noted that “Delta’s biometric boarding pass experience that launched in May…is now integrated into the boarding process to allow eligible Delta SkyMiles Members who are enrolled in CLEAR to forego a paper or mobile boarding pass in favor of using fingerprints as proof of identity”.

Uber Drivers May Unionize In Seattle

In Chiem, Seattle Defeats Challenge to Uber Driver Union Law, (8/2/2017) it was noted that “A Washington federal judge tossed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s challenge to Seattle’s ordinance letting Uber and Lyft drivers unionize, saying…it is not preempted by federal antitrust law and upending the business coalition’s hard-fought efforts to prevent independent contractors from banding together as a union. U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik’s dismissal of the antitrust challenge dealt a major blow to rise-hailing companies like (Uber and Lyft)-whose interests were represented by the Chamber in the lawsuit-by affirming that Seattle did not overstep its authority when enacting a 2015 law giving for-hire drivers who are typically independent contractors the right to collectively bargain”.

Choking In Seattle

In West, We’re Choking on Smoke in Seattle, (8/9/2017) it was noted that “The weather forecast for Seattle on Wednesday reads ‘89 degrees, smoke’. We first noticed the smoke, drifting down from the wildfires still burning in British Columbia, around Aug. 2, just as a heat wave sent temperatures spiking well into the 90’s (the historical average for that week is 77) and the ubiquitous Pacific winds dwindled to a standstill…I haven’t seen a tree move in a week”.

Trump D.C. Hotel’s Big Profits

In O’Connell, Trump D.C. hotel turns $2 million profit in four months, The Washington Post, 8/10/2017 it was noted that “Donald Trump’s company turned a $1.97 million profit at its opulent Trump International Hotel so far in 2017, dramatically beating its expectations and giving the first hard numbers to critics who charge that Trump is profiting from his presidency…Instead the hotel, with its namesake in the White House down the street, is already turning a hefty profit and charging more for its rooms than most of the city’s other hotels…This year, guests have paid an avenge of $652.98 a night to stay there, beating the company’s expectations by 57 percent, according to documents posted online recently by the General Services Administration”.

Trump Employees & Mandatory Arbitration

In Strickler, Trump Organization employees forced to agree not to sue the company, (8/11/2017) it was noted that “Employees at Trump Organization properties have been told they must give up their right to sue their employer or else they will lose their jobs. This arrangement is called mutual arbitration agreement, and the document was obtained by CBS News. Arbitration means that instead of going to court, employees must take any complaints to a third-party arbitrator paid for by the Trump Organizations to resolve disputes. Matters before an arbitrator are secret. A Trump Organization spokesman provided this statement via email to CBS News: ‘Because it is faster. More cost effective and tend to level the playing field, it is commonplace for large companies like The Trump Organization to use arbitration as the preferred method for resolving disputes’”).

It should be noted that the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments regarding the legality of arbitration agreements in employment contracts requiring workers to waive their rights to sue in collective and class actions. See Dickerson, New York State Class Actions: Taking a Stand for Labor, (8/10/2017).

Grossinger’s May Return

In Nir, Owner Hopes to Remake Resort That Inspired ‘Dirty Dancing’, (8/9/2017) it was noted that “There is graffiti in the ballrooms where Johnny might have taught the cha-cha, and the ceiling is falling down in the dining room like the one where Baby was fatefully seated in a corner. But the long-defunct Catskills resort that served as the inspiration for ‘Dirty Dancing’, the fictional Kellerman’s in which Baby and Johnny had the time of their lives, stands to be reborn after the owner applied for state help to clean the contaminated ruins. It is the first step in a plan to bring a glamorous resort back to the site, and perhaps, with it, a bygone luster to the storied but tattered Catskills itself”.

Outer Banks Back In Business

In Astor, Outer Banks Businesses Tally Their Losses After Power Is Restored, (8/4/2017) it was noted that “A week after construction workers accidentally plunged parts of the Outer Banks of North Carolina into darkness and forced tens of thousands of visitors to evacuate, some of its normal summer character returned on Friday. Officials on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands, popular summer destinations, lifted mandatory evacuation orders at noon after electricity power was restored. Around 60,000 tourists were required to leave last week, costing local businesses millions of dollars in lost revenue, officials said”.

Mountain Goats Like Us

In Yin, Mountain Goats On Your Trail? They Like You and Your Urine, (8/3/2017) it was noted that “A few years ago, employees at Glacier National Park in Montana noticed that mountain goats were hanging out-even sleeping-far away from cliffs, and spending much of their time near humans. Researchers who investigated this atypical behavior determined that where there were people, there were fewer predators. Also, where there were people, there was pee. Combined, these phenomena afford mountain goats two prized essentials, safety and salt. ‘You can’t beat that. It’s like vacation for goats’, said Wesley Sarmenta, who led the study, published in the journal Biological Conservation last month…a bit about mountain goats: They have many foes, but gravity is not one of them. Snowy-colored and sure-footed, they can scale nearly vertical rock faces, jump 12 feet in one leap and chill out at precipitous elevations of up to 13,000 feet year-round”.

Eat Lionfish, Please

In Steinmetz, Saint Lucia wants Tourists to eat Lionfish and (Save) the Reef, (8/1/2017) it was noted that “A new initiative is being launched today which aims to help control the invasive ‘lionfish’ species by encouraging local people to catch and serve it to tourists. This will conserve reef fish stocks around Saint Lucia and support local fishing communities. The rapid and devastating invasion of the lionfish in the Caribbean Sea is threatening the survival of coral reef systems, reducing fish numbers by up to 80%. In Saint Lucia, lionfish populations are increasing, but consumption is low…due to the misconception that the fish is poisonous and can’t be eaten (although the spines are venomous, with correct handling they can be easily and safely removed)”.

WestJet Hacked

In WestJet reports disclosure of passenger information by ‘unauthorized third party’, (7/29/2017) it was noted that “WestJet has become aware that some WestJet Rewards member profile data has been disclosed online by an unauthorized third party. None of the data contained credit card or banking information. WestJet has taken immediate steps to secure affected systems and has been working closely with the Calgary Police Service and the RCMP cybercrime unit in the investigation”.

Train Riders Out In The Cold

In Amaral, Rail Tickets Not Contracts, Court Tells Miffed Mass. Riders, (7/31/2017) it was noted that “Riders of Greater Boston’s commuter rail (service) can’t sue the state’s main transit authority for botching service during the historic 2015 winter, the Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled Monday, finding that monthly train passes aren’t an ironclad guarantee of sticking to a published schedule. The proposed class of rail riders said the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, after years of neglect and financial mismanagement, left them out in the cold in January, February and March of 2015. They breached the contract they’d secured by buying monthly passes, they argued. The Appeals Court disagreed, ruling that the riders hadn’t done enough to establish what their alleged contract with the MBTA actually was. (The Court noted that) the purchase of a monthly pass on the MBTA is not a guarantee of performance according to its published schedule in these extraordinary circumstances”. See Rodriquez v. Mass. Bay Transp. Auth., 2017 Mass. App. LEXIS 104 (Mass. App. 2017).

Taxify & Didi Chuxing Challenge Uber

In Uber rival inks deal with Chinese ride-sharing operator also covering Romania, (8/2/2017) it was noted that “Estonian startup Taxify, which is Uber’s rival in Bucharest, has concluded an agreement with the Chinese ride-sharing operator Didi Chuxing to expand ridesharing services in Europe and Africa. The Chinese company will invest in Taxify and will work with Uber’s European rival in the 18 markets where it is present, including Romania. Taxify provides ridesharing services in 18 countries across Europe and Africa, including Romania, Hungary, the Baltic States and Nigeria. The company was founded in 2013 but the app was launched in Bucharest last summer”.

Airbnb Partners With Concur

In Airbnb and Concur partner to provide Airbnb listings with Concur Travel, (7/13/2017) it was noted that “Concur today announced the availability to view and book Airbnb listings embedded within Concur Travel…he tighter integration will deliver greater flexibility for businesses to offer alternative lodging choices to business travelers within their existing management program and policy framework while delivering the ease of use customers have come to rely on from Concur…Airbnb usage continues to show strong growth over time…In fact employees from more than 250,000 companies in over 200 counties and territories use Airbnb for work”.

Airbnb Partners With NAACP

In NAACP, Airbnb partner to promote travel and economic opportunities to Communities of Color, (7/29/2017) it was noted that “The NAACP, the country’s original and largest social justice organization and Airbnb, the world’s leading hospitality company, today launched a landmark partnership that will help spread economic benefits of home sharing to more communities. Under the new partnership, Airbnb and the NAACP will conduct targeted outreach to communities of color to help more people use their homes to earn extra income. By increasing the number of travelers to communities of color, the partnership will spread the economic benefits of tourism. The partnership also includes a unique revenue sharing model: Airbnb will share 20 percent of its earnings from the partnership with the NAACP”.

Are Airbnb Superhosts “Safer”?

In What is an Airbnb “superhost” exactly? It has to do with hospitality, not safety, (7/29/2017) it was noted that “A lawsuit in California this week claimed that Airbnb creates a ‘false sense of security’ for its customers-and one way it does that, the lawsuit contends, is through its superhosts. The woman who filed the lawsuit (Ms. X) said she was sexually assaulted by a Los Angeles Airbnb host (who) was a ‘superhost’-a designation granted by Airbnb to denote the very best of what the home-rental platform has to offer. ‘That’s why, she said, she was not concerned with booking the Los Angeles residence with the man for an entire month’, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. But the qualifications for becoming a superhost have to do with hospitality-not safety. For any safety concerns, superhosts are pretty much on the same level as anyone listing their property on Airbnb. Superhosts must host at least 10 trips a year, maintain at least a 90 percent response rate, receive five-star reviews 80 percent of the time, and not cancel their reservations…” we were outraged by the reports of what happened to our guest, and we immediately removed this host from our platform’ (Airbnb Global Head of Trust and Risk Management Nick) Shapiro said in a statement”.

In Vora, Airbnb Sued by Guest Who Says a Host Sexually Assaulted Her, (8/2/2017) it was noted that “The property owner, who had earned the upper-tier status of ‘superhost’ and had never been convicted of a crime, has said the assault never happened. Airbnb, for its part, defended its screening measures and has since barred the owner from listing on its site. The suit arrives as Airbnb, the peer-to-peer vacation rental and hospitality site, is touting on-the-ground hosts who guide guests through customized itineraries, binging the groups into increasing contact with one another. It also lays bare the complications of peer-to-peer sharing, even though an established company like Airbnb, which says it performs background checks on host and guests in the United States annually, and also has a law enforcement liaison that helps its clients around the world manage potential criminal matters”.

Disneyland On The Sea

In Horowitz, Venice, Invaded by Tourists, Risks Becoming ‘Disneyland on the Sea, (8/2/2017) it was noted that “‘You guys, just say ‘skooozy’ and walk through’, a young American woman commanded her friends, caught in one of the bottlenecks of tourist traffic that clog Venice’s narrow streets, choke its glorious squares and push the locals of this enchanting floating city out and onto drab, dry land. ‘We don’t have time’, Neither, the Italian government worries, does Venice. Don’t look now, but Venice, once a great maritime and mercantile power, risks being conquered by day-trippers. The soundtrack of the city is now the wheels of rolling luggage thumping up against the steps of footbridges as phalanxes of tourists march over the city’s canals. Snippets of Venetian dialect can still be heard between the gondoliers rowing selfie-snapping couples. But the lingua franca is a foreign mash-up of English, Chinese and whatever other tongue the mega cruise ships and low-cost flights delivered that morning. Hotels have replaced homes. Italian government officials, lamenting what they call ‘low-quality tourism’ are considering limiting the numbers of tourists who can enter the city or its landmark piazzas” …The majority of the anxiety has centered on the cruise ships that pass through the Grand Canal blotting out the landmarks like an eclipse blocking out the sun”.

Children Flying Solo

In Glusac, Tips for Parents of Children Flying Solo, (7/27/2017) it was noted that “Last week, an unaccompanied 15-year-old traveling from London to meet his grandparents in France was bumped from an oversold easyJet flight and essentially treated as an adult, left to deal with rebooking on his own, according to a report by the BBC. Though the incident ended with the boy taking a flight 10 hours later, it underscores a weakness in a system designed to care for children unaccustomed to advocating for themselves. Experts emphasize the importance of educating children before their trip…Because there are not Transportation Department regulations regarding travel by unaccompanied minors, airlines create their own policies, beginning with who can fly. Here are tips for familiarizing yourself with guidelines established by airlines”.

The New TripAdvisor

In Sablich, How to Plan a Trip With the New TripAdvisor, (7/20/2017) it was noted that “With so many websites vying for the opportunity to book your next trip, TripAdvisor is hoping its recent makeover will help it stand out from the ever-expanding crowd. Not that the self-described ‘world’s largest travel site’ is hurting for attention, with 390 million average unique monthly visitors and over 500 million reviews for hotels, restaurants and other travel destinations. But standing pat is never an option in the highly competitive travel booking industry. Which brings us to TripAdvisor’s new look, which comes with additional search features and a more personalized app for iOS and Android devices. With nearly half of TripAdvisor’s traffic coming from mobile last year, an increase of 29 percent, according to the company, it’s no surprise that the most noticeable changes are seen on its revised smartphone and tablet incarnations”.

Travel Law Case Of The Week

In the Doe case, the Court noted that “Appellants are residents of Pennsylvania who vacationed at The Ritz Carlton, Grand Cayman hotel in the spring of 2013. Appellants allege that on two separate occasions, a bellman then employed by Appellee sexually assaulted Mary Doe, Appellants’ minor daughter at the hotel”.

Lawsuit Brought In Pennsylvania

“Appellants brought suit in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, alleging that Appellee was negligent in failing to screen and conduct an adequate background check on the bellman and in failing to provide security for its guests. Appellee removed the case to federal court, invoking diversity jurisdiction and filed a motion to dismiss…based on forum non conveniens. The District Court concluded that trial of the action in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania would result in an undue burden to Appellee out of proportion to Appellants’ convenience, granted Appellee’s motion and dismissed the matter without prejudice”.

The Four Factors

“Four factors guide a district court’s exercise of discretion in its forum non conveniens analysis: ‘(1) the amount of deference to be afforded to plaintiffs’ choice of forum, (2) the availability of an adequate alternative forum… (3) relevant private interest factors affecting the convenience of the litigants and (4) relevant public interest factors affecting the convenience of the forum’”.

The First Factor

“Here, as to the first factor, the District Court correctly identified that a citizen plaintiff’s choice of her home forum deserves ‘significant deference’…The District Court then reasoned that because ‘the operative facts giving rise to the action occur[red] outside the forum selected by’ Appellants-i.e., occurred in the Cayman Islands-that deference is ‘somewhat reduced’…however, we have never held that he deference owed to a citizen or a resident plaintiff’s choice of forum is ‘somewhat reduced’ under such circumstances. Thus, we write to clarify that whether the operative facts giving rise to a citizen or a resident plaintiff’s claim occurred in or outside of a plaintiff’s chosen forum is properly considered in the balancing of private and public interest factors-vis-a-vis, for example, the ease of access to sources of proof”.

Place Of Business In Adjacent State

“Appellants argue that because they are residents of Pennsylvania and because Appellee is a large corporation with its principal place of business in adjacent Maryland, these facts, standing alone, establish that litigating in Pennsylvania cannot be oppressive or vexatious for Appellee. This position, however, ignores that ‘[a] citizen’s forum choice should not be given dispositive weight’…and that a ‘district court is accorded substantial flexibility in evaluating a forum non conveniens motion’”.

The Second Factor

“As to the second factor, the District Court reasonably concluded that the Cayman Islands presented an adequate alternative forum because Appellee was amenable to service of process there, the tort of negligence was recognized there, and the applicable statute of limitations had not expired”.

The Third & Fourth Factors

“As to the third and fourth factors, the District Court reasonably weighed the relevant public and private interest factors to conclude that dismissal of this matter was appropriate because trial of the action in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania would results in an undue burden on Appellee out of proportion to Appellants’ convenience. It was reasonable for the Court to find that a ‘crucial’ factor in its decision was the lack of compulsory process of attendance of unwitting witnesses from the Cayman Islands and the cost of obtaining willing witnesses…It was also reasonable for the District Court to conclude that factors favoring dismissal-such as that any sources of proof as to Appellee’s potential negligence were located in the Cayman Islands-outweighed factors favoring a Pennsylvania forum-such as that most of the Pennsylvania-based witnesses identified by Appellants were medical professionals whose testimony would become relevant only if Appellants were to succeed on liability”.

Right To A Jury

“Appellants argue that the District Court erred as a matter of law because dismissal of Appellant’s negligence action in favor of a Cayman Islands forum violates Appellant’s Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial. Specifically, Appellants asset that ‘because forum non conveniens was not a doctrine recognized under the English common law in 1791′ it ‘therefore cannot act as a bar to the constitutionality preserved right to a jury trial in [the United States]. However, Appellants never developed this argument before the District Court…Rather, the (District) Court reasonably concluded that Appellants’ potential deprivation of a jury was tempered by the act that ‘although most cases are tried to a judge in the Cayman Islands, an application or request can be made for a jury trial… (Section 21 of the Cayman Islands’ Judicature Law, providing that a party to a civil case may apply for a trial by jury)”.

The author, Thomas A. Dickerson, is a retired Associate Justice of the Appellate Division, Second Department of the New York State Supreme Court and has been writing about Travel Law for 41 years including his annually updated law books, Travel Law, Law Journal Press (2016), Litigating International Torts in U.S. Courts, Thomson Reuters WestLaw (2016), Class Actions: The Law of 50 States, Law Journal Press (2016) and over 400 legal articles many of which are available at For additional travel law news and developments, especially, in the member states of the EU see

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