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Ex parte Jewels by Park Lane, Inc.

Supreme Court of Alabama

June 23, 2017

Ex Parte Jewels by Park Lane, Inc., et al.
v.
Kathy Cassidy, individually, and d/b/a Park Lane Jewelry, and Jewels by Park Lane, Inc. In re: Jennifer Miller

         Tallapoosa Circuit Court, CV-16-900069

          PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS

          BOLIN, Justice.

         Jewels by Park Lane, Inc. (hereinafter referred to as "JBPL"), and Kathy Cassidy, the national director for JBPL, seek a writ of mandamus compelling the Tallapoosa Circuit Court to vacate its order denying their motion to dismiss an action against them on the ground of improper venue arising out of a forum-selection clause and to enter an order dismissing the case. We grant the petition and issue the writ.

         Facts and Procedural History

         JBPL is a multilevel marketing company that sells jewelry through independent contractors who host parties offering JBPL's jewelry line for sale. Jennifer Miller lives and works in Alabama. In July 2015, Miller attended an annual convention hosted by JBPL in Rosemont, Illinois. At that time, Miller worked for a competitor of JBPL.

         On August 4, 2015, Miller and JBPL entered into a "director agreement." The front of the agreement set out Miller's personal information along with the name of the JBPL person who "sponsored" her and the name of the JBPL manager to whom Miller would answer. The director agreement further provided, in pertinent part:

"I hereby apply to become an Independent Contractor of [JBPL]. As an Independent Contractor of JBPL, I understand and agree to the following terms:
"....
"16. The director agrees that this Agreement has been drafted in accordance with the laws of the state of Illinois, and that the company is a [sic] Illinois corporation. The director agrees that the company may use equitable remedies (including specific performance and injunctive relief) in addition to any other remedies available, for any actions of the director which may be deemed to be in violation of this Agreement or in violation of any of the company's programs. Any disputes arising hereunder shall be solely governed by and interpreted in accordance with the laws of the state of Illinois and personal and subject matter jurisdiction is solely vested in the courts of the state of Illinois."

         The reverse side of the agreement contains a space for the name and address of the executive training manager to whom Miller's jewelry kit is to be sent. That space has one word filled in; it appears to read "Sent." The reverse side of the director agreement also provides spaces for the director, i.e., Miller, to set out the upcoming home parties at which JBPL's jewelry line will be displayed to potential customers. This part of Miller's director agreement is blank.

         Another part of the director agreement provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

"Leader Direct Appointment Approval Authorization
"(Complete the following when Applicable.)
"1. Experienced candidate to be appointed to the management level of:
"__.
"2. Explain the candidate's party plan/direct sales management experience. List companies he/she
has represented and position/titles previously achieved.
"__.
"3. Have you discussed this appointment with your Sr. Division and/or ...

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