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Byrd v. Comfort Inn-Tupelo, Mississippi

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

February 1, 2018

MARY JOHN GARRETT BYRD, Plaintiff
v.
COMFORT INN-TUPELO, MISSISSIPPI, et al., Defendants.

          RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          Wallace Capel, Jr. CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the court are the Motion to Dismiss for lack of Personal Jurisdiction (Doc. 9) and Motion to Dismiss for Improper Venue, or, in the alternative, Motion to Transfer Venue (Doc. 10) filed by the Defendants designated in the Complaint as Comfort Inn-Tupelo, Mississippi, Fusion Hospitality, LLC, and Bruce Patel. The motions have been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for disposition or recommendation as may be appropriate. See Doc. 24. For the reasons that follow, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that the Motion to Dismiss for lack of Personal Jurisdiction (Doc. 9) be denied as moot and that the Motion to Dismiss for Improper Venue, or, in the alternative, Motion to Transfer Venue (Doc. 10) be granted and that this matter be dismissed for improper venue.

         I. THE COMPLAINT

         Plaintiff filed her Complaint (Doc. 1) on November 2, 2017. Plaintiff sues the above-mentioned Defendants, as well as a person named Amanda Daniels. Plaintiff alleges jurisdiction in this court is based upon “diversity and interstate commerce.” Doc. 1 at ¶ 1. Plaintiff alleges that she is a citizen of Alabama, “and the Defendant Comfort Inn is a Mississippi business.” Id. at ¶ 2. There are no allegations of citizenship respecting any of the Defendants. Plaintiff appears to possibly assert that the court's federal question subject matter jurisdiction is invoked because, allegedly, “the Defendant Mississippi business wrongfully acted to involve a governmental entity, the Tupelo Police Department, for a non-business purpose in violation of the civil rights of the Plaintiff[, ] thereby creating a number of other federal questions in this matter, including with the Federal Commerce Clause.” Id. at ¶ 3. Plaintiff alleges that venue is proper in this judicial district “since the Plaintiff resides in this Federal Court Circuit-the Middle District of Alabama[, ]” at a physical address situated in Montgomery, Alabama. Id. at ¶ 4.

         According to the Complaint, Plaintiff is a “70 year old white female . . . who was mistreated and defamed by Defendant Comfort Inn-Tupelo on or about February 14, 2017[.]” Id. at ¶ 5. “Defendants are Comfort Inn-Tupelo, its employees who were black who had contact with the Plaintiff and its owner Fusion Hospitality, LLC and/ Bhupender “Bruce” Patel, a non-white doing business in America.” Id. at ¶ 6. In short, the relevant facts are as follows: Plaintiff and her husband were guests of the Comfort Inn in Tupelo, Mississippi, on February 14, 2017. They “planned on staying in Tupelo two or three days in accord with their prior reservations.” Id. at ¶ 7. On February 15, 2017, at approximately 12:30 p.m., Plaintiff was alone in her hotel room working on the couple's “income tax records.” Id. Plaintiff alleges “the hotel employees came into the Plaintiff's room and proceeded to arrest her in an irate flurry of confusion with a Tupelo Officer being present, who had already been wrongfully informed that the Plaintiff was not lawfully in the room.” Id. Plaintiff was arrested and taken to the Tupelo Police Department, however, “ultimately the case was dismissed.” Id. at ¶ 8.

         Plaintiff incurred expenses in defending her criminal charges in Mississippi, including posting a bond, retaining a criminal defense attorney, and traveling numerous times to Tupelo to deal with the matter. Id. at ¶ 11. Plaintiff has not received an apology or explanation from the Defendant hotel for the events that transpired on that day. Id. at ¶ 12.

         From this pool of allegations, Plaintiff purports to present claims alleging violations of rights secured by the Constitution and federal laws:

The conduct of the Defendant(s) . . . supports the Plaintiff's averment that she has been denied both substantive and procedural due process rights granted by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 USC Sections 1983 and 1981 along with the guarantees of the U.S. Constitution's 5th, 14th and 1stAmendments[.]

Id. at ¶ 17. Specifically, she charges “REVERSE RACIAL DISCRIMINATION ALLEGATIONS AGAINST ALL THE DEFENDANTS IN THIS MATTER, ” as well as alleges violations of her rights to free speech and free association, “[d]enial of property interest or right without proper due process, ” “Equal Protection Clause violations, by not treating the Plaintiff like others similarly situated, ” and, after her “request of federal law compliance made to Defendant(s), ” retaliation against her “in violation of Federal law's anti-retaliation provisions and ‘whistle blower' protection provisions.” Id. Plaintiff also purports to present “STATE COURT TORTS, ” including “Multiple Acts of Harrassment, ” “Multiple Act of Assualt, ” “Slander, ” “Libel, ” “Mental Anguish, ” “Interference with Contract, ” “Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress-Outrage, ” and “Invasion of Privacy.” Id. at ¶ 20.

         Plaintiff seeks recovery of “Compensatory Damages, Consequential Damages, Punitive Damages and Declaratory Relief, and such equitable relief or other relief this Honorable Court deems appropriate, including but not limited to Equitable Attorney Fees and Court Costs in addition to clearing the Plaintiff's criminal record of all improper and/or retaliatory matters and restoring her funds which have wrongfully been taken by Defendants[.]” Id. at 7-8.

         II. DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS

         As referenced above, the Defendants designated in the Complaint as Comfort Inn-Tupelo, Mississippi, Fusion Hospitality, LLC, and Bruce Patel have filed a Motion to Dismiss for lack of Personal Jurisdiction (Doc. 9) and a Motion to Dismiss for Improper Venue, or, in the alternative, Motion to Transfer Venue (Doc. 10).[1]

         The Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction is presented pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In the motion, Defendants argue that, as to general jurisdiction, none of the Defendants have sufficient minimum contacts with Alabama, as all Defendants reside, conduct business, and maintain all relevant documents in Mississippi, and that, as to specific jurisdiction, “[n]o part of the events, acts or omissions occurred in Alabama.” Doc. 9 at 5. Defendants also maintain that, even if any Defendant possessed sufficient minimum contacts with Alabama to support this court's exercise of jurisdiction, due process nonetheless requires the court to decline such jurisdiction in accord with “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Id. at 10. Defendants' motion is supported by the affidavit of Logan Bruckner Ayers, an employee of Fusion Hospitality, in which Mr. Ayers avers that all of the moving Defendants reside and conduct all business, and maintain all relevant record-keeping, in Mississippi, and that no Defendant has any sufficient contacts with the State of Alabama to support the exercise of personal jurisdiction. See Doc. 18-1.

         The Motion to Dismiss for Improper Venue or, in the alternative, Motion to Transfer Venue is presented pursuant to Rule 12(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This motion again presents Defendants' assertions that all Defendants, as well as any other individuals or entities referenced in the Complaint, other than Plaintiff, lack any contacts with Alabama, and that all the events described in the Complaint occurred in Mississippi. Doc. 10 at 5-6. Hence, Defendants contend that venue in this matter is appropriate only in the Northern District of Mississippi, and that this matter should therefore be dismissed because the interests of justice do not favor a transfer of the matter to that judicial district. Id. at 9. Defendants also contend, however, that, even if venue were appropriate in this District, the case nevertheless should be transferred to the Northern ...


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