Law School Case Brief
Gardemal v. Westin Hotel Co. - 186 F.3d 588 (5th Cir. 1999)
A district court's dismissal for want of personal jurisdiction is subject to de novo review. When a nonresident defendant moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating the district court's jurisdiction over the defendant. When the district court rules on the motion without an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff may satisfy its burden by presenting a prima facie case for jurisdiction.
Plaintiff Lisa Cerza Gardemal ("Gardemal"), as the administrator of the estate of her deceased husband, John W. Gardemal, filed raising wrongful death and survival actions, under Texas law, in federal district court against defendants Westin Hotel Company ("Westin") and Westin Mexico, S.A. de C.V. ("Westin Mexico"). Gardemal alleged that defendants were liable for the drowning death of her husband at a resort operated by defendants in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. According to Gardemal, the concierge at the resort directed a group of tourists, including the decedent, to "Lovers Beach" which, unbeknownst to the group, was notorious for its rough surf and strong undercurrents. While climbing the beach's rocky shore, five men in the group were swept into the Pacific Ocean by a rogue wave and thrown against the rocks. Two of the men, including the decedent, drowned. The district court dismissed the suit in accordance with the magistrate judge's recommendation that the court grant Westin's motion for summary judgment, and Westin Mexico's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Gardemal appealed.
Did the district court err in granting Westin's motion for summary judgment and in granting Westin Mexico's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction?
The appellate court affirmed the district court's rulings. As to Westin's motion for summary judgment, the court found that the record indicated nothing more than a typical corporate relationship between a parent and subsidiary corporation. Thus, Gardemal failed to establish that Westin, the parent corporation was the alter-ego of Westin Mexico, its subsidiary corporation. Because there was no evidence of complete domination by Westin as the parent corporation, it was properly granted summary judgment. As to the Westin Mexico's motion to dismiss, the court found that there was no evidence to form the basis for the exercise of specific or general personal jurisdiction, and thus it was lacking.
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