Massachusetts Woman’s Wrongful Death Case for Husband and Son’s Death in Canadian Hotel Should Not Have Been Dismissed

A Cape Cod wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit cannot succeed unless the plaintiff is able to prove that the defendant’s negligence caused the accident victim’s death or physical harm. This must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, via legally admissible evidence.

Of course, this assumes that the case ultimately makes its way into a courtroom and is tried in front of a judge and jury. It is important to note that there are a lot of steps that may occur before this happens.

First and foremost, the court in which the suit is filed must have jurisdiction over the case. This encompasses both the right to adjudicate the subject matter of the suit and also power over the particular defendants, a concept known as “personal jurisdiction.”

Facts of the Case

In a recent federal case, the plaintiff was a woman who lost both her husband and her son in a drowning accident in Montreal, Canada, in 2016. The husband died immediately, but the son was pronounced brain dead and died sometime later. Suing both individually and administratrix of the estate of the husband and son, she sought compensation from the defendant hotel owners (who owned the pool where the drownings occurred). The plaintiff’s wrongful death lawsuit was filed in 2018 in a Massachusetts state court. One of the defendants was a Canadian corporation, one was a Delaware corporation, and one was a Maryland corporation. In addition to the wrongful death claims, the plaintiff also asserted causes of action for conscious pain and suffering of the son who died and negligent infliction of emotional distress on behalf of her two surviving children, who witnessed the drownings.

The defendants removed the case to federal court based on diversity of citizenship and then moved for dismissal based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens and on the allegation that none of the defendants were subject to personal jurisdiction in Massachusetts. The district court initially denied the defendants’ motion but later granted dismissal based on the forum non conveniens argument.

Opinion of the Court

The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of the defendants’ motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s suit for lack of personal jurisdiction and reversed the district court’s order granting dismissal on forum non conveniens grounds. The lower court had based its decision in part on the number of Canadian witnesses who could not or would not travel to Massachusetts for the litigation. However, as the appellate court pointed out, the only two potential witnesses who were actually present when the drownings happened were the plaintiff’s two surviving children, both of whom were American citizens.

The reviewing court noted that, because the defendants had sent certain promotional material to the plaintiff and the decedent husband to entice them to travel to Canada, there was sufficient contact for personal jurisdiction, as well.

Seek Advice from an Injury Attorney in Cape Cod

When a landowner or property owner’s negligence causes a wrongful death, the victim’s family should speak to an attorney about the process of holding the responsible party liable. At the Law Offices of John C. Manoog III, we have experience in these types of cases, and we welcome your call. Phone us at 888-262-6664 or use the contact page on this website to learn more about our services. We serve clients throughout the Cape Cod area, including Hyannis and Plymouth.

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