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Bluhm v. Wyndham World Wide Corp.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

April 9, 2019

BRANDON BLUHM, Plaintiff,
v.
WYNDHAM WORLD WIDE CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.

         ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS WITHOUT PREJUDICE AND WITH LEAVE TO AMEND, DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS IN THE ALTERNATIVE TO TRANSFER VENUE OR FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AS MOOT, AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AS MOOT

          BENJAMIN H. SETTLE United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants Wyndham Worldwide Corporation (“WWC”), “Wyndham or one of its affiliates, including but not limited to; undivided interest, beneficial interests, credits and/or the timeshare interests (the “Timeshare Interests”) also known as Club Wyndham Access Points” (collectively, “Defendants”) motion to transfer venue or in the alternative to dismiss, and or for summary judgment. Dkt. 11. The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motion and the remainder of the file and hereby grants the motion for the reasons stated herein.

         I. PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Brandon Bluhm (“Bluhm”) is an individual who owns timeshares and earns income from renting his timeshare interests to others. Dkt. 1, ⁋⁋ 4, 18. Bluhm appears to have owned approximately 68 timeshare contracts affiliated with Defendants. See Dkt. 1, ⁋ 6. Bluhm used a website affiliated with Defendants to manage reservations and rent out his timeshare interests. Id. ⁋ 4.[1]In May 2017, Bluhm lost access to this website. Id. Bluhm alleges that in July 2017, Defendants' representative told him that if he sold back 64 of his timeshare contracts, his access to the online reservation system would be restored. Id. ⁋ 6-7. Subsequently, Bluhm sold 64 of his timeshare contracts back to Defendants. Id. ⁋ 7.[2] However, his access was not restored after the sale was complete. Id. ⁋ 4.

         Bluhm filed his complaint in this Court on October 8, 2018, alleging claims including violation of the Commerce Clause, Article 1 § 8 cl. 3, violation of the “Fair-Trade Act of 1986, ” misrepresentation, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and violation of Florida state law. Dkt. 1. On January 24, 2019, Defendants moved for transfer of venue, or in the alternative for dismissal pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), 12(b)(7), or summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Dkt. 11. On February 28, 2019, Bluhm filed a document titled “Response to Motion to Transfer Venue and In the Alternative Motion to Dismiss for Summary Judgment, ” which does not respond to Defendants' motion, but in fact contains his own motion for summary judgment. Dkt. 15.

         On February 22, 2019, Defendants replied to their motion. Dkt. 16. On March 11, 2019, Defendants responded to Bluhm's motion for summary judgment. Dkt. 17.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A court's exercise of jurisdiction must comport with the limitations imposed by due process. Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 413 (1984). Due process is satisfied when subjecting the entity to the court's power does not “offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'” Id. at 414 (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)). “[T]raditional notions of fair play and substantial justice” require that a defendant have minimum contacts with the forum state before it may be haled into a court in that forum. Int'l Shoe, 326 U.S. at 316 (1945). The extent of those contacts can result in either general or specific personal jurisdiction over the defendant. Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011). “Like a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a motion for judgment on the pleadings, ” or here, a motion to dismiss for failure to join indispensable parties, “tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint . . . .” Hodjera v. BASF Catalysts LLC, No. C17-48RSL, 2017 WL 3263717, at *1 (W.D. Wash July 31, 2017) (citing Cafasso, U.S. ex rel v. General Dynamics C4 Systems, Inc., 637 F.3d 1047, 1054 & n.4 (9th Cir. 2011)).

         Defendants' argument in support of its motion to transfer venue is based on a number of factors, including that Bluhm failed to plead sufficient facts to show personal jurisdiction over Defendants. Dkt. 11 at 10-11. The Court finds it prudent to address its power over the parties before deciding the merits of a motion to transfer venue or for summary judgment.

         General jurisdiction permits a court to consider claims against a person or corporation for any conduct, even that which occurred outside the forum state. Goodyear, 564 U.S. at 924; Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 126-27. A corporation is subject to general jurisdiction where it is incorporated and where it its principal place of business is located. Daimler AG, 571 U.S. 140. Regarding Defendants' contacts with Washington, Bluhm's complaint alleges only that WWC “is a multinational developer of vacation resorts and seller of new timeshares to consumers, ” is a corporation incorporated in Delaware with its principle place of business in Orlando, Florida, and “[does] business in the State of Washington.” Dkt. 1 ⁋ 2. As Bluhm does not allege WWC is incorporated in Washington or has its principal place of business here, he fails to allege facts sufficient for general jurisdiction.

         Specific jurisdiction permits a district court to exercise jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant for conduct that “create[s] a substantial connection with the forum State.” Walden v. Fiore, 571 U.S. 277, 284 (2014). A defendant creates a substantial connection when it purposefully directs its activities at the forum state, the lawsuit arises out of or relates to the defendant's forum-related activities, and the exercise of jurisdiction is reasonable. Picot v. Weston, 780 F.3d 1206, 1211 (9th Cir. 2015).[3]

         Defendants argue that Bluhm appears to assert general jurisdiction but does not plead sufficient supporting facts. Dkt. 11 at 10. Defendants do not address specific jurisdiction. As noted, Bluhm states in his complaint that WWC does business in Washington. The only other mention of Defendants' contacts with Washington in Blum's filings is one sentence in his response brief, stating that “the contracts were entered into in the state of Washington.” Dkt. 15 at 8.[4]

         Defendants also provide very limited information about the interactions between the parties. Dkt. 11 at 10. Facts contained in Defendants' argument that venue should be transferred to the Middle District of Florida but which may bear on specific jurisdiction include that emails attached to the complaint show Bluhm “received email communications from individuals located at Defendants' place of business in Florida, ” “a substantial part of the events giving rise to the claim occurred in Florida, ” and that at least part of the property at issue is located in Florida. Dkt. 11 at 6 (citing Dkt. 1-11). Defendants also argue that the “agreements were negotiated and executed in large part[] in Florida, ” and argue without elaboration that “the conduct surrounding the alleged breach occurred in Florida.” Id. at 7. However, even if there are many data points Defendants can cite supporting ...


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