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Linehan v. Nugget

September 5, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert M. Dow, Jr. United States District Judge

Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.


This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claim for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue [34] pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(3). Having carefully reviewed the briefs [36, 37] and the case law cited by the parties, the Court grants the motion and dismisses this case for lack of personal jurisdiction.

I. Background

Plaintiff, Margaret Linehan ("Linehan" or "Plaintiff"), a resident and citizen of Chicago, Illinois, filed this diversity action on December 14, 2005 against Defendants Golden Nugget, Golden Nugget Experience, LLC, Mirage Resorts, Incorporated d/b/a The Golden Nugget, MGM Mirage d/b/a The Golden Nugget, Landry's Restaurant Inc. d/b/a The Golden Nugget, Poster Financial Group d/b/a GNLV, Corp., and GNLV, Inc. d/b/a Golden Nugget. After several amendments, Plaintiff filed the operative complaint in this matter on February 21, 2006. See [12-2, 15]. Linehan seeks to recover for personal injuries that she allegedly sustained on or about February 25, 2004, when she slipped and fell at the Golden Nugget hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. [12-2], Second Am. Compl. ¶ 9.

At the time of Plaintiff's alleged slip and fall, GNLV, Corp. owned and operated the Golden Nugget. See Beckett Aff., Ex B to Def. Mem. ¶ 14. Golden Nugget, Inc., formerly known as Poster Financial Group, Inc., owns all of the outstanding issued shares of GNLV, Corp. and does not now own, nor has it ever owned, real estate or property in the state of Illinois, nor has it had employees or agents or transacted business in Illinois. Id. ¶¶ 9-11. On September 27, 2005, Golden Nugget, Inc. was acquired by Landry's Gaming, Inc., a separate entity incorporated in Nevada. Id. ¶ 18. Like Golden Nugget, Inc., Landry's Gaming Inc. does not now own, nor has it ever owned, real estate or property in Illinois, nor has it had employees or agents, or transacted business in Illinois. Scheinthal Aff., Ex. C to Def. Mem. ¶ 5.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants reached out to citizens of Illinois through their advertising, promotions and other materials regarding their hotels and casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada, including over the Internet. Second Am. Compl. ¶ 7. Plaintiff elaborates this point in her opposition brief, specifically asserting that Defendants' contacts with Illinois are evidenced principally by their interactive website that can be used by Illinois residents. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants have promoted the Golden Nugget through other business activities in Illinois, including (i) Defendant Landry's Restaurants, Inc.'s ownership of Joe's Crab Shacks and Rainforest Café restaurants in Illinois, (ii) the "increase" in number of corporate/tour groups that visited The Golden Nugget hotel in Las Vegas including Illinois companies from the Chicagoland area, and (iii) the Golden Nugget's Independent Agent Marketing Agreements with individuals located in Illinois. See Pl. Resp. at 3-4. Plaintiff contends that "the purpose" of Defendants' promotion and solicitation activities is "to bring Illinois residents to the Golden Nugget's Hotel and Casino." Pl. Resp. at 7.

Various agents of Defendants confirmed that the Golden Nugget hotel maintains an interactive website through which prospective customers may make reservations for the hotel and for the hotel's spa and restaurant services. Bonnell Dep. at 10, 19, Ex A to Pl. Resp.; Chasey Dep. at 11, 23-25, 30; Ex. C to Pl. Resp.; Beckett Dep. at 11, Ex. G to Pl. Resp. Nonetheless Defendants counter that none of their activities, including the operation of the Golden Nugget's interactive website, are sufficient to create personal jurisdiction in Illinois. Defs. Reply at 2.

II. Analysis

A.Legal Standard on Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction or Improper Venue

Rule 12(b)(2) states that an action against a party over whom the Court lacks personal jurisdiction must be dismissed. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2). Plaintiff has the burden of establishing a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction. See Steel Warehouse of Wisconsin, Inc. v. Leach, 154 F.3d 712, 714 (7th Cir. 1998). When determining whether Plaintiff has met her burden, jurisdictional allegations pleaded in the complaint are accepted as true unless proved otherwise by Defendants' affidavits or exhibits. See Purdue Research Foundation v. Sanofi-Sythelabo, S.A., 338 F.3d 773, 782 (7th Cir. 2003); Travelers Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Interclaim (Bermuda) Ltd., 304 F. Supp. 2d 1018, 1021 (N.D. Ill. 2004). In addition, any conflicts in the affidavits regarding relevant facts must be resolved in Plaintiff's favor. See Purdue, 338 F.3d at 782 (citations omitted). However, the Seventh Circuit has cautioned that "once the defendant has submitted affidavits or other evidence in opposition to the exercise of jurisdiction, the plaintiff must go beyond the pleadings and submit affirmative evidence supporting the exercise of jurisdiction."

Id. at 783.

Rule 12(b)(3) provides that a party may move to dismiss an action when that action has not been filed in a proper venue. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(3). Venue is properly established in:

(1) a judicial district where any defendant resides, if all defendants reside in the same State, (2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the subject of the action is situated, or (3) a judicial district in which any defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction at the ...

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