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Starykowicz v. International Management Group Limited

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

June 4, 2014



JAMES F. HOLDERMAN, District Judge.

On November 14, 2013, plaintiff Andrew Starykowicz ("Starykowicz") filed a single-count complaint (Dkt. No. 1) against defendant International Management Group (UK) Limited ("IMG") alleging IMG negligently and carelessly operated a triathlon race at which Starykowicz was injured. The triathlon took place in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates ("UAE"). On January 9, 2014, IMG filed a motion to dismiss for insufficient service, lack of personal jurisdiction, and improper venue, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(5), 12(b)(2), and 12(b)(3), respectively. (Dkt. No. 9.) On February 27, 2014, this court granted (Dkt. No. 20) Starykowicz's motion for leave to file an amended complaint (Dkt. No. 18); Starykowicz filed his pending amended complaint ("Amended Complaint") (Dkt. No. 21 ("Am. Compl.")); and IMG filed two separate motions to dismiss: one for insufficient service, lack of personal jurisdiction, and improper venue (Dkt. No. 22), and a second motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens (Dkt. No. 23). For the reasons explained below, IMG's for forum non conveniens (Dkt. No. 23) is granted.


The following facts are drawn from Starykowicz's Amended Complaint and the agreement governing Starykowicz's participation in the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, which is referenced in and integral to the allegations of Starykowicz's Amended Complaint.[1]

I. The Parties and the Events Preceding the 2012 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon

Starykowicz is a professional triathlete who resides in Wauconda, Illinois. (Am. Compl. ¶ 1.) IMG is a foreign corporation headquartered in London, United Kingdom. ( Id. ¶ 2.) IMG organizes and operates athletic events around the world, including the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon ("Triathlon"), which is the annual race giving rise to this lawsuit. ( Id. ¶ 6; Dkt. No. 30 ("Pl.'s Resp.") at 2.) In 2011, Starykowicz signed up for the 2011 Triathlon[2] through the website IMG created at (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 6-9.) The website was "fully interactive" and provided a portal for prospective athletes to register and pay for entry into the Triathlon. ( Id. ¶ 7.) IMG also advertised the 2011 Triathlon through trade magazines and on social media websites. ( Id. ¶ 8.)

On March 12, 2011, Starykowicz raced in the 2011 Triathlon and finished in tenth place. Because of his strong finish, IMG invited Starykowicz to race in the 2012 Triathlon as an "IMG-sponsored athlete." ( Id. ¶ 11.) Starykowicz and IMG entered into an agreement (the "Triathlon Agreement") under which IMG agreed to provide Starykowicz with entry to the 2012 Triathlon, two round-trip tickets from Chicago to Abu Dhabi, and hotel accommodations for Starykowicz and a guest. ( Id. ¶ 13; see also Dkt. No. 23 Ex. A ("Triathlon Agreement").) The Triathlon Agreement required Starykowicz to participate "fully" in the 2012 Triathlon and "use all reasonable efforts to complete the [race]." (Triathlon Agreement at 2.) The Triathlon Agreement further required Starykowicz to appear at events intended to promote the 2012 Triathlon, to promote the 2012 Triathlon through social media outlets, to provide "quote[s] of a positive nature" about the event, and to provide a list of local press contacts to IMG. (Am. Compl. ¶ 14; Triathlon Agreement at 2.)

The Triathlon Agreement contains a liability waiver and a forum selection clause. The liability waiver provides that Starykowicz shall not be liable to IMG for "any indirect or consequential loss or damage arising out of or in connection with this Agreement." (Triathlon Agreement ¶ (c).) The Triathlon Agreement does not limit IMG's liability to Starykowicz. ( Id. ) The forum selection clause states "[t]his agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the [sic] England and the parties agree to submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English Courts." ( Id. ¶ (j).)

II. The Events of the 2012 Triathlon

The remaining allegations in Starykowicz's Amended Complaint describe a professional athlete's worst nightmare. IMG placed an aid station in an allegedly dangerous location on the bicycle course of the 2012 Triathlon. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 18-25.) IMG's chosen location required riders to slow down and cross through the passing lanes-the lanes for faster riders to pass slower riders-in order to receive food, water, and other aid. ( Id. ¶ 25.) Race volunteers, apparently recognizing the danger of IMG's aid station placement, took it upon themselves to rearrange the aid station. ( Id. ¶ 26.) Unfortunately, the volunteers' redesign was even more dangerous because it required volunteers to cross the bicycle course on foot to resupply the aid station. ( Id. ¶ 27.) As Starykowicz approached the aid station on his bicycle, non-party race volunteer Carly Ann Williams ("Williams") darted out in front of him. ( Id. ¶ 30.) Starykowicz was unable to stop and collided with Williams. ( Id. ¶ 31.)

Because Starykowicz was winning the bicycle portion of the race by a large margin when he collided with Williams, he tried to finish the race. ( Id. ¶¶ 28, 32.) Unfortunately, his injuries were too painful and he was forced to retire. ( Id. ¶ 32.) Starykowicz reported to the emergency room, was told that his injuries were limited to "swelling, bruising, and minor tears, " and left the hospital the same evening. ( Id. ¶ 34.) Williams was not so lucky. She sustained a severe head injury that required six weeks in the hospital, part of which she spent in a medically-induced coma. ( Id. ¶ 33.) Williams has thankfully recovered and currently works in the UAE. ( Id. )

On March 4, 2012, the day after the race, IMG representatives informed Starykowicz that there was a warrant for his arrest and escorted him to a police station. ( Id. ¶¶ 35-36.) After subjecting Starykowicz to more than six hours of questioning and eight hours of confinement, UAE authorities charged him with (i) unintentional hitting, (ii) jeopardizing a pedestrian's safety, and (iii) failing to take "due care measures and precautions" while driving a vehicle on the road, which was of course closed for the race. ( Id. ¶ 38.) Although UAE officials released Starykowicz from the holding cell after charging him, they confiscated his passport and his criminal instrument (the bicycle). ( Id. ¶ 39.) After five weeks of uncertainty, the UAE Attorney General stated that he would release Starykowicz's passport if Starykowicz paid AED 200, 000 (USD 54, 000) in "blood money, " which would be paid to Williams's family if she died from her injuries. ( Id. ¶ 40.) If she recovered, the Attorney General would return the money to Starykowicz. ( Id. ) Finally, the UAE required Starykowicz to post a bond of AED 5, 000 (USD 1, 300). ( Id. ¶ 41.)

It is not clear from Starykowicz's Amended Complaint whether he ever paid the blood money. Somehow, presumably upon Williams's recovery, he was allowed to return home to the United States. ( See Am. Compl. ¶ 42.) Upon his return, Starykowicz consulted several doctors and learned that his injuries, which the UAE doctors diagnosed as "swelling, bruising, and minor tears, " were much more severe. ( Id. ¶ 42.) Starykowicz required surgery, rehabilitation, and physical therapy which caused him to forego competing in triathlons until October 2012. As a testament to his talent and resilience, Starykowicz won two of his first three races after coming back from injury and set a bicycle course record at Ironman Florida in 2012. Notwithstanding his recent success, however, Starykowicz claims that his injuries from the 2012 Triathlon in Abu Dhabi continue to hinder his performance in the swimming and running portions of his triathlon races. ( Id. ¶ 46.)

On November 11, 2013, Starykowicz filed this lawsuit against IMG. Starykowicz's single-count Amended Complaint alleges that as a direct and proximate result of IMG's careless and negligent operation of the 2012 Triathlon, Starykowicz collided with non-party volunteer Williams and was severely injured. ( Id. ¶ 52.) Furthermore, Starykowicz claims the UAE medical personnel's misdiagnosis of his injuries and the UAE's decision to detain him for five weeks caused additional pain and suffering. ( Id. ¶ 53.) Starykowicz seeks damages for the amount he would have made for winning the 2012 Triathlon, the cost of his medical expenses arising out ...

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