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Tappe v. DIT, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

August 30, 2018

JAYNE TAPPE
v.
DIT, LLC, ET AL

          DOUGHTY JUDGE.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Mark L. Hornsby, U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         Introduction

         Samuel Tappe, a resident of Caddo Parish, enrolled in classes at the Divers Institute of Technology (“DIT”) in Seattle, Washington. He was, unfortunately, found dead in his Seattle apartment two days after a deep dive. Samuel's mother, Jayne Tappe (“Plaintiff” or “Ms. Tappe”), filed this wrongful death and survival suit against DIT.

         Before the court is DIT's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction or in the Alternative Transfer Venue (Doc. 12). DIT argues that the court lacks personal jurisdiction over it and should dismiss the complaint without prejudice, or in the alternative, transfer the action to the Western District of Washington, which is a more convenient venue and can exercise personal jurisdiction over DIT. For the reasons that follow, it is recommended that the motion be granted by transferring venue of this action to the Western District of Washington.

         Relevant Facts

         On a pretrial motion that challenges personal jurisdiction, where no evidentiary hearing is held, the uncontroverted allegations in the plaintiff's complaint must be taken as true, and any conflicts between facts contained in the parties' affidavits must be resolved in the plaintiff's favor. Bullion v. Gillespie, 895 F.2d 213, 217 (5th Cir.1990). The following recitation of facts is based on the allegations in the complaint (except as Plaintiff agreed during briefing were different) and the uncontested affidavit testimony of the executive director of DIT.

         Samuel was a member of the United States Army. After completing his enlistment and returning to his home in Shreveport, he enrolled in DIT by completing an application on the school's website. He was accepted and later signed an enrollment agreement at the school's offices in Seattle, Washington. Classes at the school are limited to no more than 30 students, admission standards are demanding, and tuition and fees exceed $30, 000 for a 28-week course.

         Samuel's school session began in April 2016. He and his classmates engaged in a deep 124-feet dive in Lake Washington on or about October 26, 2016. Plaintiff alleges that within 12 to 24 hours after the dive, two of Samuel's classmates suffered from decompression sickness, and at least one of them was treated in a decompression chamber.

         Samuel, who had received a commendation for perfect attendance, did not attend class or testing on the following two days. No. one from DIT called Samuel or went to his apartment, which was only five or six blocks from the campus, to check on him. A classmate asked the Seattle police to check on Samuel on the evening of October 28, 2016, after Samuel did not respond to calls or answer the door. The police and fire department found Samuel deceased and opined that his death was the result of a complication from diving.

         Plaintiff asserts claims for survival damages and wrongful death. She alleges that “the equipment used during the deep dive was faulty, improperly maintained, and/or contained an improper mixture of gases for use during the October 26, 2016 dive.” She alleges that DIT “negligently failed to check on” Samuel after he failed to attend class and testing, and she contends that DIT “failed to properly maintain the diving equipment used” during the deep dive.

         DIT's motion is accompanied by an affidavit from its executive director, who sets forth several facts regarding the school. First, it has been owned and operated by DIT, LLC since June 2000. The LLC was formed under Washington law, and its principal place of business is Seattle. It has no office, real estate, or bank accounts in Louisiana. None of the principals of the LLC reside in Louisiana. The school is licensed under the laws of the State of Washington. It does not purposefully recruit students in Louisiana, nor does it advertise in any Louisiana-based television, radio, or print media. Between 2012 and 2018, DIT enrolled 1, 500 students, only six of whom were Louisiana residents, making them only 0.4% of DIT students during that time.

         Analysis

         A. ...


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