Thursday, March 9, 2017

Case of the Day: DiFederico v. Marriott Int'l, Inc., 2017 U.S.App.LEXIS 1864 (4th Cir. Feb. 2, 2017)


A terrorist in Islamabad, Pakistan killed the plaintiff decedent while he was staying at a Marriott hotel, which was a franchisee of the defendant Marriott International. District Court first found that Pakistani law, the lex loci delicti, was identical with Maryland law, and used Maryland law, which allows for liability for franchisors when the franchise agreement contains an express agency relationship or the franchisors committed the injury-causing act by controlling the instrumentalities of injury. Pursuant to this law, the District Court granted summary judgment against the plaintiff.

The Circuit Court affirmed. The court found that defendant did not control the hotel's security beyond requiring certain standards, and therefore did not control the instrumentalities that led to the plaintiff's death.


The buried lede of this case is the court applying Maryland law under the theory that it is the same as the Pakistani law. While this is the prevailing standard for the choice of law, I always found this to be somewhat strange.

Also relevant is how the franchisor-franchisee scheme allocates liability. Presumably, the hotel in Islamabad is not a very fruitful defendant. But the U.S. franchisor is able to shield itself from liability in this manner.

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