On October 14, 2008, Sandals Resorts in Antigua abandoned multiple scuba divers in the open ocean for over 2 ½ hours when the resort’s dive boat left the dive site. The amazing fact of this case is just 8 months prior, the exact situation occurred at the same resort. That time a British couple was abandoned in the water for 5 hours. Brais & Brais filed a claim on behalf of a diver in Miami, Florida state court against Sandals for negligence as well as the Miami, Florida based travel agency Unique Vacation who booked the vacation for its failure to warn of problems with the Sandals Antigua scuba diving operation.
After responding to the complaint, Sandals and Unique Vacations removed the case from state court to federal court. Federal court is typically more costly to plaintiffs than state court and, for this reason, favored by corporate defendants. Brais & Brais argued the statute which Sandals and Unique Vacations relied upon to remove the case does not apply when a corporation is headquartered in the state where the lawsuit was filed. Since Unique Vacations is a Florida company, Brais & Brais argued removal was improper and the case must be remanded back to the diver’s chosen state court forum. The federal court agreed. The judge also found Sandals and Unique Vacations’ removal lacked any objective reasonable basis as the case is clearly not removable given the statute’s language and the fact Unique Vacation is a Florida corporation. Based upon this finding, and even though we took this case on a contingency basis, the Court found Sandals & Unique Vacations liable for reasonable attorney’s fees for Brais & Brais’ time associated with preparing the legal memoranda required for remanding the case. Click here to read the federal court’s order.