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Murrill v. Choice Hotels International, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Northern Division

December 6, 2019

TAMARA R. MURRILL, Plaintiff,
v.
CHOICE HOTELS INTERNATIONAL, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (DE 32). Plaintiff responded in opposition and defendant replied. In this posture, the issues raised are ripe for ruling. For the following reasons, defendant's motion is granted.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         Plaintiff, who formerly worked at an EconoLodge hotel located in Elizabeth City, North Carolina (the “EconoLodge” or the “hotel”), commenced this action against defendant, allegedly a franchisor of the EconoLodge, asserting claims of negligence arising from an assault upon plaintiff by a hotel guest. On April 17, 2019, the court dismissed plaintiff's claims in part with prejudice and in part without prejudice, allowing plaintiff an opportunity to file a motion for leave to amend. See Murrill v. Choice Hotels Int'l, Inc., 383 F.Supp.3d 594, 603 (E.D. N.C. 2019). Upon plaintiff's unopposed motion, the court allowed plaintiff to file an amended complaint.

         On June 6, 2019, plaintiff filed the operative amended complaint (hereinafter, the “amended complaint”). Defendant filed the instant motion to dismiss on June 25, 2019, arguing that plaintiff's claims fail as a matter of law, and in the alternative that dismissal is warranted because plaintiff did not file her amended complaint in the time allowed by the court. Plaintiff responded in opposition on July 5, 2019, and defendant replied on July 11, 2019.

         STATEMENT OF THE FACTS

         The facts alleged in the amended complaint may be summarized as follows. Plaintiff began working at the EconoLodge at the end of 2015, when she was 17 years of age. Defendant, a Delaware corporation with principal office in Maryland, was at all times relevant herein a franchisor of the EconoLodge.

         Plaintiff was employed to run the front desk and perform other menial tasks at the hotel. At the time of her employment plaintiff was a senior in high school, with limited work experience. Plaintiff applied for the position by calling the hotel and asking if they had any open positions. Plaintiff “believed she was being employed by ‘EconoLodge,' a national hotel chain, which is owned and controlled by” defendant. (Am. Compl. ¶ 8).

         Upon employment, plaintiff received minimal training, including training to use a software system for payment and reservations, which was controlled, owned, and created by defendant. Defendant also provides software for further training to employees of the EconoLodge regarding day-to-day employment activities. “[S]aid software is known as ‘Choice University' and is a program designed and implemented by [defendant] and required to be used by the franchisee.” (Id. ¶ 11). According to the amended complaint, defendant undertook the following actions with respect to training and oversight of the EconoLodge:

Defendant requires of each of its franchisees to enter into a franchise agreement which requires the following affirmative actions on the part of both parties as it pertains to regulations and rules:
i. [the franchisee shall] comply with the requirements of the agreement and the rules and regulations [provided by Defendant]
ii. The right of the Defendant to periodically inspect the franchisee property and procedures and advise on changes the hotel ‘must' make to comply with the rules and regulations iii. Define rules and regulations as current rules and regulations applying to all hotels created by the Defendant and including operating and maintaining the hotel.
iv. Requires mandatory training for General Manager.
v. Requires on site hotel training and review upon initial licensing vi. Conducts mandatory and voluntary training programs, as well as regularly scheduled training seminars, and interactive computer and mobile ...

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