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Schaffer v. Granit Hotel Inc.

Decided: April 16, 1970.


Kilkenny, Labrecque and Leonard. The opinion of the court was delivered by Leonard, J.A.D.


Plaintiffs appeal from a judgment dismissing their action for lack of jurisdiction over defendant.

On February 4, 1966 plaintiffs were paying guests at the Granit Hotel, Kerhonkson, New York. The female plaintiff was injured while using a toboggan run maintained by the hotel. She and her husband instituted suit in August 1967 against defendant, which owns and operates the hotel.

Service of process was accomplished by sending a copy of the summons and complaint registered mail, return receipt requested, to defendant at its principal place of business in New York. A New York attorney, not licensed to practice in this State, filed an answer in September. Thereafter New Jersey counsel filed a stipulation extending the time to answer and later an answer. Therein it was asserted, among other contentions, that the Superior Court had no jurisdiction over defendant by reason of deficient service of process.

Defendant subsequently moved for a dismissal of the complaint. After considering the pleadings, pretrial order, affidavits offered by both parties, admissions by plaintiffs, exhibits and defendant's answers and amended answers to plaintiffs' interrogatories, the trial court concluded that plaintiffs failed to "disclose sufficient minimum contacts in this case to sustain jurisdiction in this state over the person of defendant." Thus, the judgment now under attack was entered.

R.R. 4:4-4(d), now part of R. 4:4-4(c)(1), authorizes substituted service of process on a foreign corporation where service cannot be made in any of the other ways listed in that rule, "subject to due process of law, by mailing, registered mail, return receipt requested, a copy of the summons and complaint to a registered agent for service or to its principal place of business, or its registered office." Amercoat Corp. v. Reagent Chem. & Research, Inc. , 108 N.J. Super. 331, 336 (App. Div. 1970). The clear purpose of this rule is "to vest our courts with jurisdiction

over foreign corporations to the outer limits permitted by due process." Id. , at 336; Corporate Development Specialists, Inc. v. Warren-Teed Pharmaceuticals, Inc. , 102 N.J. Super. 143, 148 (App. Div. 1968).

Since International Shoe [ International Shoe Co. v. State of Washington , 326 U.S. 310, 66 S. Ct. 154, 90 L. Ed. 95 (1945)] the law has been that due process requires only that in order to subject a defendant to a judgment in personam , if he be not present within the territory of the forum, he have certain minimum contacts with it such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Roland v. Modell's Shoppers World of Bergen County , 92 N.J. Super. 1, 6 (App. Div. 1966).

Those demands of due process may be met by such contacts of the corporation with the State or the forum as make it reasonable to require the corporation to defend the particular suit which is brought here. Amercoat Corp., supra , at 340; Corporate Development Specialists, Inc., supra , 102 N.J. Super. , at 148. There is a steady trend toward expanding the permissible scope of state jurisdiction over foreign corporations and other non-residents. Id. , at 149. The application of the rule to each case depends upon the facts in that particular case. Roland, supra , at 6.

In the instant case plaintiffs, residents of this State, made their reservations at defendant's hotel through the Saddle Brook Rochelle Park Jewish Center (Center). The Center had been taking groups of people to the hotel for winter weekends during the past four or five years. It had been the practice of the Center officials, while at the hotel, to make arrangements for the following year, pending a written contract. Thus, arrangements for the pertinent 1966 weekend were made in March 1965. Thereafter a tentative contract, dated March 15, 1965, was mailed to New Jersey to the chairlady of the event for the Center. She, in turn, during the spring of 1965 sent a deposit check in the amount of $118, by mail from New Jersey to New York. A final contract was mailed to her on or about May 17, 1966.

Needing more rooms she telephoned the hotel from New Jersey "using its direct wire service." After adding additional rooms to the contract, the agreement was signed by her ...

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