The opinion of the court was delivered by: WOLIN
The defendants, Moore-Hudson Oldsmobile GMC, Inc. ("Moore-Hudson"), Lyons Motors, Inc. ("Lyons") and Childress Buick ("Childress"), renew their application to dismiss the amended complaint as it pertains to them on the grounds that the court lacks in personam jurisdiction and that the District of New Jersey is the improper venue.
For the reasons set forth herein the motion as to lack of personal jurisdiction is granted as to all defendants, thereby mooting the issue of improper venue.
Regency Oldsmobile, Inc. ("Regency") was an automobile dealership located in Lakewood, New Jersey. In 1985, with the tacit approval of General Motors Corporation ("GM"), Regency became involved in the nationwide marketing of GM's Protection Plan (the "Plan"), a service contract in the nature of an extended warranty for newly purchased GM vehicles. Difficulties arose between Regency and GM, and Regency ultimately ceased its nationwide sales program and in fact sold the assets of its agency in April, 1987. Regency thereafter instituted this action against GM. In the amended complaint Regency asserted violations of federal antitrust statutes, as well as violations of state law against GM and certain designated dealer defendants.
It is undisputed that during Regency's sales program the dealer defendants wrote to GM objecting to sales of the Plan in each of the dealers' geographic areas. It is further undisputed that none of these dealers transact business, solicit or advertise in New Jersey. Each maintain a principal place of business in a foreign state. By virtue of dealer letter-complaints,
Regency submits that personal jurisdiction is proper in the District of New Jersey.
With this factual overview in mind, an examination of the leading authorities clearly demonstrates that personal jurisdiction over these defendants in the District of New Jersey is unwarranted.
There is no question that all dealers who wrote letters to GM (collectively, the "defendants") were deeply concerned about extra-geographical competition and the embarrassment factor associated with a discount offer by another dealer when their customer had paid the full suggested Plan price. Some of them had ceased selling other types of warranty plans in acceding to the profit lure GM forecasted in its 1985 model year advance literature and subsequently continued in GM's Administrative Guide. Understandably, they contacted GM for an explanation. Albeit some dealers phrased their inquiry more strongly than others, none of them suggested that GM take any action against Regency in New Jersey. Their primary concern was the elimination of the reduced price dealing within their respective geographical areas.
Moore-Hudson Oldsmobile GMC, Inc.
Lyons was incorporated and authorized to conduct business only in the State of Montana. It had no business relationships with any entity conducting business in the State of New Jersey. Lyons addressed two letters to representatives of GM relating to concerns it had regarding interference with its business relationships with its customers. It had no oral communication with GM. The first letter, dated August 17, 1985, may be fairly characterized as an angry letter of inquiry. The second letter, dated February 26, 1986, commented on customer relations as a result of Regency's sales program and suggested that GM make inquiry of other dealers as to whether their customers were also "harassed by this 'Regency Oldsmobile.'" The second letter concluded that if GM wanted Lyons to sell the Plan, GM should "curb 'this other dealer' from calling on our customers and let us do our job."
At no time did GM respond to either of these letters. Lyons also had no direct contact with Regency.
Childress is an Arizona corporation authorized to do business in that state. It, too, had no business relationships with any other entities conducting business in the State of New Jersey. Many of its customers who had purchased the Plan subsequently received solicitations from Regency and notified Childress of these solicitations. Based upon their customers' concern, Childress wrote a letter of inquiry to GM Protection Plan Supervision. This letter expressed concern that GM was leaking its customers' names to "this dealership in New Jersey or Pennsylvania." It closed with a request that GM protect their customers' names from falling into the hands of their competitors.
As a result of a GM reply, Childress learned that Regency was purchasing lists of customers' names from R.L. Polk Registration Lists. Childress sent another letter to A.J. ...