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Halak v. Scovill

January 15, 1997

JOHN J. HALAK, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
JACK SCOVILL, SUSAN SCOVILL, HAVEN CHARTERS AND ARPEGE CHARTERS, INC., DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Somerset County.

Approved for Publication January 17, 1997. As Corrected January 22, 1997.

Before Judges Pressler, Stern and Humphreys. The opinion of the court was delivered by Humphreys, J.A.D.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Humphreys

The opinion of the court was delivered by

HUMPHREYS, J.A.D.

Plaintiff, an attorney and New Jersey resident, chartered a boat in Maryland for a three day excursion on the Chesapeake Bay. The boat malfunctioned. The parties could not agree on the amount of a refund. Plaintiff stopped payment on checks he had given to the defendants for the charter fee. The defendants then filed a criminal complaint in Maryland against the plaintiff based on the stopped payment. A warrant was issued for plaintiff's arrest. Defendants also allegedly advised other boat charterers in Maryland that plaintiff had issued a bad check and that a warrant for his arrest was outstanding.

Plaintiff engaged counsel in Maryland to defend against the criminal complaint. The Maryland Attorney General's office determined that it would not prosecute the complaint and it was dismissed.

Plaintiff brought suit in New Jersey alleging breach of contract, malicious prosecution, abuse of process and defamation. The complaint was dismissed because: (1) service of process was insufficient; and (2) the court lacked "general personal jurisdiction over the defendants." Plaintiff appeals the dismissal. We hold that sufficient minimum contacts with New Jersey have been shown and therefore jurisdiction may be exercised over the defendants.

I

When a lawsuit is filed, the court may assert personal jurisdiction over a party not present in the forum state if that party has "certain minimum contacts with [the forum] such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial Justice." International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S. Ct. 154, 158, 90 L. Ed. 95, 102 (1945); Lebel v. Everglades Marina, Inc., 115 N.J. 317, 322, 558 A.2d 1252 (1989).

The Court must evaluate "'the burden on the defendant,' 'the forum state's interest in adjudicating the dispute,' 'the plaintiff's interest in obtaining convenient and effective relief,' 'the interstate judicial system's interest in obtaining the most efficient resolution of controversies,' and the 'shared interest of the several States in furthering fundamental substantive social policies.'" Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 477, 105 S. Ct. 2174, 2184, 85 L. Ed. 2d 528, 543 (1985) (quoting World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 292, 100 S. Ct. 559, 564, 62 L. Ed. 2d 490, 498 (1980)).

New Jersey will exercise jurisdiction on non-resident defendants "to the uttermost limits permitted by the United States Constitution." Avdel Corp. v. Mecure, 58 N.J. 264, 268, 277 A.2d 207 (1971). Once "minimum contacts" have been found, the out-of-state defendant "must present a compelling case that the presence of some other considerations would render jurisdiction unreasonable." Burger King, (supra) , 471 U.S. at 477, 105 S. Ct. at 2185, 85 L. Ed. 2d at 543; see also Lebel, (supra) , 115 N.J. at 328.

The "measure of minimum contacts" varies depending on the nature of the case. Lebel, (supra) , 115 N.J. at 322. If the cause of action relates directly to the defendant's contacts with the forum state, the issue is one of "specific jurisdiction."

Ibid. ; Waste Management, Inc. v. Admiral Ins. Co., 138 N.J. 106, 119, 649 A.2d 379 (1994), cert. denied, U.S. , 115 S. Ct. 1175, 130 L. Ed. 2d 1128 (1995); Citibank, N.A. v. Estate of Simpson, 290 N.J. Super. 519, 526, 676 A.2d 172 (App. Div. 1996); Pfundstein v. Omnicom Group, Inc., 285 N.J. Super. 245, 251, 666 A.2d 1013 (App. Div. 1995); Creative Business v. Magnum, 267 N.J. Super. 560, 568-69, 632 A.2d 298 (App. Div. 1993); Cruz v. Robinson Engineering Corp., 253 N.J. Super. 66, 72-73, 600 A.2d 1238 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 130 N.J. 9, 611 A.2d 648(1992). If the suit is not related directly to the defendant's contacts, but based instead ...


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