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WEST AFRICA TRADING & SHIPPING CO. v. LONDON INT'L

June 14, 1997

WEST AFRICA TRADING & SHIPPING CO. et al., Plaintiffs.
v.
LONDON INTERNATIONAL GROUP, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WALLS

 Walls, District Judge

 This matter comes before the Court upon defendant Columbia Shipmanagement Ltd.'s ("Columbia") motion to dismiss on the ground that this Court does not have personal jurisdiction over it pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Magistrate Judge has entered a Report and Recommendation recommending that this Court grant Columbia's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Plaintiff West Africa filed timely objections to the Report and Recommendation. For the reasons discussed below, this Court denies Columbia's motion for dismiss and grants plaintiff West Africa Trading and Shipping Corporation's ("West Africa") motion for jurisdictional discovery.

 BACKGROUND

 In his Report and Recommendation, the Magistrate Judge recommends that this Court grant Columbia's motion to dismiss and deny West Africa's application for additional discovery because plaintiff has failed to prove that defendant has sufficient minimum contacts with New Jersey to support this Court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over the defendant. (Report & Recommendation at 6-7). He finds that plaintiff has failed to establish the existence of specific jurisdiction because the negligent conduct it complains of occurred outside of the United States and does not involve any action committed by Columbia in New Jersey. He further concludes that there is no general jurisdiction because Columbia's only contact with New Jersey is when its managed vessels might call at state ports at the behest and for the benefit of others.

 In addition, the Magistrate Judge rejects plaintiff's claim that personal jurisdiction could be established pursuant to Rule 4 (k)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 4 (k)(2) permits the exercise of personal jurisdiction over foreign defendants "with respect to claims arising under federal law" if the defendant has contacts sufficient with the nation as a whole to warrant the imposition of United States' law but which are insufficient to satisfy the due process concerns of any particular state's long arm statute. The Magistrate Judge holds that the Rule does not apply in this action because it "has never been held to apply to other than federal question cases." Report and Recommendation at 7 n.3 (citing Eskofot v. E.I. Du Pont De Nemours & Co., 872 F. Supp. 81, 87 (S.D.N.Y. 1995)). He also notes that "general maritime claims are not federal question claims." Id. at 6 n.3 (citing Romero v. International Terminal Operating Co., 358 U.S. 354, 367, 3 L. Ed. 2d 368, 79 S. Ct. 468 (1959)).

 This Court agrees that plaintiff has not satisfied its burden of establishing a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction under New Jersey law. However, upon review, this Court finds that Rule 4 (k) (2) is applicable and grants plaintiff's motion for jurisdictional discovery.

 DISCUSSION

 A. Standard of Review

 The court must review de novo those portions of the magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which an objection is made. See 28 U.S.C. ยง 636 (b)(1)(B); National Labor Relations Board v. Frazier, 966 F.2d 812, 816 (3d Cir. 1992). While the magistrate judge's finding are not protected by the clearly erroneous standard, a de novo review does not indicate that a second evidentiary hearing is required. See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 100 S. Ct. 2406, 65 L. Ed. 2d 424 (1980). A district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommended decision, receive further evidence, or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.

 B. Analysis

 Plaintiff objects to the Report and Recommendation on the grounds that defendant has sufficient contacts with New Jersey and the United States as a whole for this Court to exercise personal jurisdiction over it, specifically claiming that defendant's admission that its managed vessels do from time to time call on U.S. ports is sufficient to confer Rule 4(k)(2) jurisdiction. Plaintiff also urges that this Court defer ruling on the motion until jurisdictional discovery has been conducted. Upon reviewing the Magistrate Judge's findings de novo, this Court finds that he correctly determined that defendant lacked sufficient contacts with New Jersey to support exercising personal jurisdiction over defendant. Therefore, this Court will now determine if this defendant is subject to the jurisdiction of Rule 4 (k)(2):

 
If the exercise of jurisdiction is consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States, serving a summons or filing a waiver of service is also effective, with respect to claims arising under federal law, to establish personal jurisdiction over the person of any defendant who is not ...

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