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Decker v. Circus Circus Hotel

May 18, 1999


The opinion of the court was delivered by: William H. Walls, U.S.D.J.



This matter comes before the Court on the motion of the defendant, Circus Circus Hotel, to dismiss the complaint of Janice and Robert Decker for lack of personal jurisdiction and for improper venue pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), 12(b)(3), and to quash service of process, or, in the alternative, to transfer this action to the United States District Court for the District of Nevada pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The Court decides this motion without oral argument pursuant to Rule 78 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This action will be transferred to the District of Nevada pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a).


The plaintiffs, Janice and Robert Decker, are New Jersey residents who have brought a personal injury action against the defendant Circus Circus Hotel, a Nevada corporation with its only place of business in Las Vegas, Nevada, for injuries arising from an alleged negligent condition on the defendant's premises. This complaint was originally filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County alleging negligence and seeking recovery for personal injuries. However, the defendant removed the action to this Court. In lieu of answering the complaint the defendant filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(3), and to quash or, in the alternative, to transfer venue to the United States District Court for the District of Nevada.


A. Applicable Law

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(e), federal "district courts have personal jurisdiction over non-resident defendants to the extent authorized under the law of the forum state in which the district court sits." See Sunbelt Corp. v. Noble, Denton & Associates, Inc., 5 F.3d 28, 31 (3d Cir.1993). New Jersey's long arm statute provides for personal jurisdiction as far as is permitted by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. See N.J. Ct. R. 4:4-4; Carteret Savings Bank, FA v. Shushan, 954 F.2d 141, 145 (3d Cir.1992); DeJames v. Magnificence Carriers, Inc., 654 F.2d 280, 284 (3d. Cir. 1981). Therefore, the question of whether this Court has jurisdiction over the defendant is determined by federal constitutional law. See Mesalic v. Fiberfloat Corp., 897 F.2d 696, 698 (3d. Cir. 1990).

The Fourteenth Amendment permits a state to exercise jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant only where "the defendant purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws." Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 475, 105 S.Ct. 2174, 2184, 85 L.Ed.2d 528 (1985) (quoting Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 25378 S.Ct. 1228, 1239, 2 L.Ed.2d 1283 (1958). It is the burden of the plaintiff to prove that the defendant has purposefully availed himself of the forum state. See Burke v. Quartey, 969 F.Supp. 921, 924 (D.N.J. 1997).

To prove that the defendant has purposefully availed himself of that state, a plaintiff may rely upon a defendant's specific contacts with the forum state. Personal jurisdiction pursuant to such contacts is known as specific jurisdiction. Specific jurisdiction is invoked when a claim is related to or arises of out the defendant's contacts with the forum. See, Helikopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 416, 104 S.Ct. 1868, 1873, 80 L.Ed.2d 404 (1984); Dollar Sav. Bank v. First Security Bank of Utah, 746 F.2d 208, 211 (3d Cir. 1984). A court must first determine whether the defendant had the minimum contacts with the forum necessary for the defendant to have "reasonably anticipate[d] being haled into court there." World-Wide Volkswagen Corporation v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297, 100 S.Ct. 559, 62 L.Ed. 490 (1980) (citations omitted). What constitutes minimum contacts varies with the "quality and nature of defendant's activity." Hanson, 257 U.S. at 253, 78 S.Ct. at 1240. In assessing the sufficiency of minimum contacts for personal jurisdiction, the court must focus on the "relationship among the defendant, the forum and the litigation." Keeton v. Hustler, 465 U.S. 770 (1984). Otherwise stated, there must be at least "a single deliberate contact" with the forum state that relates to the cause of action. United States Golf Ass'n v. United States Amateur Golf Ass'n, 690 F.Supp. 317, 320 (D.N.J. 1988). The unilateral acts of the plaintiff, however, will not amount to minimum contacts. Helikopteros, 466 U.S. at 414; Hanson, 257 U.S. at 253, 78 S.Ct. at 1240.

Second, assuming minimum contacts have been established, a court may inquire whether "the assertion of personal jurisdiction would comport with `fair play and substantial justice.'" Burger King Corporation v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 476, 105 S.Ct. 2174, 85 L.Ed.2d 528 (1985) (quoting International Shoe Company v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 320, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945)); Pennzoil Products Co. v. Colelli & Assoc., Inc., 149 F.3d 197, 201 (3d Cir.1998). For personal jurisdiction to comport with "fair play and substantial justice," it must be reasonable to require the defendant to defend the suit in the forum state. See World-Wide Volkswagen, Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 292, 100 S.Ct. 559, 564, 62 L.Ed.2d 490 (1980). To determine reasonableness, a court considers the following factors: 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 substantive social policies. Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Only in "rare cases [do the] minimum requirements inherent in the concept of fair play and substantial justice . . . defeat the reasonableness of jurisdiction even [though] the defendant has purposefully engaged in forum activities." Asahi Metal Industry Co., Ltd. v. Superior Court of Cal., Solano County, 480 U.S. 102, 116, 107 S.Ct. 1026, 1034, 94 L.Ed.2d 92 (1987) (internal quotation marks omitted).

If the plaintiff cannot establish specific jurisdiction, a court may exercise general jurisdiction over the defendant if the defendant has maintained "continuous and systematic contacts" with the forum state. Helikopteros, 466 U.S. at 416, 104 S.Ct. at 1873. To establish general jurisdiction the plaintiff must show significantly more than mere minimum contacts with the forum state. Provident Nat'l Bank v. California Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 819 F.2d 434, 437 (3d Cir. 1987). Moreover, the facts required to establish general jurisdiction must be "extensive and persuasive." Reliance Steel Prods. V. Watson, Ess, Marshall, 675 F.2d 587, 589 (3d Cir. 1982).

B. Personal Jurisdiction

Plaintiffs allege that the defendant Circus Circus Hotel has sufficient contacts with New Jersey to allow this Court to exercise in personam jurisdiction over the defendant and points to the following facts: (1) the defendant has had one television advertisement which consisted of a single spot that aired on a national cable network in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area; (2) the defendant advertises in national magazines and newspapers such as USA Today, People Magazine, and various other travel magazines which are distributed nationwide; (3) the defendant mails promotional material to former guests in New Jersey and those New Jersey citizens who directly request information from it; (4) the defendant has an Internet site where customers can make reservations; (5) the defendant's sister corporation, Circus Circus New Jersey, Inc. has filed for a gaming license with the New Jersey Casino Control Commission; and (6) the defendant's parent corporation, Circus Circus Enterprises, Inc., has filed a breach of contract suit in New Jersey. The defendant claims that these contacts are too tenuous for this Court to exercise specific or general personal jurisdiction over the defendant. The defendant further argues that specific jurisdiction over it is unwarranted because this cause of action did not arise out of nor is it related to any of the ...

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