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Cole v. McGuire Brothers Construction

November 15, 2005

ROBERT COLE, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS
v.
MCGUIRE BROTHERS CONSTRUCTION, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cooper, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Defendant McGuire Brothers Construction, Inc. ("McGuire") moves pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b) to dismiss the claims asserted against it, or in the alternative to transfer the action to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma. (Dkt. entry no. 15.) The Court, for the reasons stated herein, will (1) deny the part of the motion seeking dismissal, and (2) grant the part of the motion seeking transfer of the action in its entirety to the Northern District of Oklahoma.

BACKGROUND

McGuire is a commercial construction company incorporated in Oklahoma. (McGuire Br., at 2.) Its corporate offices are located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Defendant McWane, Inc. ("McWane") manufactures pipe. (McWane Br., at 7.) McWane is incorporated in Delaware and its corporate offices are located in Birmingham, Alabama. (Compl. at 1.) It has several divisions including Clow Company of Ohio, Tyler Pipe of Texas, and Atlantic States Cast Iron Pipe Company ("Atlantic States") of New Jersey. (McWane Br., at 8.)

McGuire ordered water pipes and other products from McWane on January 15, 2003. (Pls. Br., at 2; McWane Br., at 7.) To fill McGuire's order, McWane submitted a purchase order to Atlantic States. (McWane Br., at 7.) Atlantic States would ship the pipe from its plant in Phillpsburg, New Jersey to a McGuire construction site in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Pls. Br., at 2-3.) Atlantic States contracted with SMP, Inc. ("SMP"), a carrier company located in New Jersey, to deliver the pipe. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff Robert Cole ("Cole"), a New Jersey citizen, was a tractor trailer driver employed by SMP. (Id. at 2.) He delivered the McGuire order on February 7, 2003. (Id. at 4.) Cole was injured upon arrival at the construction site when the water pipe on the trailer fell while being unloaded. (Compl. at ¶ 4.) Cole's pelvic area and upper legs were crushed, resulting in several bone fractures, and requiring multiple surgeries. (10-4-05 Aff. of Robert Cole, at ¶ 9.)

Cole and his wife, Jacqueline, brought this action against McWane and McGuire to recover damages resulting from the accident. (Compl. at 3-4.) McGuire now moves to dismiss the claims asserted against it for lack of personal jurisdiction, or in the alternative to transfer the action to the Northern District of Oklahoma. The motion is opposed by both the plaintiffs, and McWane.

DISCUSSION

McGuire argues that the claims asserted against it should be dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction because it does not have minimum contacts with New Jersey. (McGuire Br., at 4.) The plaintiffs and McWane argue that McGuire has sufficient minimum contacts with New Jersey because McGuire received pipe shipped from New Jersey and provided shipping instructions to SMP. (Pls. Br., at 12, 16; McWane Br., at 14.)

I. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction

A. Personal Jurisdiction Requires Minimum Contacts

Rule 4(e) allows a district court to assert personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant to the extent permitted by the law of the state where the district court sits. New Jersey's long-arm statute, N.J.R. 4:4-4, has been interpreted to permit jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant to extend as far as is constitutionally permissible. DeJames v. Magnificence Carriers, Inc., 654 F.2d 280, 284 (3d Cir. 1981); see Avdel Corp. v. Mecure, 277 A.2d 207, 209 (N.J. 1971). The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prevents a court from asserting personal jurisdiction over a defendant who does not have "certain minimum contacts with [the forum] such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend 'traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'" Provident Nat'l Bank v. Cal. Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 819 F.2d 434, 436-37 (3d Cir. 1987) (alteration in original) (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Wash., 326 U.S. 310, 320 (1945)).

The contacts must result from the defendant's purposeful conduct with the forum such that the defendant "should reasonably anticipate being haled into court" in the forum. World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297 (1980). "It is essential in each case that there be some act by which the defendant purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws." Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253 (1958) (citing Int'l Shoe, 326 U.S. at 319). The purposeful availment requirement thus ensures that a defendant will not be haled into court solely as a result of "random," "fortuitous," or "attenuated" contacts, or the unilateral activity of another person. Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 475 (1985); see also Hanson, 357 U.S. at 253 ("The unilateral activity of those who claim some relationship with a nonresident defendant cannot satisfy the requirement of contact with the forum State.").

The plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating sufficient contacts with the forum to justify the exercise of jurisdiction when a defendant raises the absence of personal jurisdiction. See, e.g., N. Penn Gas Co. v. Corning Nat. Gas Corp., 897 F.2d 687, 689 (3d Cir. 1990) (citations omitted). A plaintiff may meet this burden by establishing that a court has either "general" or "specific" jurisdiction. Provident Nat'l Bank, 819 F.2d at 437. The plaintiff need only make a prima facie demonstration of jurisdiction by establishing with sufficient particularity the presence of contacts between the defendant and the forum. See, e.g., Mellon Bank (East) PSFS, Nat'l Ass'n v. Farino, 960 F.2d 1217, 1223 (3d Cir. 1992). A court, in examining whether the plaintiff has satisfied this ...


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