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Ajax Enterprises, Inc. v. Szymoniak Law Firm

April 10, 2008


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


Before the Court is defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) and (6). Because this Court cannot exercise personal jurisdiction over defendants, defendants' motion to dismiss is granted. This case, however, is not dismissed but transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a).


Plaintiffs filed libel and emotional distress claims against defendants alleging that they published defamatory statements about them on defendants' website. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss arguing that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over them because: they are residents of Florida; the passive website containing the alleged defamatory statements was created and is maintained in Florida; and the website does not target the forum state.

By Order entered February 22, 2007, defendants' motion to dismiss was denied without prejudice. Although it was determined that plaintiffs did not allege sufficient facts to support this Court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over defendants based solely on their operation of the website, plaintiffs did allege "with reasonable particularity" the possibility that sufficient non-Internet minimum contacts existed between defendants and New Jersey. See Toys "R" Us, Inc. v. Step Two, S.A. 318 F.3d 446, 456 (3d Cir. 2003) (reversing lower court's denial of jurisdictional discovery to allow exploration of non-Internet contacts to provide the "something more" needed to exercise personal jurisdiction)(citations omitted).

Plaintiffs had alleged that defendants were national counsel for Liberty Mutual Insurance Company ("Liberty Mutual") and as such had a business relationship with the forum state. These allegations of possible non-Internet contacts with the forum state met the required threshold showing to allow plaintiffs to conduct jurisdictional discovery. Id. (concluding that "[i]f a plaintiff presents factual allegations that suggest 'with reasonable particularity' the possible existence of the requisite 'contacts between [the party] and the forum state,' Mellon Bank (East) PSFS, Nat'l Ass'n v. Farino, 960 F.2d 1217, 1223 (3d Cir. 1992), the plaintiff's right to conduct discovery should be sustained.").

The parties state that after entry of the February 22, 2007 Order, discovery was conducted concerning defendants' possible contacts with New Jersey. Following discovery, defendants filed a second motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. That motion is now before the Court.


A. Standard for 12(b)(2) Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction

After a motion to dismiss is filed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2), the burden shifts to the plaintiff to provide sufficient facts to establish jurisdiction. See Zippo Mfg. Co. v. Zippo Dot Com, Inc., 952 F.Supp. 1119, 1121 (W.D.Pa. 1997). The plaintiff must "... sustain its burden of proof in establishing jurisdictional facts through sworn affidavits or other competent evidence..." and cannot rely "on the bare pleadings alone in order to withstand a defendant's Rule 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss for lack of in personam jurisdiction." See Weber v. Jolly Hotels, 977 F.Supp. 327, 331 (D.N.J. 1997) (citing Time Share Vacation Club v. Atlantic Resorts, Ltd., 735 F.2d 61, 67 n. 9 (3d Cir. 1984)). A Court must look beyond the pleadings in deciding a Rule 12(b)(2) motion. Id.

B. Personal Jurisdiction

As a United States District Court sitting in Camden, New Jersey in a diversity case, we look to the law of New Jersey for the exercise of personal jurisdiction over non-resident defendants. See Overseas Food Trading, Ltd. v. Agro Aceitunera S.A., No. 06-800, 2007 WL 77337, at *4 (D.N.J. Jan. 8, 2007). "New Jersey's long arm statute allows the exercise of personal jurisdiction over non-resident defendants to the fullest extent permitted by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Id. (citing Nicholas v. Saul Stone & Co., 224 F.3d 179, 184 (3d Cir. 2000)). "Pursuant to the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, in personam jurisdiction may be asserted over a nonresident so long as the defendant 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.'" Telcordia Tech Inc. v. Telkom SA Ltd, 458 F.3d 172, 177 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)).

There are two types of personal jurisdiction: general jurisdiction and specific jurisdiction. See Marten v. Godwin, 499 F.3d 290, 296 (3d Cir. 2007). "General jurisdiction exists when a defendant has maintained systematic and continuous contacts with the forum state." Id. (citing Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414-15 & n. 8 (1984)). "Specific jurisdiction exists when the claim arises from or ...

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