On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, Docket No. L-3119-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Axelrad and J. N. Harris.
By leave granted, defendant Oscar J. Boldt Construction, Inc. (Boldt)
appeals from the Law Division's interlocutory orders of August 27 and
November 17, 2010, which determined that Boldt had been properly haled
into court in New Jersey by
plaintiff J.F. Lomma, Inc., of Delaware (J.F. Lomma).*fn1
Because we find that Boldt did not have the requisite minimum
contacts with New Jersey to establish personal jurisdiction, we
reverse and remand for the entry of judgment dismissing the complaint
without prejudice to permit J.F. Lomma to seek remedies against Boldt
in an appropriate forum.
Although no jurisdictional discovery was conducted in this case, and neither party requested the opportunity to engage in any supplemental investigation, we glean the facts from the pleadings, as well as from the parties' scant submissions in Boldt's motions to dismiss the complaint and for reconsideration. In point of fact, the only competent evidentiary materials submitted to the Law Division were (1) a three-page certification by Randall A. Haak, Boldt's general counsel referring to three exhibits; (2) a two-page certification by Randall DeMeuse, Boldt's Vice-President of Industrial & Wind Farm Operations; and (3) a two-page certification by James F. Lomma, President and sole shareholder of J.F. Lomma.
J.F. Lomma is a Delaware corporation in the business of crane rental, rigging, and transportation with its principal place of business in South Kearny, New Jersey. Boldt is a Wisconsin corporation with its principal place of business in Appleton, Wisconsin. Sometime in 2008, Boldt bargained with J.F. Lomma to rent industrial cranes for use on a number of wind farm projects in Fowler, Indiana and Ransom, Illinois. The cranes were actually supplied by a Virginia company, W.O. Grubb, which leased the cranes to J.F. Lomma pursuant to a separate agreement, which in turn leased the cranes to Boldt.
J.F. Lomma's lawsuit alleges that when it sought to collect the balance due on Boldt's account, Boldt disputed the charges and refused to pay. On June 10, 2010, J.F. Lomma filed a complaint against Boldt seeking $326,180 under breach of contract, quantum meruit, and unjust enrichment theories. Boldt did not file an answer, but moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.
Boldt maintained that it dealt exclusively with J.F. Lomma's Bridgeville, Pennsylvania office throughout the negotiations and contract term, asserting that "[a]ll significant dealings for these transactions, including the negotiation of the contract terms took place by phone and email" between DeMeuse in Appleton, Wisconsin, and Steve Burkholder, a J.F. Lomma employee located in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania. Boldt produced copies of written estimates, order forms, and invoices from J.F. Lomma listing its address as 251 Millers Run Road, Bridgeville, Pennsylvania, but also indicating, "Please remit payment to J.F. Lomma, Inc., 48 Third Street, South Kearny, NJ 07032." An unauthenticated and unsigned rental agreement between the parties for a "Manitowoc 18000 Crawler Crane" and blank "Notice of Lease Termination" form provided by J.F. Lomma also listed its Pennsylvania address.
Lomma's opposing certification is noteworthy for its brevity and lack of specificity. It stated the following, in its entirety:
James F. Lomma, of full age, hereby certifies as follows:
1. I am the President and have a 100% stock interest in Plaintiff J.F. Lomma, Inc. of Delaware. In this capacity, I am fully familiar with the facts and circumstances surrounding my company's transaction with Oscar J. Boldt.
2. On multiple occasions, I personally participated in the contract negotiations with Oscar Boldt[*fn2 ] from my South Kearny, New Jersey office. I am also aware that this same contract, per my direction, included a ...