Submitted December 10, 2013
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Docket No. L-2529-12.
Archer & Greiner, attorneys for appellant (Patrick Papalia, of counsel; Leo J. Hurley, Jr., on the brief).
Hima Bindhu Kuncha, respondent pro se.
Before Judges Reisner, Alvarez and Carroll.
CARROLL, J.S.C. [temporarily assigned].
Plaintiff Baanyan Software Services, Inc. (Baanyan), appeals from a December 7, 2012 Law Division order dismissing its complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction over defendant Hima Bindhu Kuncha. Since we conclude that defendant lacked minimum contacts with New Jersey, and that to subject defendant to jurisdiction in New Jersey would offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice, we affirm.
We discern the following facts from the limited record before the Law Division on the motion to dismiss. Because no jurisdictional discovery was ordered, nor apparently requested, we rely upon the complaint and the certifications that were filed supporting and opposing defendant's dismissal motion.
Baanyan is an information technology development and software consulting company with its headquarters in Edison, New Jersey. According to Baanyan's website, it is part of a multinational corporate organization that, "[r]eaching out from its locations in [the] USA and India, is able to locate and attract the very best computing talent from all over the globe."
Baanyan employed defendant as a computer systems analyst, pursuant to a written consulting agreement. Defendant was living in California in January 2011 when the agreement was signed. Defendant negotiated certain terms of the contract through various e-mails and telephone calls with representatives of Baanyan. Defendant sent an executed copy of the consulting agreement to Baanyan, which executed it at its New Jersey headquarters. The agreement itself is silent as to Baanyan's address. It also contains no forum selection clause.
The terms of employment required defendant to relocate from California to Illinois to provide the consulting services. Defendant moved to Illinois in February 2011, and began providing services as needed for two of Baanyan's clients, both located in Illinois. From May 2011 through August 2011, defendant was out of the country, and provided no services for Baanyan. After defendant returned to Illinois, during September 2011 she resumed working for Baanyan on a project for one of its corporate clients, Halcyon, Inc., a company based in Ohio. Baanyan paid defendant for her services in Illinois via direct deposit into her Illinois bank account. The five payments she received were memorialized by receipts bearing Baanyan's New Jersey address. At no time during her brief employment with Baanyan did defendant ever work in New Jersey, nor did she ever provide services for any client of Baanyan that was located in New Jersey.
In October 2011, defendant ceased working for Baanyan and began working for Halcyon. She continued to work for Halcyon until December 23, 2011. According to defendant's unrefuted certification, both she and Halcyon "settled the dispute with Baanyan about my having gone to work for Halcyon. In fact, Baanyan was paid monies on that dispute, not only by Halcyon, but by me." In January 2012, defendant moved to Tennessee, and obtained employment with another software company headquartered in California. Defendant continues to live and work in Tennessee.
On April 10, 2012, Baanyan filed suit against defendant in the Law Division, Middlesex County, alleging breach of contract, tortious interference with Baanyan's business relationships, breach of fiduciary obligations, unjust enrichment, and fraud. Defendant initially did not respond to Baanyan's complaint, which resulted in the entry of default against her on August 8, 2012. Thereafter, defendant moved to dismiss ...