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Dr Music, Inc. v. Aramini Strumenti Musicali S.R.L.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

February 7, 2014

DR MUSIC, INC, Plaintiff,
v.
ARAMINI STRUMENTI MUSICALI S.R.L., Defendant.

OPINION & ORDER

FAITH S. HOCHBERG, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court upon Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction and the doctrine of forum non conveniens. [1] (Dkt. No. 4.) The Court has reviewed the submissions of the parties and considers the motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78.

I. BACKGROUND[2]

On September 23, 2013, Plaintiff DR Music, Inc. ("Plaintiff" or "DR") filed suit against Aramini Strumenti Musicali S.R.L. ("Defendant" or "Aramini") in Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, alleging breach of an agreement for Aramini to purchase and resell a predetermined amount of musical strings per year in Italy. On November 19, 2013, Defendant removed this matter to federal court under 28 U.S.C. ยงยง 1332 and 1441 on the basis of diversity jurisdiction.

According to the Complaint, in January 2009, DR, a New Jersey corporation that manufactures and sells guitar and bass strings, and Aramini, an Italian limited liability entity that sells musical instruments and accessories in Italy, met at an annual music tradeshow in California. There, Roberta Aramini, a principal of Aramini, and the president of DR entered into an agreement where DR would supply, and Aramini would purchase, at least $200, 000 worth of strings per year for resale in Italy by Aramini. This agreement was confirmed in writing on January 30, 2009. Between 2009 and 2012 Aramini purchased quantities of strings from DR- although in amounts less than $200, 000. These offers were received by DR in New Jersey. To pay for these orders, Aramini deposited money into DR's New Jersey bank account. DR then proceeded to manufacture the strings in New Jersey. The shipments of strings were sent "FOB Emerson, NJ" and were picked up by Aramini's agent at DR's facility in Emerson, New Jersey. Fourteen of these orders between DR and Aramini occurred over a three to four year period.

II. PERSONAL JURISDICTION

To establish personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, plaintiff must establish jurisdiction under both the forum state's long-arm statute and the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. New Jersey's Long Arm Statute, N.J. Ct. R. 4:4-4, permits the assertion of personal jurisdiction as far as is constitutionally permissible. DeJames v. Magnificence Carriers, Inc., 654 F.2d 280, 284 (3d Cir. 1981); see also Pro Sports Inc. v. West, 639 F.Supp.2d 475, 480 (D.N.J. 2009) ("The New Jersey long-arm statute establishes New Jersey's jurisdictional reach to be coterminous with that allowed under the U.S. Constitution, subject only to due process of law.")

A court may determine that personal jurisdiction exists when a defendant has "minimum contacts" with the forum state and if asserting jurisdiction based on those contacts comports with "fair play and substantial justice." Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945). On a motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), the plaintiff bears the burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, facts sufficient to establish jurisdiction. D'Jamoos ex rel. Estate of Weingeroff v. Pilatus Aircraft Ltd., 566 F.3d 94, 102 (3d Cir. 2009) ("Once a defendant challenges a court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over it, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing personal jurisdiction."); Carteret Sav. Bank, FA v. Shushan, 954 F.2d 141, 146 (3d Cir. 1992). A court must accept as true the allegations in the complaint and resolve disputed issues of fact in favor of the plaintiff. Carteret, 954 F.2d at 142 n.1. However, the plaintiff cannot rely on the pleadings alone and must provide actual proofs. Time Share Vacation Club v. Atl. Resorts, Ltd., 735 F.2d 61, 66 n.9 (3d Cir. 1984). Once the plaintiff has shown minimum contacts, the burden shifts to the defendant, who must show that the assertion of jurisdiction would be unreasonable. Mellon Bank (East) PSFS v. Farino, 960 F.2d 1217, 1226 (3d Cir. 1992).

a. Minimum Contacts

A court can assert either specific or general jurisdiction over a defendant. Specific jurisdiction requires the defendant have "minimum" contacts with the forum state. Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472-74 (1985). In addition, the lawsuit must "arise out of" or "relate to" these minimum contacts. Id. Furthermore, the defendant must have purposefully availed itself of the forum such that it "should reasonably anticipate being haled into court" there, having invoked the benefits and protections of the forum's laws. Id. at 474-75. The Third Circuit has summarized this analysis in three parts: (i) "the defendant must have purposefully directed [its] activities' at the forum"; (ii) "the litigation must arise out of or relate to' at least one of those activities"; and (iii) "if the first two requirements have been met, a court may consider whether the exercise of jurisdiction otherwise comport[s] with fair play and substantial justice.'" D'Jamoos, 566 F.3d at 102.

General jurisdiction, by contrast, requires the defendant to have "continuous and systematic" contacts with the forum state. Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 416 (1984). These contacts need not relate to the subject matter of the litigation. Id. at 415 n.10. However, general jurisdiction requires "a very high threshold of business activity." Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinea v. Ins. Co. of N. America, 651 F.2d 877, 891 n.2 (3d Cir. 1981) (finding that a "daily presence" in the forum and activities such as weekly advertising, regular solicitation of business, substantial product sales, and the maintenance of a telephone number in the forum meet the threshold); see also Early Learning Res., LLC v. Sebel Furniture Ltd., Civ. No. 10-6335, 2011 WL 4593775, at *3 (D.N.J. Sept. 30, 2011). Plaintiff is required to meet a "rigorous burden of establishing that the defendant's contacts are continuous and substantial" to establish general jurisdiction. Early Learning, 2011 WL 4593775, at *3.

b. Fair Play and Substantial Justice

Jurisdiction must also be reasonable. Burger King, 471 U.S. at 476 (finding that the assertion of jurisdiction must comport with "fair play and substantial justice"). A court must determine reasonableness by balancing the burden on the defendant, the forum's interest in adjudicating the dispute, the judicial system's interest in the efficient resolution of disputes, the interests of the several states in furthering ...


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