United States District Court, D. New Jersey
STACY D. BROWN, Plaintiff,
CITY OF GREENVILLE, DOUGLAS RAY CREDLE, HATTERAS HAMMOCKS, INC. d/b/a THE HAMMOCK SOURCE; JEFFREY REID RONEY, and JOHN DOES 1-4, Defendants.
L. COOPER, United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court upon two motions to dismiss.
Defendants Hatteras Hammocks, Inc. d/b/a The Hammock Source
(“Hatteras”) and Jeffrey Reid Roney
(“Roney”) move to dismiss Plaintiff Stacy D.
Brown's (“Plaintiff”) Complaint for lack of
personal jurisdiction and improper venue. (Dkt.
Defendants City of Greenville and Douglas Ray Credle
(“Credle”) move to dismiss Plaintiff's
Complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. (Dkt. 8.)
Plaintiff did not file an opposition to either motion. The
Court has considered the parties' submissions, and
decides the motions without oral argument pursuant to Local
Civil Rule 78.1. For the reasons discussed below, the
Defendants' motions are granted.
an action to recover damages for personal injuries allegedly
sustained by Plaintiff on September 23, 2015, when he was
involved in a motor vehicle accident that occurred in
Greenville, North Carolina. Plaintiff was a passenger in a
bus owned by Defendant City of Greenville and operated by
Defendant Credle. (Dkt. 1 at 1.) Defendant Roney was
operating a motor vehicle owned by Defendant Hatteras, when
he allegedly struck the bus Plaintiff occupied, causing the
accident. (Id. at 1-2.) Plaintiff's Complaint
includes a common-law negligence cause of action against the
Defendants. (Id. at 1-3.)
after the filing of the Complaint, we issued an Order to Show
Cause why the Complaint should not be dismissed for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction. (Dkt. 4.) Plaintiff's
Complaint did not include a “short and plain statement
of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction” as
required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1). In addition, the civil
cover sheet filed with the Complaint indicated that
Plaintiff's intended basis for jurisdiction was federal
question; however, there was no averment in the Complaint
invoking the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United
States. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
responded to our Order to Show Cause and submitted that we
have diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332
because the parties are completely diverse and the amount in
controversy exceeds $75, 000. (Dkt. 5.) Plaintiff's
response indicated that Plaintiff is a resident of the State
of New Jersey; Defendant City of Greenville is a “North
Carolina Public Entity;” Defendant Credle is a resident
of the State of North Carolina; Defendant Hatteras is a North
Carolina Corporation with a principal place of business in
Greenville, North Carolina; and Defendant Roney is a resident
of the State of Alabama. (Dkt. 5 at 2.) Satisfied with this
response, we vacated our Order to Show Cause. (Dkt. 6.)
Defendants have now moved to dismiss this action for lack of
personal jurisdiction and improper venue. Plaintiff does not
oppose the motions.
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(1), a federal
district court has personal jurisdiction over a non-resident
defendant “who is subject to the jurisdiction of a
court of general jurisdiction in the state where the district
court is located.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1). New
Jersey's long-arm statute permits the exercise of
personal jurisdiction over non-resident defendant to the full
extent allowed under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment. See N.J. Ct. R. 4:4-4; Carteret Sav.
Bank, FA v. Shushan, 954 F.2d 141, 145 (3d Cir. 1992).
For the exercise of jurisdiction to satisfy due process,
there must be “minimum contacts” between a
non-resident defendant and the forum state such that
“maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional
notions of fair play and substantial justice.” J.
McIntyre Machinery, Ltd. v. Nicastro, 564 U.S. 873, 880
(2011) (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington,
326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)). Generally, the suit must either
arise out of or relate to a defendant's contacts with the
forum state, which allows the court to assert specific
jurisdiction over a defendant, or the defendant must have
“continuous and systematic forum affiliations” to
meet the standard for general jurisdiction. Helicopteros
Nacionales de Columbia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414
n.8 (1984); see also Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct.
746, 754 (2014) (discussing specific and general
“minimum contacts” are present in this case as
the Defendants do not appear to have any connection to New
Jersey. Plaintiff's Complaint admits that all Defendants
are located or reside outside of New Jersey. In addition,
nothing in the record suggests that any of the defendants
were served in state.
Credle and City of Greenville have contended that they have
no contacts with New Jersey, and these contentions have not
been disputed. According to the Affidavit of Defendant
Credle, he is a resident of Greenville, North Carolina. (Dkt.
8-6 at 2.) At the time of the September 23, 2015 accident, he
was a resident of North Carolina. (Id.) He has never
resided in New Jersey, has never owned property in New
Jersey, and has not conducted any business in New Jersey.
(Id. at 2-3.) Defendant Credle's only reported
contact with New Jersey is a visit with family, approximately
five to seven years ago. (Id.) According to the
Affidavit of Barbara Lipscomb, the City Manager of Defendant
City of Greenville, the City of Greenville is located
entirely in Pitt County, North Carolina. (Dkt. 8-7 at 2-3.)
Defendant City of Greenville does not have any business
relationship or other contacts with the State of New Jersey.
(Id. at 3.) “At all relevant times, the City
of Greenville has not even had minor, random fortuitous or
attenuated contacts with the State of New Jersey.”
(Id. at 4.)
Hatteras and Roney did not submit affidavits regarding their
contacts with New Jersey in support of their motion. However,
they sufficiently raised the question of personal
jurisdiction. (See dkt. 7 at 16, 24.) When a
defendant raises a personal jurisdiction objection, the
plaintiff bears the burden of showing the jurisdiction is
proper. Carteret Sav. Bank, 954 F.2d at 146. The
plaintiff “need only establish a prima facie case of
personal jurisdiction.” Miller Yacht Sales, Inc. v.
Smith, 384 F.3d 93, 97 (3d Cir. 2004); see also
Metcalfe v. Renaissance Marine, Inc., 566 F.3d 324,
330-31 (3d Cir. 2009). The Plaintiff must, however, still
“‘prov[e] by affidavits or other competent
evidence that jurisdiction is proper.'”
Metcalfe, 566 F.3d at 330 (quoting Dayhoff Inc.
v. H.J. Heinz Co., 86 F.3d 1287, 1302 (3d Cir. 1996).
“In other words, ‘bare pleadings alone' are
insufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss for lack of
personal jurisdiction.” Cerciello v. Canale,
563 F.App'x 924, 925 n.1 (3d Cir. 2014) (citation
omitted). Here, Plaintiff has not met his evidentiary burden.
Plaintiff failed to submit affidavits or other competent
evidence in support of jurisdiction over Defendants, a
failure which constitutes an adequate ground for dismissal by
itself. See Jumpp v. Jerkins, No. 08-6268, 2010 WL
2773582, *3 (D.N.J. July 7, 2010).
Complaint and response to our Order to Show Cause fail to
establish even a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction
over any of the Defendants. In short, we conclude that we
lack general jurisdiction over the Defendants. Moreover,
there is simply no indication that the suit arises out of or
relates to Defendants' contacts with New Jersey. The
dispute concerns a motor vehicle accident that occurred
entirely in Greenville, North Carolina. Based on the findings
above, we conclude that we lack specific jurisdiction over