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Adelson v. Enterprise Car Rental

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

October 10, 2017



          HON. KEVIN MCNULTY, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiffs Adam S. Adelson and Ricki Adelson (the "Adelsons") are residents of New Jersey who allege that they were injured in a traffic collision in Amherst, Massachusetts. The driver of the other car, defendant Colm Dunphy ("Dunphy"), is a resident of Massachusetts. The owner or lessee of the car is defendant Colm Dunphy Management Corporation ("Dunphy Corp."), a business located in Massachusetts.

         Now before the Court is the motion of Dunphy and Dunphy Corp. under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. Because they have no ties to New Jersey, the motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs, the Adelsons, are New Jersey citizens, residing in Haworth. Defendant Enterprise Car Rental ("Enterprise", not involved in this motion) is a company with its "place of business" in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Defendant Hartford Insurance Company ("Hartford", also not involved in this motion) is the Adelsons' personal injury insurer. Defendant Dunphy is a resident of Milton, Massachusetts. Defendant Dunphy Corp. is a corporation with its "place of business" in Quincy City, Massachusetts.[1] (Compl. Parties ¶¶ 1-4)

         On April 25, 2015, the Adelsons were riding in a car they had rented from defendant Enterprise. At the intersection of Lot 21 Access Road and Lot 31 Access Road in Amherst, Massachusetts, their car was T-boned by another car. That other car was driven by defendant Dunphy, and leased by Dunphy Corp., a business owned by Dunphy's father. The Adelsons suffered both personal injury and economic loss as a result of the crash. (Compl. Count 1)

         The Adelsons filed the Complaint in this Court on April 3, 2017. Count 1 alleges a state-law claim of negligence against Dunphy and Dunphy Corp., as well as Enterprise. Count 2, directed solely at Hartford as personal injury insurer, seeks reimbursement.


         A. Personal Jurisdiction Standards

         Once a defendant files a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2), the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing sufficient facts to show that jurisdiction exists. Marten v. Godwin, 499 F.3d 290, 295-96 (3d Cir. 2007). Initially, a court must accept the plaintiffs allegations as true and construe disputed facts in favor of the plaintiff. Pinker v. Roche Holdings, Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 368 (3d Cir. 2002). Where factual allegations are disputed, however, the court must examine any evidence presented. See, e.g., Eurofins Pharma U.S. Holdings v. BioAlliance Pharma SA, 623 F.3d 147, 155-56 (3d Cir. 2010) (examining the evidence supporting the plaintiffs allegations); Patterson v. FBI, 893 F.2d 595, 603-04 (3d Cir. 1990) ("'A Rule 12(b)(2) motion, such as the motion made by the defendants here, is inherently a matter which requires resolution of factual issues outside the pleadings, i.e. whether in personam jurisdiction actually lies. Once the defense has been raised, then the plaintiff must sustain its burden of proof in establishing jurisdictional facts through sworn affidavits or other competent evidence."') (quoting Time Share Vacation Club v. Atl. Resorts, Ltd., 735 F.2d 61, 66 n.9 (3d Cir. 1984)).

         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). However, a plaintiff may not "rely on the bare pleadings alone" in order to withstand a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. "Once the motion is made, plaintiff must respond with actual proofs, not mere allegations." Patterson, 893 F.2d at 604 (internal citations omitted); Time Share Vacation Club, 735 F.2d at 66 n.9.

         To assess whether it has personal jurisdiction over a defendant, a district court must undertake a two-step inquiry. IMO Indus., Inc. v. Kiekert, AG, 155 F.3d 254, 259 (3d Cir. 1998). First, the court is required to use the relevant state's long-arm statute to see whether it permits the exercise of personal jurisdiction. Id.; Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(k). "Second, the court must apply the principles of due process" under the federal Constitution. WorldScape, Inc. v. Sails Capital Mgmt, Civ. No. 10-4207, 2011 WL 3444218 (D.N.J. Aug. 5, 2011) (citing IMO Indus., 155 F.3d at 259).

         In New Jersey, the first step collapses into the second because "New Jersey's long-arm statute provides for jurisdiction coextensive with the due process requirements of the United States Constitution." Miller Yacht Sales, 384 F.3d at 96 (citing N.J. Ct. R. 4:4-4(c)). Accordingly, personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant is proper in this Court if the defendant has "'certain minimum contacts with [New Jersey] such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'" Provident Nat'l Bank v. Cal. Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 819 F.2d 434, 437 (3d Cir. 1987) (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S.Ct. 154 (1945)).

         There are two kinds of personal jurisdiction that allow a district court to hear a case involving a non-resident defendant: general and specific. A court may exercise general jurisdiction over a foreign corporation where "the defendant's contacts with the forum are so 'continuous and systematic' as to render them essentially 'at home' in the forum state." Senju Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. v. Metrics, Inc., 96 F.Supp.3d 428, 435 (D.N.J. 2015) (citing DaimlerAG v. Bauman, ___U.S.___, 134 S.Ct. 746, 754 (2014); Goodyear DunlopTires Operations, S.A. v. ...

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