Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

O'Keefe v. Friedman & Friedman, Ltd.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

August 16, 2018

JAMES O'KEEFE and DEMODULATION, INC., Plaintiffs,
v.
FRIEDMAN & FRIEDMAN, LTD., Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          LEDA DUNN WETTRE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. ECF No. 47. Plaintiffs have not opposed the motion. The Honorable Susan Davis Wigenton, U.S.D.J., referred this motion to the undersigned for a Report and Recommendation. Having considered the written submissions, and for good cause shown, the Court recommends that defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction be GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This is a legal malpractice action in which plaintiffs Demodulation, Inc. ("Demodulation") and its President, James O'Keefe, allege defendant Friedman & Friedman, Ltd. ("Friedman") failed to properly represent Demodulation in a prior patent infringement action. Plaintiffs commenced this action in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Bergen County, Law Division in March 2016. See ECF No. 1-1. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1332, defendant removed the action to this Court on grounds of diversity of citizenship jurisdiction in August 2016. See ECF No. 1. Plaintiff James O'Keefe is a citizen of New Jersey and plaintiff Demodulation is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in New Jersey. Id. ¶¶ 1-2. Defendant Friedman is an Illinois corporation with its principal place of business in Chicago, Illinois. Id. ¶ 16. The amount in controversy exceeds the $75, 000 jurisdictional threshold. See Id. ¶ 11.

         Shortly after defendant removed the action to this Court, then-counsel for plaintiffs filed a motion to withdraw as counsel, ECF No. 4, and defendant filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim, ECF No. 5. The Court granted the motion to withdraw, and defendant's motion to dismiss was administratively terminated to permit plaintiffs time to secure new counsel. ECF Nos. 12, 13. The Court held an in-person settlement conference with the parties on September 29, 2017, after which plaintiffs filed a motion to amend the Complaint. ECF No. 38. The Court denied the motion on March 29, 2018. ECF Nos. 45, 46. Defendant refiled its motion to dismiss on April 26, 2018, which plaintiffs have not opposed. ECF No. 47.

         The Complaint alleges that in September 2015, plaintiffs sought the services of defendant Friedman to represent plaintiff Demodulation in a patent infringement suit filed in the Court of Federal Claims, located in Washington D.C. ECF No. 1-1 ¶¶ 5-6. The Complaint contends that defendant breached the duty of care owed to Demodulation by its negligent representation in the underlying suit, which necessitated plaintiffs' termination of the parties' attorney-client relationship in November 2015. Id. ¶ 9-10. By then, defendant had billed plaintiffs approximately $270, 000 in legal fees, which plaintiffs did not pay, and for which defendant obtained a judgment against plaintiffs in June 2016. See ECF No. 47-1, Ex. E. The Complaint asserts a claim against defendant for legal malpractice, seeks a declaratory judgment that plaintiffs are not responsible to pay for defendant's legal fees, and seeks the return of plaintiffs' files.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Defendant moves to dismiss the Complaint on the grounds that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over it and for plaintiffs' failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned recommends the District Court find that plaintiffs have not met their burden to show personal jurisdiction exists over defendant and to grant defendant's motion on that basis.

         A. Legal Standard

         When a defendant challenges a Court's exercise of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden to prove that jurisdiction is proper. Metcalfe v. Renaissance Marine, Inc., 566 F.3d 324, 330-31 (3d Cir. 2009). Where the district court does not hold an evidentiary hearing, plaintiff must establish only a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction. Miller Yacht Sales, Inc. v. Smith, 384 F.3d 93, 97 (3d Cir. 2004). Under the prima facie standard, "the plaintiffs allegations are presumed true and all factual disputes are resolved in the plaintiffs favor." LaSala v. Marfin Popular Bank Pub. Co., 410 Fed.Appx. 474, 476 (3d Cir. 2011). A plaintiff meets this burden by "establishing with reasonable particularity sufficient contacts between the defendant and the forum state." Display Works, LLC v. Bartley, 182 F.Supp.3d 166, 172 (D.N.J. 2016) (quoting Mellon Bank PSFS, Nat'l Ass'n v. Farino, 960 F.2d 1217, 1223 (3d Cir. 1992)). Once the motion is made, however, and a plaintiffs allegations are challenged by affidavits or other evidence, the "plaintiff must respond with actual proofs, not mere allegations." Patterson by Patterson v. FBI, 893 F.2d 595, 604 (3d Cir. 1990) (citation omitted); see also Metcalfe, 566 F.3d at 330 ("'[O]nce a defendant has raised a jurisdictional defense,' the plaintiff must 'prov[e] by affidavits or other competent evidence that jurisdiction is proper.'") (quoting Dayhoff Inc. v. H.J. Heinz Co., 86 F.3d 1287, 1302 (3d Cir. 1996)). A plaintiff must ultimately prove the existence of jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence, although such a showing is unnecessary at the preliminary stages of litigation. LaSala, 410 Fed.Appx. at 476; Mellon Bank (E.) PSFS, Nat'l Ass'n v. Farino, 960 F.2d 1217, 1223 (3d Cir. 1992); Display Works, LLC v. Bartley, 182 F.Supp.3d 166, 172 (D.N.J. 2016).

         This Court exercises jurisdiction to the extent permitted by New Jersey law. See Miller Yacht Sales, 384 F.3d at 96 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(e)). New Jersey's long-arm statute permits the exercise of jurisdiction over non-residents "to the uttermost limits permitted by the United States Constitution." Charles Gendler Co. v. Telecom Equity Corp., 102 N.J. 460, 469 (1986) (quoting Avdel Corp. v. Mecure, 58 N.J. 264, 268 (1971)). Therefore, "we ask whether, under the Due Process Clause, 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." O'Connor v. Sandy Lane Hotel Co., 496 F.3d 312, 316 (3d Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Personal jurisdiction may be based on either general or specific jurisdiction. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Super. Ct. of Cal, 137 S.Ct. 1773, 1780 (2017). "A court with general jurisdiction may hear any claim against that defendant," id, and the defendant's "contacts need not relate to the subject matter of the litigation." Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 415, n.9 (1984). General jurisdiction over a defendant exists in the forum of an individual's domicile and the forum "in which [a] corporation is fairly regarded as at home." Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 924 (2011).

         Specific personal jurisdiction, on the other hand, exists where the claims "aris[e] out of or relate[] to the defendant's contacts with the forum." Daimler AG v. Bauman,571 U.S. 117, 127 (2014) (quoting Helicopteros, 466 U.S. at 414, n.8). The Third Circuit has laid out a three-part test to determine whether specific jurisdiction exists: (1) the defendant must have "purposefully directed [its] activities at the forum"; (2) the litigation must "arise out of or relate to at least one of those activities"; and (3) if the first two requirements are met, the exercise ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.