United States District Court, D. New Jersey
OPINION ON DEFENDANT SWIFT TRANSPORTATION'S
MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION, IMPROPER
VENUE, AND FORUM NON CONVENIENS, OR TRANSFER [D.E.
C. MANNION, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
this Court are Defendants Swift Transportation Co., Inc.
(“Swift Transportation”) and Swift Transportation
Co. of Arizona, LLC's (“Swift Arizona”)
(collectively “Swifts”) motion to dismiss for
lack of personal jurisdiction, improper venue, and forum
non conveniens, or in the alternative for transfer
pursuant to Section 1631. The Court has reviewed the parties'
respective submissions. For the reasons set forth herein, the
Court sua sponte transfers this case to Middle
District of Florida under Section 1406 and accordingly,
terminates the Swifts' motion to dismiss as
BACKGROUND & PROCEDURAL
Sharon Griggs (“Ms. Griggs”) and Hezekiah Griggs,
Jr. (“Mr. Griggs”) brought this personal injury
and wrongful death action against the Swifts following the
death of their son, Hezekiah Griggs III (“Mr. Griggs
III”). Ms. Griggs is a citizen of New Jersey,
Mr. Griggs is a citizen of North Carolina. According to the
Complaint, Swift Transportation is a citizen of
Arizona. Swift Arizona is also a citizen of
December 22, 2016, Mr. Griggs III was driving from
Jacksonville, Florida, to the Orlando Airport and stopped in
a designated area. Kenty Verdier (“Mr. Verdier”),
an employee of Swift Arizona, drove a Swift Arizona
tractor-trailer and collided with the rental car,
killing Mr. Griggs III at the scene. Florida authorities
investigated the scene, conducted Mr. Griggs III's
autopsy, and compiled a report of the accident.
Arizona argues, among other things, that venue is improper
because the Court cannot exercise personal jurisdiction over
it, and because a “substantial part of the events . . .
giving rise to the claim” did not occur in New
Jersey. In response, Mr. and Ms. Griggs argue
the Court may exercise personal jurisdiction over the Swifts
because the Swifts are large property owners and employers in
MAGISTRATE JUDGE AUTHORITY
judges may decide motions to transfer because they are
non-dispositive. The decision to grant or deny an
application for transfer is discretionary. If a party
appeals the decision, the district court must affirm the
decision unless it is “clearly erroneous or contrary to
our jurisprudence, Section 1391(b) governs where venue is
proper and states that a party may bring a civil action in:
(1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if
all defendants are residents of the State in which the
district is located;
(2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the
events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a
substantial part of property that is the subject of the
action is situated; or
(3) if there is no district in which an action may otherwise
be brought as provided in this section, any judicial district
in which any defendant is subject to the court's personal
jurisdiction with respect to such action.
regard to venue based on residence, a defendant resides
wherever the court may exercise personal jurisdiction over
the defendant. The plaintiff bears the burden of
showing that personal jurisdiction is proper.
may exercise personal jurisdiction under the theories of
general jurisdiction or specific jurisdiction. A defendant
is subject to general jurisdiction when that defendant has
“continuous and systematic” contacts in the forum
state. When such systematic and continuous
contacts are present, a court may “justify suit against
[the corporation] on causes of action arising from dealings
entirely distinct from those activities.” Courts
require “extensive and persuasive” facts to
establish general jurisdiction; a much higher standard than
mere minimum contacts with the forum state. Effectively,
a court must find that the corporation is “essentially
at home” in the forum to justify the exercise of
general jurisdiction. Courts have applied the
Daimler rules to limited liability companies with
other hand, a court may exercise specific jurisdiction when a
plaintiff's claim relates to, or arises out of, the
defendant's contacts with the forum.
Under specific jurisdiction, the relevant inquiry is: (1)
whether the defendant purposefully directed its activities at
the forum; (2) whether the litigation arises out of or
relates to at least one of the contacts; and (3) whether the
exercise of jurisdiction otherwise comports with traditional
notions of fair play and substantial justice.
regard to the second element of specific jurisdiction, the
relatedness requirement, the Third Circuit “held that
but-for causation was a necessary requirement for
establishing relatedness between a defendant's purposeful
contacts and each specific cause of
action.” “As the name indicates, this
standard is satisfied when the plaintiff's claim would
not have arisen in the absence of the defendant's
contacts, ” with the chosen forum. But-for
causation alone, however, is not sufficient to “create
the required nexus between purposeful contacts and a
plaintiff's claims.”The causal connection must
“be intimate enough to keep the quid pro quo
proportional and personal jurisdiction reasonably
Court finds that the original venue is improper, it may
either dismiss or if it is in the interest of justice,
sua sponte transfer the case to a proper
Swifts argue venue is improper in this District because the
Court cannot exercise general or specific jurisdiction over
it, and none of the events giving rise to the claim occurred
in New Jersey. In the alternative, Swifts contend that
the Court should dismiss the case for lack of personal
jurisdiction, or transfer the case to the Middle District of
Florida under Section 1631.
preliminary matter, courts generally consider personal
jurisdiction before venue, but a “court may reverse the
normal order” when the answer to the venue question
“resolves” the case. For the reasons stated
below, because the Court finds that venue is improper in this
District, the Court need not address the Swifts' motion
to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.
then to whether venue is proper in this District, Mr. and Ms.
Griggs summarily conclude that venue is proper in New Jersey
because Mr. Griggs III was a New Jersey resident and Ms.
Griggs, Co-Administratrix of the estate, is a New Jersey
resident. Axiomatically, however, personal
jurisdiction focuses on a defendant's residence and
activities in the forum state rather than the
plaintiff's. Under the venue statute,  corporations
reside “in any judicial district in which such a
defendant is subject to the court's personal
at the facts in the light most favorable to Mr. and Ms.
Griggs, the Court finds that the Swifts' activities in
New Jersey are not sufficient to maintain an exercise of
general jurisdiction. For a corporation or limited liability
company,  the “paradigm” for general
jurisdiction is its place of incorporation or registration
and its principal place of business. Here, Arizona is Swift
Transportation's place of incorporation and the location
of its principal place of business, whereas Delaware is Swift
Arizona's place of registration, with its principal place
of business in Arizona.
neither paradigm applies, the Court must determine
“whether [the] corporation's affiliations with the
State are so continuous and systematic as to render it
essentially at home, ”in New Jersey. Mr. and Ms.
Griggs summarily conclude that the Swifts are subject to
general jurisdiction in New Jersey. After reviewing the
Complaint and briefs, the Court concludes that the Swifts are
not “essentially at home” in this
District. The Swifts' activities within New
Jersey are relatively trivial in comparison to its total
operations. Although the Swifts maintain a facility
in New Jersey which holds approximately 50 loading
bays with 47 trailers,  they also “operate nearly 20,
000 trucks [and] has over forty full-service
facilities” in other states. Accordingly, the Swifts
are not subject to general jurisdiction in New Jersey.
the Court cannot conclude that specific jurisdiction exists
over the Swifts. The Swifts' “purposefully directed
[their] activities at the forum” because the
Swifts are property and business owners in New
Jersey. Nevertheless, Mr. and Ms. Griggs fail to
make a prima facie showing that the Swifts'
contacts with New Jersey were a “but-for” cause
of their claims.
summarily conclude that specific jurisdiction exists because
Mr. Verdier was transporting a motor freight on behalf of the
Swifts at the time of the accident, but fail to allege any
connection with New Jersey. It appears that their claims
would have arisen even in the absence of the Swifts'
contacts in New Jersey. Consequently, the Court need not
evaluate the last element, the fair play and substantial
justice requirement. Taken together, venue is improper under
Section 1391(b)(1) because the Court cannot exercise general
or specific jurisdiction over the Swifts.
under Section 1391(b)(2), courts consider whether “a
substantial part of the events . . . giving rise to the
claim” occurred in the forum state. As discussed
above, the accident occurred in Florida,  Mr. Verdier
lives in Florida,  and the Florida authorities compiled the
accident report and conducted the autopsy in
Florida. The statutory language “favors the
defendant in a venue dispute by requiring that the events or
omissions supporting a claim be
substantial.” In turn, because Mr. and Ms. Griggs fail
to explain how any events that gave rise to the claim
occurred in New Jersey, venue is improper in this District
under Section 1391(b)(2).
under Section 1391(b)(3), the Court finds that venue is
improper in this District because Mr. and Ms. Griggs could
have originally brought the case in the Middle District of
Florida since “a substantial part of the events . . .
giving rising to the claim, ” i.e., the
accident, occurred entirely in Florida. Taken
together, venue is improper under Section 1391(b).
conclusion, however, does not end the Court's analysis.
The Swifts request transfer under Section 1631. However,
courts may transfer a case pursuant to Section 1631 only when
the Court finds that it “does not possess personal
jurisdiction over the defendant.” Although the
Court analyzed personal jurisdiction for the purpose of
venue, the Court did not rule on personal jurisdiction.
Rather, the Court found that venue is improper under Section
under Section 1406(a), the Court shall dismiss the case,
“or if it be in the interest of justice, transfer such
case to any district or division in which it could have been
brought.” The Court must assess whether (1) the
action “could have been brought” in the Middle
District of Florida; and (2) whether it is “in the
interest of justice” to transfer the case there rather
than dismiss it for improper venue. Congress enacted Section
1406(a) to “avoid the injustice which had often
resulted to plaintiffs from dismissal of their actions merely
because they had made an erroneous guess as to the facts
underlying the choice of venue.” It aims
“to save the parties' time and resources”
when the venue is improper.
Court finds that Mr. and Ms. Griggs could have brought the
action in the Middle District of Florida. Because the Court
has already determined that the accident giving rise to the
claim occurred in the Middle District of Florida, the Court
finds that the Swifts will likely be subject to personal
jurisdiction in that District, and thus constitutes a proper
venue. Rather than dismiss Mr. and Ms.
Griggs' Complaint merely because of their
“counsel's erroneous guess” as to proper
venue, the Court finds it is in the interest of justice to
transfer the case to the Middle District of
foregoing reasons, the Court sua sponte transfers
this case to the Middle District of Florida under Section
1406. Consequently, the Court terminates the