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Izzo v. Sandy Alexander, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 14, 2018

PAUL JOSEPH IZZO, Plaintiff,
v.
SANDY ALEXANDER, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS [DKT. NO. 14] AND TRANSFERRING CASE TO DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY

          Hon. Vanessa L. Bryant United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Paul Joseph Izzo (“Plaintiff” or “Izzo”) brings this action for age discrimination pursuant to Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, codified at, 29 U.S.C §§ 621 - 634 (“ADEA”), and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-60, et seq., (“CFEPA”). He alleges that Defendant Sandy Alexander Inc., (“SA” or “Defendant”) deprived him of commissions because he is over 40 years of age and that SA retaliated against him by terminating him after he complained of discrimination. Defendant has moved to dismiss this action for lack of personal jurisdiction, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). (Dkt. No. 14). The Plaintiff opposes this motion. (Dkt. No. 15). For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART, and the Court transfers this case to the District of New Jersey.

          I. Background

          Plaintiff, Paul Joseph Izzo, is a 66-year-old male and a resident of Newtown, Connecticut. (Compl. ¶ 2). From September 18, 2014 until August 19, 2015, Plaintiff worked for SA as a “Sales and Marketing Executive.” (Compl. ¶¶ 2, 14). SA is a corporation that is incorporated in Delaware and has its principle place of business in Clifton, New Jersey. (Dkt. 14-1 at 2). SA is a large printing company, which Plaintiff claims employs over 400 employees across the United States. (Compl. ¶ 13). Plaintiff contends that an unspecified number of these employees work out of home offices in Connecticut. (Compl. ¶ 13).

         Michael Graff (“Graff”) is the Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) at SA. (Compl. ¶ 11). Plaintiff alleges that Graff was originally interested in hiring Plaintiff because of Plaintiff's established clientele and accounts. (Compl. ¶ 15). During Plaintiff's term of employment at SA, Plaintiff claims that he worked primarily out of his home office in Newtown, Connecticut and that he sold specialty printing services and products for SA to corporate clients in Connecticut and other states. (Compl. ¶ 17; Dkt. 15 at 2). The Connecticut based companies that Plaintiff worked with during his employment at SA include but are not limited to: Ann Taylor, World Wrestling Entertainment (“WWE”), Mitchell's, Phillips Consumer in Stamford, Conair in Greenwich, Subway in Milford, MBI in Norwalk, Epsilon Agency in Wilton, Metlife in North Haven, Marlin Company in Wallingford, Swiss Army in Monroe, Breiltling Watch USA in Wilton, Raveis, Logic Source Inc., in Norwalk, Nestle Waters in Stamford, and Adare Inc., in Ridgefield (Dkt. 15-2 at 4, 12, 15-17, 19, 22).

         Plaintiff has attached evidence including invoices and travel reimbursements, which suggest that SA had some business ties to Connecticut. These invoices include eight purchase orders from WWE. (Dkt. 15-2 at 27-34). Additionally, the submitted reimbursement requests and approvals for travel indicate Plaintiff was on “sales calls” and had meals with clients in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Florida. (Dkt. 15-2 at 15-22).

         Because Plaintiff claims that he worked from home in Connecticut, he required a partner to help manage duties at the New Jersey facility. (Compl. ¶¶ 21, 22). Nicholas Stillo (“Stillo”), who is approximately ten years younger than Plaintiff, served as Plaintiff's partner. (Compl. ¶¶ 21, 22, 25). Plaintiff and Stillo agreed to split commissions evenly, and Graff approved of the joint account agreement. (Compl. ¶¶ 22-23).

         The Defendant moves to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2), arguing that its contacts with Connecticut are too tenuous to subject it to this Court's jurisdiction. (Dkt. No. 14).

         II. Legal Standard

         A civil action should be dismissed if the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over a party. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). “When responding to a Rule 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the Court has jurisdiction over the defendant.” Am. Wholesalers Underwriting. Ltd. V. AM. Wholesale Ins. Gro., Inc., 312 F.Supp.2d 247, 251 (D. Conn. 2004) (citing Robinson v. Overseas Military Sales Corp., 21 F.3d 502, 507 (2d Cir. 1994)). “Prior to discovery, a plaintiff may defeat a motion to dismiss based on legally sufficient allegations of jurisdiction and by making a prima facie case of jurisdiction.” Id. (citing, Ball v. Metallurgie Hoboken-Overpelt, S.A., 902 F.2d 194, 197 (2d Cir. 1990)). To establish a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction, a plaintiff must: (1) allege facts sufficient to show that the forum state's long-arm statute reaches a defendant; and (2) establish that the court's exercise of jurisdiction will not violate due process. Id.; Chirag v. MT Marida Marguerite Schiffarhrts, 933 F.Supp.2d 349, 352 (D. Conn. 2013), aff'd, 604 Fed. App'x. 16 (2d Cir 2015). “When considering a Rule 12(b)(2) motion, the court construes any factual averments and resolves all doubts in the plaintiff's favor” Am. Wholesalers Underwriting, 312 F.Supp.2d at 251 (citing CutCo Indus., Inc., v. Naughton, 806 F.2d 361, 365 (2d Cir. 1986)). All undisputed facts in the complaint are accepted as true and where facts are contested, the court is to draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Madara v. Hall, 916 F.2d 1510, 1514 (11th Cir. 1990).

         III. Discussion

         a. Long-arm statute

         The Court first addresses whether Connecticut's long-arm statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 33-929(f) reaches SA. The long-arm statute provides:

Every foreign corporation shall be subject to suit in this state, by a resident of this state or by a person having a usual place of business in this state, whether or not such foreign corporation is transacting or has transacted business in this state and whether or not it is engaged exclusively in ...

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