SANTIAGO v. ID&T et al
OPINION. Signed by Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer on 12/21/16. (DD, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
ID&T, et al.,
Civil Action No. 15-7154 (MAH)
HAMMER, United States Magistrate Judge
This matter comes before the Court on the motion of Defendant Bethel Woods Center for
the Arts (“Bethel”) to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue, pursuant to
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2) and (3). In the alternative, Defendant proposes to transfer this matter to
the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. For the reasons herein,
the Court finds that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over Defendant Bethel. However, the
Court finds that the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York has
jurisdiction and therefore will transfer this matter.
Plaintiff brings negligence claims against Defendants arising from an alleged slip-and-fall
accident at a music event in Bethel, New York. See Compl., Sept. 29, 2015, ¶¶ 11, 12-16, D.E.
1. Plaintiff Angel Santiago (“Plaintiff”) is a citizen of the State of New Jersey. Id. ¶ 2.
Defendant Bethel is a nonprofit entity that rents its property located in Bethel, New York, as
event space. Id. ¶ 4. Bethel’s principal place of business also is located in Bethel, New York.
Certification of Eric Frances, June 23, 2016, D.E. 25-4 (“Frances Cert.”), ¶ 6. Bethel claims it
neither owns real property in New Jersey, nor maintains any office, bank accounts, telephone
numbers, post office box, or registered agent for service of process in New Jersey. Id. ¶¶ 7-12.
Co-Defendant ID&T/SFX Mysteryland LLC (“Mysteryland”) is a Delaware Limited
Liability Company that “organiz[es], promot[es], arrang[es], conduct[s], host[s], and licens[es]
music events.” It leased Bethel’s property (the “site”) to host the Mysteryland Music Festival
(the “Festival”). Frances Cert., ¶¶ 3, 14, D.E. 31. Bethel’s subsidiary, The Bethel Performing
Arts Center, LLC (“BPAC”), signed a Venue License Agreement (the “Agreement”) in order for
Mysteryland to use the Bethel Woods Center of the Arts campus (the “Facility”). Id. Under the
terms of the Agreement, Mysteryland was obligated to “maintain, repair, and clean the Facility,”
and was solely responsible for ticket sales. Frances Cert., ¶¶ 16-17.
Plaintiff purchased a ticket online through Ticketmaster and attended the Festival at the
site in Bethel, New York. Compl., ¶¶ 7-8. Plaintiff alleges that as he was leaving the Festival,
he fell while walking in a dark area of the site where there was “long wet grass.” Id. ¶ 10.
Plaintiff alleges that he sustained serious injuries to his ankle, which required multiple surgeries
and caused him to suffer a permanent disability. Id. Plaintiff claims that he received “the vast
majority” of his medical treatments in New Jersey. Pl.’s Br. in Supp. of Opp., at 2, July 5, 2015,
B. Procedural History
Plaintiff commenced this action against Defendants ID&T, ID&T North America, and
Bethel by filing a Complaint in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Compl., ¶¶ 1, 5. Plaintiff alleges that his injuries are the direct
and proximate result of “Defendants[’] careless[ness] and negligen[ce] in the ownership,
maintenance and operation of the subject property.” Id. ¶ 13. Plaintiff seeks, inter alia, actual,
compensatory, and statutory damages. Id.
Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on October 9, 2015, adding SFX Entertainment,
Inc. and various John Doe entities as Defendants. Amended Compl,. ¶¶ 1-5, Oct. 9, 2015, D.E.
3. Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint on October 29, 2015, terminating ID&T and
SFX Entertainment as Defendants and naming Defendant ID&T/SFX Mysteryland LLC. Second
Amended Compl., ¶ 4, Oct. 29, 2015, D.E. 4.
Defendant Bethel moved to dismiss or in the alternative to transfer venue to the United
States District Court for the Southern District of New York, and Plaintiff opposed Defendant’s
motion. Def.’s Mot. to Dismiss, at 1, Mar. 23, 2016, D.E. 19; Pl.’s Br. in Supp. of Opp., at 2,
July 5, 2015, D.E. 30. Co-Defendant Mysteryland consented to this Court’s jurisdiction and in
the alternative requested that the matter be transferred in lieu of dismissal. Co-Def.’s Response
to Mot., at 1, July 7, 2016, D.E. 32.
A. Personal Jurisdiction
Rule 4(k)(1)(A) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a federal district court to
“exercise personal jurisdiction according to the law of the state where it sits.” O’Connor v.
Sandy Lane Hotel Co., 496 F.3d 312, 316 (3d Cir. 2007); see Marten v. Godwin, 499 F.3d 290,
296 (3d Cir. 2007); see generally Smith v. S&S Dundalk Eng’g Works, Ltd., 139 F. Supp. 2d 610,
617 (D.N.J. 2001) (noting that former Rule 4(e) is now incorporated into Rule 4(k)). Normally,
this is a two-part inquiry. There must be a state statutory basis for exercising jurisdiction over a
non-resident defendant, and a constitutional basis whereby the minimum contacts between the
non-resident and the forum state satisfy due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. See
Metcalfe v. Renaissance Marine, Inc., 566 F.3d 324, 330 (3d Cir. 2009). New Jersey’s long-arm
rule, however, extends jurisdiction over non-resident defendants to the full extent permitted by
the United States Constitution. Carteret Sav. Bank, FA v. Shushan, 954 F.2d 141, 145 (3d Cir.
1992); see also N.J. Ct. R. 4-4(b)(1); YA Global Inv., L.P. v. Cliff, 419 N.J. Super. 1, 8 (App.
Div. 2011) (citing Avdel Corp. v. Mecure, 58 N.J. 264, 268 (1971)). Therefore, in New Jersey,
the inquiry into whether personal jurisdiction exists over a non-resident defendant concerns only
questions of due process under the Constitution. Carteret, 954 F.2d at 145.
A plaintiff has the burden of persuasion to establish that jurisdiction is proper and must
provide facts based upon competent evidence, such as affidavits. Metcalfe, 566 F.3d at 330; see
also Time Share Vacation Club v. Atlantic Resorts, Ltd., 735 F.2d 61, 66 n.9 (3d Cir. 1984)
(explaining that, unlike a motion for failure to state a claim, plaintiff may not rely on pleadings
alone for contests of personal jurisdiction). A plaintiff’s burden of proof depends on whether an
evidentiary hearing is held. Metcalfe, 566 F.3d at 330–31; see also Lasala v. Marfin Popular
Bank Pub. Co., 410 F. App’x 474, 476 (3d Cir. 2011). If a court conducts an evidentiary
hearing, a plaintiff must establish personal jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence.
Carteret, 954 F.2d at 142 n.1, 146; see also Lasala, 410 F. App’x at 476. If, as here, no
evidentiary hearing takes place, a plaintiff need prove only a prima facie case for personal
jurisdiction, and a court must accept a plaintiff’s allegations as true and construe disputed facts in
its favor. O’Connor, 496 F.3d at 316 (citing Miller Yacht Sales, Inc. v. Smith, 384 F.3d 93, 97
(3d Cir. 2004)); see also id. at 323 (stating that “[w]e accept [plaintiff’s jurisdictional] statement
as true because the District Court held no evidentiary hearing); Lasala, 410 F. App’x at 476–77. 1
There are two distinct bases for the exercise of personal jurisdiction: general jurisdiction
or specific jurisdiction. O’Connor, 496 F.3d at 317. Here, Plaintiff does not assert that general
personal jurisdiction exists. See Pl.’s Opp’n Br. at 3-7. Rather, Plaintiff asserts specific
jurisdiction based on Bethel’s specific contacts with New Jersey. Accordingly, the Court will
consider only whether specific personal jurisdiction exists over Bethel. 2
Specific personal jurisdiction exists when the relationship among the forum, the
defendant, and the cause of action are such that the defendant purposely avails itself of the
forum’s laws, the cause of action is related to or arises out of the defendant’s contacts with the
forum, and the defendant “should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there.” Mellon
Bank (East) PSFS, Nat’l Ass’n v. Farino, 960 F.2d 1217, 1221–22 (3d Cir. 1992) (internal
Where a plaintiff makes a prima facie case, however, a court may revisit disputed facts
at a later time and a plaintiff must eventually prove jurisdictional facts by a preponderance of the
evidence. Metcalfe, 566 F.3d at 331, 336 (citing Carteret, 954 F.2d at 142 n.1, 146); see also
LaRose v. Sponco Mfg., Inc., 712 F. Supp. 455, 458–59 (D.N.J. 1989) (stating “[t]hus, if plaintiff
meets the prima facie burden, he may proceed to trial, and may only be challenged to establish
jurisdiction again at a pre-trial hearing where the burden is then raised to a preponderance of the
evidence standard, such as on a motion for summary judgment, or at trial where the higher
burden also attaches, but no other preliminary motions on the papers can re-visit the jurisdiction
General personal jurisdiction exists when the evidence shows that a defendant’s
contacts with the forum, whether or not related to the litigation, are “continuous and systematic.”
Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 416 (1984); accord Metcalfe,
566 F.3d at 334. For general personal jurisdiction, a court considers, among other facts, whether
a defendant’s personnel or facilities are located in the forum state and whether a defendant
advertised or solicited business there. See BP Chems. Ltd. v. Formosa Chem. & Fibre Corp.,
229 F.3d 254, 262 (3d Cir. 2000). If continuous and systematic contacts with the forum state are
shown, then personal jurisdiction is proper even if the cause of action arises from non-forum
contacts. Metcalfe, 566 F.3d at 334; BP Chems., 229 F.3d at 262.
citations and quotations omitted). In the Third Circuit, a three-part inquiry determines whether
specific personal jurisdiction exists:
First, the defendant must have purposefully directed his activities at the forum.
Second, the plaintiff’s claim must arise out of or relate to at least one of those
specific activities. Third, courts may consider additional factors to ensure that the
assertion of jurisdiction otherwise comports with fair play and substantial justice.
Marten, 499 F.3d at 296 (internal quotations marks and citations omitted); accord O’Connor,
496 F.3d at 317.
Under the first step of the inquiry, a defendant must “purposefully avail itself of the
privilege of conducting activities within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and
protection of its laws.” Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253 (1958); accord O’Connor, 496
F.3d at 317. Although “[p]hysical entrance is not required, . . . . what is necessary is a deliberate
targeting of the forum.” O’Connor, 496 F.3d at 317. Accordingly, “the ‘unilateral activity of
those who claim some relationship with a nonresident defendant’ is insufficient.” Id. (quoting
Hanson, 357 U.S. at 253); see also Osteotech, Inc. v. GenSci Regeneration Scis., Inc., 6 F. Supp.
2d 349, 353 (D.N.J. 1998) (stating that “[a] single, unsolicited contact, random or fortuitous acts
or the unilateral acts of others (including the plaintiff) do not constitute a purposeful connection
between the defendant and the forum state”). A single act, however, can support jurisdiction if
that contact creates a substantial connection with the forum and is connected with the injury
underlying the litigation. Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 476 n.18 (1985).
Telephone calls, mail, or electronic communications sent by a defendant into the forum may also
count toward minimum contacts that support jurisdiction, see Grand Entm’t Group, Ltd. v. Star
Media Sales, Inc., 988 F.2d 476, 482 (3d Cir. 1993), but they do not trigger personal jurisdiction
unless they show purposeful availment. Toys “R” Us, 318 F.3d at 455. Moreover, “contacts
with a state’s citizens that take place outside the state are not purposeful contacts with the state
itself.” O’Connor, 496 F.3d at 317. 1
With respect to commerce claims that arise via the Internet, the test for determining
whether a defendant has established minimum contacts with the forum state such that a court can
exercise personal jurisdiction over that defendant is the sliding scale approach delineated in
Zippo Mfg. Co. v. Zippo Dot Com, Inc., 952 F. Supp. 119, 1123-24 (W.D. Pa. 1997). See
Ackourey v. Sonellas Custom Tailors, 573 F. App’x 208, 211-12 (3d Cir. 2014) (finding that
personal jurisdiction was lacking because Defendant’s passive website “did little ‘more than
Under the second step of the inquiry, plaintiff’s “claims must also ‘arise out of or relate
to’ at least one” purposefully directed contact. O’Connor, 496 F.3d at 318 (quoting
Helicopteros, 466 U.S. at 414). Except for contract cases, the United States Court of Appeals for
the Third Circuit has not adopted a definitive approach to this step and has avoided “categorical
determinations.” O’Connor, 496 F.3d at 320. For a purposefully-directed contact to arise out of
or relate to a claim, the contact must not only be a but-for cause of the claim, but also must be “a
closer and more direct causal connection” such that “[w]ith each purposeful contact by an out-ofstate resident, the forum state’s laws will extend certain benefits and impose certain obligations.”
Id. at 323. The relatedness requirement “must keep the jurisdictional exposure that results from
a contact closely tailored to that contact’s accompanying substantive obligations.” Id.
Under the third step of the specific personal jurisdiction inquiry, a court must “consider
whether the exercise of jurisdiction would otherwise comport with ‘traditional notions of fair
play and substantial justice.’” O’Connor, 496 F.3d at 324 (quoting Int’l Shoe Co. v. Washington,
326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)). Specifically, “[t]he existence of minimum contacts makes
jurisdiction presumptively constitutional, and the defendant ‘must present a compelling case that
the presence of some other considerations would render jurisdiction unreasonable.’” O’Connor,
496 F.3d at 324 (citing Burger King, 471 U.S. at 477). This is a heavy burden for the defendant
to show. Grand Entm’t Grp., 988 F.2d at 483. When considering jurisdictional reasonableness,
a court considers several factors, including: (1) the burden on the defendant, (2) the plaintiff’s
interest in convenient and effective relief, (3) the forum’s interest in adjudicating the dispute, (4)
the interstate or international judicial system’s interest in obtaining an efficient resolution, and
(5) the procedural and substantive interests of other countries. O’Connor, 496 F.3d at 324
(internal citations omitted).
Because the Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to meet his burden of demonstrating that
Bethel’s contacts with the State of New Jersey through its website is sufficient to establish
minimum contacts, the Court need not reach the next two steps of this inquiry.
advertise on the Internet in Pennsylvania’”). “The likelihood that personal jurisdiction can be
constitutionally exercised is directly proportionate to the nature and quality of commercial
activity that an entity conducts over the Internet.” Zippo, 952 F. Supp. at 1124. “[A] passive
Web site that does little more than make information available to those who are interested in it is
not grounds for exercise [of] personal jurisdiction.” Id. A website that “does not permit
customers to place orders, make payments, or engage in any business transactions” has a “low
degree of commercial activity” such that it “renders Defendants' website essentially passive.”
Ackourey, 573 F. App’x at 212. At the other end of the scale are websites that are interactive and
actively conduct commercial transaction with members of the forum state. Zippo, 952 F. Supp.
at 1124. Therefore, in determining whether personal jurisdiction exists, a court must consider
“the level of interactivity and commercial nature of the exchange of information that occurs on
the Web site.” Id.
That Plaintiff lives in New Jersey, by itself, is not a valid consideration for specific
personal jurisdiction. Plaintiff claims that he received all or most of his medical treatment in
New Jersey, but that too is not particularly relevant to the specific personal jurisdiction analysis,
which concerns a defendant’s contacts with the forum and their relationship to the claims at
The remaining question is whether Defendant Bethel’s website can confer specific
personal jurisdiction in New Jersey. Plaintiff argues that “by advertising the event on its Web
site [Bethel] did actively solicit New Jersey residents.” Pl.’s Opp’n Br. at 4. Defendant argues
that its website was passive and therefore, the Court cannot rely on it to find personal
jurisdiction. Def.’s Br. at 3.
The Court finds that under the Zippo sliding-scale test and Ackourey, Defendant Bethel
does not have sufficient minimum contacts with New Jersey through its web site to support the
exercise of personal jurisdiction over Bethel. There is no indication that any advertising was
directed to, or specifically targeted, New Jersey residents. As confirmed by Bethel’s
CFO/General Manager, pursuant to Paragraph 4 of the License Agreement, “the sale of tickets
shall be by Mysteryland and [Bethel] had no obligation or right with regards to the tickets.”
Certification of Eric Frances, D.E. 25-4; Venue License Agreement, D.E. 25-5. In addition,
“Mysteryland conducts advertising for events held at the Facility.” Certification of Eric Frances,
D.E. 25-4. It is true that the Bethel website advertised the event that Plaintiff attended, and at
which he injured himself. But Plaintiff did not, and could not, purchase tickets directly from
Bethel’s website. Id. Instead, Plaintiff had to purchase tickets by going to the Ticketmaster site.
Id. Under these circumstances, the Court finds that Bethel’s web site is a passive one “that does
little more than make information available to those who are interested.” See Zippo, 952 F.
Supp. at 1124. The Zippo analysis makes clear that Defendant’s passive web site is insufficient
to find that Defendant has purposefully availed itself of this forum such that its minimum
contacts with New Jersey can support a finding of personal jurisdiction. Accordingly, the Court
finds that it lacks personal jurisdiction over Defendant Bethel.
Plaintiff has requested that if the Court concludes it lacks personal jurisdiction, it
consider transferring the case rather than dismissing it. See Pl.’s Opp’n Br. at 7. Plaintiff’s
request has merit. Section 1406(a) of Title 28 of the United States Code states “[t]he district
court of a district in which is filed a case laying venue in the wrong division or district shall
dismiss, or if it be in the interest of justice, transfer such case to any district or division in which
it could have been brought.” See Goldlawr, 369 U.S. at 466 (stating that under § 1406(a), court
does not need to have personal jurisdiction to transfer a case for improper venue); United States
v. Berkowitz, 328 F.2d 358, 361 (3d Cir. 1964) (“‘The language of § 1406(a) is amply broad
enough to authorize the transfer of cases . . . whether the court in which it was filed had personal
jurisdiction over the defendants or not.”) (quoting Goldawr, 369 U.S. at 466–67)). Transfer is
generally preferred over dismissal under the principle that cases should be tried on their merits.
RAIT Partnership, L.P. v. Fieldstone Lester Shear & Denberg, LLP, Civ. No. 09–28, 2009 WL
3297310, at 8 (D.Del. Oct. 14, 2009) (citing Goldlawr, 369 U.S. at 465–66); see, e.g., Taube,
2011 WL 5599821, at *5; J.F. Lomma, 2011 WL 463051, at *5; CLP, 2008 WL 2095774, at *4.
The Court finds that venue would be proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a)(2) in the United
States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Under § 1391(a)(2), venue in the
Southern District of New York is proper because many of the significant events and omissions
underlying Bethel’s alleged negligence transpired on the Bethel, New York site. 28 U.S.C. §
1391(a)(2). As discussed above, it was in New York that Plaintiff allegedly fell and sustained
serious injuries to his ankle. Second Amended Compl. ¶ 10. Plaintiff’s negligence claim arises
directly out of the conditions of the Bethel, New York site. Id.
Plaintiff argues against transfer because, he claims, it would not be favorable to
Plaintiff’s condition to travel, and that his treatments take place in New Jersey. Pl.’s Br. in Supp.
of Opp., at 5-6. Although factors such as convenience are relevant considerations to a § 1404(a)
analysis where personal jurisdiction is not at issue, here the Court has already determined that it
lacks personal jurisdiction over the Defendants. Moreover, in weighing inconvenience to
Plaintiff versus fairness to Defendant, it does not seem unreasonable to this Court that this matter
be transferred to the Southern District of New York. A cursory map search shows that it would
take twice as long for Defendant to travel to the Southern District of New York as it would take
Plaintiff, which is even longer for Defendant than travelling to the District of New Jersey. Maps,
Plaintiff also claims that “the vast majority” of his medical treatment has taken place in
New Jersey, which implies that he has travelled elsewhere to receive treatment and thus most
likely has the capability to travel with respect to this case. Faro Cert. ¶ 5. Plaintiff also argues
that “[o]nly the accident site and Bethel Woods is located in New York.” Pl.’s Br. in Supp. of
Opp., at 7. Again, these facts matter less where, as here, the Court already has concluded that it
lacks personal jurisdiction, as opposed to a § 1404(a) analysis based on convenience and
efficiency and where jurisdiction is not at issue. Moreover, the location of the Festival and the
conditions of the site are precisely what gave way to the accident, which specifically yields this
cause of action. Consequently, the events giving rise to the claim substantially occurred in the
Southern District of New York. See Cottman, 36 F.3d at 295–96. Accordingly, venue in the
United States District Court for the Southern District of New York is also proper under 28
U.S.C. § 1391(a)(2).
Because transfer to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New
York is proper and will facilitate a decision on the merits, the Court concludes that this case
should be transferred to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406.
https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Bethel,+NY/50+Walnut+Street,+Newark,+NJ (last visited
December 19, 2016).
For the reasons set forth above, the Court finds that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction
over Defendant Bethel, but that transfer to the United States District Court, Southern District of
New York pursuant to 28 U .S.C. § 1406 is appropriate. Therefore, the Court will transfer this
action to the United States District Court, for the Southern District of New York.
An appropriate Order accompanies this Opinion.
s/ Michael A. Hammer________
United States Magistrate Judge
Dated: December 21, 2016
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?