ADELSON et al v. ENTERPRISE CAR RENTAL et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge Kevin McNulty on 10/10/2017. (JB, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
ADAMS. ADELSON and RICKI
Civ. No. 17-2209 (KM) (JBC)
ENTERPRISE CAR RENTAL, COLM J.
DUNPHY, COLM DUNPHY
MANAGEMENT CORPORATION, THE
HARTFORD INSURANCE COMPANY,
JOHN DOE I-X AND ABC CORP. 1-X,
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.
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.’ (Compl. Parties
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.
LEGAL STANDARDS AND DISCUSSION
A. Personal Jurisdiction Standards
Once a defendant files a motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction pursuant to Fed. I?. 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
plaintiff’s allegations as true and construe disputed facts in favor of the
plaintiff. Pinker ic Roche Holdings, Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 368 (3d Cir. 2002).
Where factual allegations are disputed, however, the court must examine any
The Complaint says Maryland, an apparent mistake.
The Court’s subject matter jurisdiction is founded on 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). The
Complaint alleges that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 and that Plaintiffs
are defendants are citizens of different states. (Cplt. Jurisdiction and Venue ¶ 1) For
present purposes, that is perhaps a sufficient allegation. The Complaint does make the
common pleading error, however, of afleging the “residence” of the natural persons
and the “place of business” of the corporations, rather than their citizenship. As to
Hartford Insurance Company, it states only that the defendant is licensed to do
business in New Jersey.
evidence presented. See, e.g., Eurofins Phanna U.S. Holdings u. BioAlliance
Phanna SA, 623 F.3d 147, 155—56 (3d Cir. 2010) (examining the evidence
supporting the plaintiff’s allegations); Patterson u. 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 u. 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. 1?. 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. 1?. 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 i-c Cal. Fed. Say. & Loan Ass’n, 819 F.2d 434, 437 (3d Cir.
1987) (quoting Int’l Shoe Co. i-c Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S. Ct. 154
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 Daimler
AG v. Bauman,
134 S. Ct. 746, 754 (2014); Goodyear Dunlop
Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown,
131 5. Ct. 2846, 2851 (2011);
Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414, 104 S. Ct.
In contrast to general jurisdiction, specific jurisdiction relies on the
defendant’s forum-related activities that give rise to the plaintiffs’ claims. See
Helicopteros, 466 U.S. at 414 n.8, 104 S. Ct. 1872. Establishing specific
jurisdiction requires a three-part inquiry: (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 othenvise comports with traditional notions of fair play and
substantial justice. O’Connor v. Sandy Lane Hotel Co., Ltd., 496 F.3d 312, 317
(3d Cir. 2007). The defendant need not be physically located in the state while
committing the alleged acts. Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462,
476, 105 S. Ct. 2174 (1985). Nor is specific jurisdiction defeated merely
because the bulk of harm occurred outside the forum. Keeton v. Hustler
Magazine, Inc., 465 U.S. 770, 780, 104 S. Ct. 1473 (1984). A single act may
satisfy the minimum contacts test if it creates a substantial connection with
the forum. Burger King, 471 U.S. at 476 n. 18, 105 S. Ct. 2174.
B. Personal Jurisdiction in this Case
Here, the Adelsons have not established that this Court possesses
general or specific personal jurisdiction over Dunphy and Dunphy Corp.
It is enough that the Complaint fails to allege any connection whatever
between these defendants and the State of New Jersey. In addition, however,
defendants submit the affidavit of Colm J. Dunphy, who is the father of
defendant Dunphy and the owner of Dunphy Corp. He confirms that Dunphy
Corp. is a corporation with its principal place of business in Quincy,
Massachusetts. It manages several Massachusetts properties, but has no
business dealings in the State of New Jersey. The automobile that defendant
Dunphy was driving at the time of the accident was a leased company vehicle
of Dunphy Corp. Both Dunphy, Sr., and defendant Dunphy are residents of
Massachusetts and have no property or residence in New Jersey. (Affidavit of
Colm J. Dunphy (“Dunphy Aff.”, ECF no. 3-2)
In response, the Adelsons confirm the essential facts stated in the
Dunphy Affidavit. Their response (ECF no. 4) mixes together the concepts of
venue, subject matter jurisdiction, and personal jurisdiction, although only the
latter is involved in this motion. It stresses that venue may be transferred in a
proper case under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1404; that the plaintiffs are New Jersey
residents; that their treating physicians and other medical providers are in New
Jersey, and it would be inconvenient for them to testify in Massachusetts; that
diversity jurisdiction is proper; and that the court has supplemental
jurisdiction over claims not within the original subject matter of the court. For
these reasons, the Adelsons argue, the motion to dismiss based on lack of
personal jurisdiction should be denied.
Merely getting into a car accident with an out-of-state resident does not
subject a person to personal jurisdiction in that foreign state. The proposition
does not require extensive citation. Here the United States Court of Appeals for
the Third Circuit discusses a case brought by Pennsylvania residents against a
Georgia defendant, based on an accident in Georgia:
Here, Pennsylvania possesses neither general nor specific
jurisdiction over Dyson. General jurisdiction does not exist
because Dyson was not domiciled or present in Pennsylvania at the
time of service, and he has not consented to suit there. Specific
jurisdiction does not exist because Dyson, a Georgian, has not
engaged in any activity that can be viewed as being aimed directly
or indirectly at Pennsylvania by simply being involved in a motor
vehicle collision in Georgia, even when it involves Pennsylvania
passengers. Furthermore, there is no specific jurisdiction here
because, by the mere act alone of driving along a Georgia
interstate, Dyson could not have reasonably anticipated being
haled into court in Pennsylvania.
Accordingly, the District Court was correct in dismissing the
instant action under Rule 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction.
Decker a Dyson, 165 F. Appx 951, 953 (3d Cir. 2006) •2
Dunphy and Dunphy Corp. have no discernible connection to New
Jersey, and they did not purposefully direct their activities toward New Jersey
Pennsylvania’s long-arm statute, like that of New Jersey, extends to the limits of
due process. 165 F. App’x at 952.
The Adelsons’ submission, as noted, includes venue in a list of concepts
irrelevant to the motion. I do not regard that passing reference as a request for change
of venue. Here, too, Decker is instructive:
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a), a district court, upon a motion or sua sponte,
may transfer a case to a court of proper jurisdiction when such a transfer
is in the interest of justice. A district court has “broad discretion in
deciding whether to order a transfer.” Caldwell v. Palmetto State Say.
Bank ofS.C., 811 F.2d 916, 919 (5th Cir.1987) (ruling that a district
court did not abuse its discretion in failing to order sua sponte a transfer
under § 1406). Because Decker and Quine failed to move for a transfer
before the District Court and provided no reasons why such a move
would be in the interest of justice, we accordingly conclude that the court
acted within its permissible discretion in refusing to issue such an order.
165 F. Appx at 954. Particularly where two other defendants are present in the case, I
will not officiously transfer it to another forum sin sponte, in the absence of a motion
directly addressing the relevant factors and requesting that relief.
and its citizens. The only connection to New Jersey is the happenstance that
their car collided, in Massachusetts, with a car driven by a New Jersey
resident. Accordingly, this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over defendants
Dunphy and Dunphy Corp.
For the foregoing reasons, the motion of Dunphy and Dunphy Corp.
under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2) to dismiss the complaint as against them for lack
of personal jurisdiction is GRANTED.
An appropriate Order follows.
Dated: October 10, 2017
HON. KEVIN MCNULTY, U4)J.
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