BROWN v. CITY OF GREENVILLE et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION filed. Signed by Judge Mary L. Cooper on 6/26/2017. (mps)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
STACY D. BROWN,
: CIVIL ACTION NO. 17-1448 (MLC)
CITY OF GREENVILLE, DOUGLAS RAY :
CREDLE, HATTERAS HAMMOCKS, INC. :
d/b/a THE HAMMOCK SOURCE; JEFFREY :
REID RONEY, and JOHN DOES 1-4,
COOPER, District Judge
This matter comes before the Court upon two motions to dismiss. Defendants
Hatteras Hammocks, Inc. d/b/a The Hammock Source (“Hatteras”) and Jeffrey Reid
Roney (“Roney”) move to dismiss Plaintiff Stacy D. Brown’s (“Plaintiff”) Complaint for
lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue. (Dkt. 7.)1 Defendants City of
Greenville and Douglas Ray Credle (“Credle”) move to dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint for
lack of personal jurisdiction. (Dkt. 8.) Plaintiff did not file an opposition to either
motion. The Court has considered the parties’ submissions, and decides the motions
The Court will cite to the documents filed on the Electronic Case Filing System
(“ECF”) by referring to the docket entry numbers by the designation of “dkt.” Pincites reference
without oral argument pursuant to Local Civil Rule 78.1. For the reasons discussed
below, the Defendants’2 motions are granted.
This is an action to recover damages for personal injuries allegedly sustained by
Plaintiff on September 23, 2015, when he was involved in a motor vehicle accident that
occurred in Greenville, North Carolina. Plaintiff was a passenger in a bus owned by
Defendant City of Greenville and operated by Defendant Credle. (Dkt. 1 at 1.)
Defendant Roney was operating a motor vehicle owned by Defendant Hatteras, when he
allegedly struck the bus Plaintiff occupied, causing the accident. (Id. at 1-2.) Plaintiff’s
Complaint includes a common-law negligence cause of action against the Defendants.
(Id. at 1-3.)
Shortly after the filing of the Complaint, we issued an Order to Show Cause why
the Complaint should not be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. (Dkt. 4.)
Plaintiff’s Complaint did not include a “short and plain statement of the grounds for the
court’s jurisdiction” as required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(1). In addition, the civil cover
sheet filed with the Complaint indicated that Plaintiff’s intended basis for jurisdiction was
federal question; however, there was no averment in the Complaint invoking the
Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
Plaintiff responded to our Order to Show Cause and submitted that we have
diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 because the parties are completely
We will refer to Defendants Hatteras, Roney, City of Greenville, and Credle
collectively as “Defendants” unless otherwise specified.
diverse and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. (Dkt. 5.) Plaintiff’s response
indicated that Plaintiff is a resident of the State of New Jersey; Defendant City of
Greenville is a “North Carolina Public Entity;” Defendant Credle is a resident of the State
of North Carolina; Defendant Hatteras is a North Carolina Corporation with a principal
place of business in Greenville, North Carolina; and Defendant Roney is a resident of the
State of Alabama. (Dkt. 5 at 2.) Satisfied with this response, we vacated our Order to
Show Cause. (Dkt. 6.)
The Defendants have now moved to dismiss this action for lack of personal
jurisdiction and improper venue. Plaintiff does not oppose the motions.
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(1), a federal district court has
personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant “who is subject to the jurisdiction of a
court of general jurisdiction in the state where the district court is located.” Fed. R. Civ.
P. 4(k)(1). New Jersey’s long-arm statute permits the exercise of personal jurisdiction
over non-resident defendant to the full extent allowed under the Due Process Clause of
the Fourteenth Amendment. See N.J. Ct. R. 4:4-4; Carteret Sav. Bank, FA v. Shushan,
954 F.2d 141, 145 (3d Cir. 1992). For the exercise of jurisdiction to satisfy due process,
there must be “minimum contacts” between a non-resident defendant and the forum state
such that “maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and
substantial justice.” J. McIntyre Machinery, Ltd. v. Nicastro, 564 U.S. 873, 880 (2011)
(quoting Int’l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)). Generally, the suit
must either arise out of or relate to a defendant’s contacts with the forum state, which
allows the court to assert specific jurisdiction over a defendant, or the defendant must
have “continuous and systematic forum affiliations” to meet the standard for general
jurisdiction. Helicopteros Nacionales de Columbia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414 n.8
(1984); see also Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746, 754 (2014) (discussing specific
and general jurisdiction).
No such “minimum contacts” are present in this case as the Defendants do not
appear to have any connection to New Jersey. Plaintiff’s Complaint admits that all
Defendants are located or reside outside of New Jersey. In addition, nothing in the record
suggests that any of the defendants were served in state.3
Defendants Credle and City of Greenville have contended that they have no
contacts with New Jersey, and these contentions have not been disputed. According to
the Affidavit of Defendant Credle, he is a resident of Greenville, North Carolina. (Dkt.
8-6 at 2.) At the time of the September 23, 2015 accident, he was a resident of North
Carolina. (Id.) He has never resided in New Jersey, has never owned property in New
Jersey, and has not conducted any business in New Jersey. (Id. at 2-3.) Defendant
Credle’s only reported contact with New Jersey is a visit with family, approximately five
to seven years ago. (Id.) According to the Affidavit of Barbara Lipscomb, the City
Manager of Defendant City of Greenville, the City of Greenville is located entirely in Pitt
County, North Carolina. (Dkt. 8-7 at 2-3.) Defendant City of Greenville does not have
any business relationship or other contacts with the State of New Jersey. (Id. at 3.) “At
Defendant Roney had not been served with the Complaint as of April 25, 2017. (See
dkt. 7 at 17.)
all relevant times, the City of Greenville has not even had minor, random fortuitous or
attenuated contacts with the State of New Jersey.” (Id. at 4.)
Defendants Hatteras and Roney did not submit affidavits regarding their contacts
with New Jersey in support of their motion. However, they sufficiently raised the
question of personal jurisdiction. (See dkt. 7 at 16, 24.) When a defendant raises a
personal jurisdiction objection, the plaintiff bears the burden of showing the jurisdiction
is proper. Carteret Sav. Bank, 954 F.2d at 146. 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); see also Metcalfe v. Renaissance Marine, Inc., 566 F.3d 324, 330-31
(3d Cir. 2009). The Plaintiff must, however, still “‘prov[e] by affidavits or other
competent evidence that jurisdiction is proper.’” Metcalfe, 566 F.3d at 330 (quoting
Dayhoff Inc. v. H.J. Heinz Co., 86 F.3d 1287, 1302 (3d Cir. 1996). “In other words,
‘bare pleadings alone’ are insufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss for lack of
personal jurisdiction.” Cerciello v. Canale, 563 F. App’x 924, 925 n.1 (3d Cir. 2014)
(citation omitted). Here, Plaintiff has not met his evidentiary burden. Plaintiff failed to
submit affidavits or other competent evidence in support of jurisdiction over Defendants,
a failure which constitutes an adequate ground for dismissal by itself. See Jumpp v.
Jerkins, No. 08-6268, 2010 WL 2773582, *3 (D.N.J. July 7, 2010).
Plaintiff’s Complaint and response to our Order to Show Cause fail to establish
even a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction over any of the Defendants. In short, we
conclude that we lack general jurisdiction over the Defendants. Moreover, there is
simply no indication that the suit arises out of or relates to Defendants’ contacts with
New Jersey. The dispute concerns a motor vehicle accident that occurred entirely in
Greenville, North Carolina. Based on the findings above, we conclude that we lack
specific jurisdiction over the Defendants.
For the reasons above, the Court will grant Defendants’ unopposed motions to
dismiss this case for lack of personal jurisdiction.4 An appropriate Order follows.
s/ Mary L. Cooper
MARY L. COOPER
United States District Judge
Dated: June 26, 2017
Because we dismiss this action for lack of personal jurisdiction over the Defendants,
we do not reach Defendants Hatteras and Roney’s arguments related to improper venue pursuant
to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(3). In addition, we note that the only remaining defendants in this case
are John Does (1-4). According to Fed. R. Civ. P. 21, “parties may be dropped . . . by order of
the court . . . of its own initiative at any stage of the action and on such terms as are just.” Fed.
R. Civ. P. 21. A court may drop unidentified defendants pursuant to this Rule. See, e.g., Adams
v. City of Camden, 461 F. Supp. 2d 263, 271 (D.N.J. 2006) (citing cases). There is nothing
before the Court to indicate that Plaintiff has identified or served these individuals. The time for
service under Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(m) expired on May 31, 2017. Therefore, the Court exercises its
discretion under Fed. R. Civ. P. 21 to dismiss Defendants John Does 1-4 from this action.
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