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ROSS v. PRODUCT DEV. CORP.

October 5, 1989

ALPHONSO ROSS, Plaintiff,
v.
PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT CORP., et al., Defendants


Royce C. Lamberth, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: LAMBERTH

ROYCE C. LAMBERTH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

 This matter comes before the court on the motion of both the corporate defendant, Product Development Corporation, and the individual defendant, Carver Augusta Avent, to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, and upon the oppositions and responses thereto.

 On February 5, 1987, the individual defendant, a Product Development Corp. employee, allegedly negligently injured the plaintiff on the premises of the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. On January 13, 1989, plaintiff filed suit in this court, basing jurisdiction on diversity of citizenship. Both defendants then moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the court lacks personal jurisdiction over them. In the alternative, defendants requested that the case be transferred to the appropriate forum in either Maryland or Virginia pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).

 The facts necessary for a decision on the jurisdictional issue are undisputed. The plaintiff, Alphonso Ross, resides in the District of Columbia. Complaint, at para. 2. The individual defendant, Carver Augusta Avent, resides in Maryland. Statement of defendants' counsel, hearing on motion to dismiss (Sept. 8, 1989). The corporate defendant, Product Development Corp., is incorporated under the laws of the State of California and is in the business of delivering telephone books. See Supplemental Response in Support of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, Affidavit of F. Robert Kaiser, at paras. 2, 4 (dated May 16, 1989) ("Kaiser Affidavit"). It has been licensed to do business in the District since 1985; on its application for certificate of authority to operate within the District it listed its business purpose as the distribution of telephone books. Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Supplement in Support of Their Motion to Dismiss, Attachment 1, at 2, 3 ("Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Supplement"). Product Development Corp. delivers District of Columbia telephone books in the District seven weeks each year, and in addition delivers Maryland and Northern Virginia telephone books in the District on a demand basis during two other seven week periods. Kaiser Affidavit, at para. 4. The company maintains an office in Maryland, but does not maintain an office or place of business in the District of Columbia. Id., at para. 3. It does, however, have a registered agent in the District of Columbia, and it was upon this agent that plaintiff served process. Opposition to Motion to Dismiss, at paras. 2, 3 ("Plaintiff's Opposition"); see also Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Supplement, Attachment 1, at 3 (Application for Certificate of Authority). *fn1"

 In their motion to dismiss, defendants assert that this court can exercise jurisdiction over them only pursuant to the District of Columbia long-arm statute, D.C. Code Ann. § 13-423 (1989). Motion to Dismiss, at para. 6. However, they argue, subsection (b) of § 13-423 limits the reach of the long-arm statute to claims which arise out of the defendant's business contacts with the District. Id., at para. 7. Because the injury alleged by plaintiff is entirely unrelated to defendants' business contacts with the District, defendants conclude, the District's long-arm statute does not give this court personal jurisdiction over them. Id., at para. 8.

 Plaintiff responds by claiming that, because Product Development Corp. does business in the District and has a registered agent for service of process in the District, this court has personal jurisdiction over the corporate defendant. *fn2" Plaintiff's Opposition, at paras. 2, 4. Plaintiff claims that the issue is one of venue, not jurisdiction, and that defendants' jurisdictional argument is simply an attempt to "muddy the waters since the plaintiff has not based his suit on [the D.C. long-arm] statute [and] does not consider it applicable." Id., at para. 7; Supplemental Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, at 1 ("Plaintiff's Supplemental Opposition").

 For the reasons stated below, this court finds that it has personal jurisdiction over the corporate defendant but does not have personal jurisdiction over the individual defendant.

 A. The Requirement of Personal Jurisdiction

 As an initial matter, this court notes that plaintiff's primary argument in opposition to defendants' motion is wholly incorrect. Plaintiff argues that "'an action . . . for [a] tort[,] is not local but transitory, and can[,] as a general rule, be brought wherever the wrong doer may be found.'" Plaintiff's Supplemental Opposition, at 1 (quoting Mann v. Pacific Atl. S.S. Co., 10 F. Supp. 527, 528 (S.D.N.Y. 1935); and citing Dennick v. Central R.R. Co., 103 U.S. 11, 17, 26 L. Ed. 439 (1888); Stewart v. Baltimore & Ohio R.R. Co., 168 U.S. 445, 448, 42 L. Ed. 537, 18 S. Ct. 105 (1897)). Plaintiff concludes that, because "he has fully met the provisions for a suit of a corporation under diversity of citizenship," Plaintiff's Supplemental Opposition, at 3, defendants' motion should be denied.

  This argument, however, ignores the distinction between subject matter and personal jurisdiction. In addition to the requirement that a court have jurisdiction over the subject matter of a claim, a court can impose an enforceable judgment only if it has personal jurisdiction over the parties. See Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 90 L. Ed. 95, 66 S. Ct. 154 (1945). The mere fact that an action sounds in tort does not provide all courts with jurisdiction over all parties. See, e.g., Helicopteros Nacionales de Colom. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 412, 413-14, 80 L. Ed. 2d 404, 104 S. Ct. 1868 (1984) (wrongful death action); World-wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Wood, 444 U.S. 286, 287, 62 L. Ed. 2d 490, 100 S. Ct. 559 (1980) (products liability action); Bayles v. K-Mart Corp., 636 F. Supp. 852, 853-54 (D.D.C. 1986). Rather, for a court properly to exercise jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, service of process over that defendant must be authorized by statute and must be within the limits set by the due process clause of the United States Constitution. Founding Church of Scientology v. Verlag, 175 U.S. App. D.C. 402, 536 F.2d 429, 432 (D.C. Cir. 1976) (citing International Shoe, 326 U.S. 310, 90 L. Ed. 95, 66 S. Ct. 154). Thus, even if this court has subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's claim and venue is proper, this court can proceed only if its exercise of personal jurisdiction over the defendants is authorized by District law and comports with due process. *fn3"

 B. Jurisdiction over the Corporate Defendant

 Product Development Corp. argues that this court can exert personal jurisdiction over it only pursuant to the District of Columbia long-arm statute, D.C. Code Ann. § 13-423. Because plaintiff's claim does not satisfy the requirements of this provision, defendant concludes, this court lacks personal jurisdiction and must dismiss the case.

 As discussed below, this court agrees that it does not have jurisdiction over Product Development Corp. pursuant to the D.C. long-arm statute. However, the court finds that it does have general jurisdiction over the corporate defendant pursuant to D.C. Code Ann. § 13-334 (1989), ...


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