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07/19/93 SHERINE EVERETT v. NISSAN MOTOR CORP.

July 19, 1993

SHERINE EVERETT, ET AL, APPELLANTS
v.
NISSAN MOTOR CORP. IN U.S.A., APPELLEE



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; (Hon. Michael L. Rankin, Motions Judge)

Before Ferren and King, Associate Judges, and Pryor, Senior Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pryor

PRYOR, Senior Judge : Appellants are District of Columbia residents who were injured when the car they were driving, a Nissan 300ZX, was involved in an automobile collision in North Carolina. They sued Nissan Motor Corporation in U.S.A. ("Nissan U.S.A."), the distributor of Nissan automobiles in the United States, for damages, including punitive damages, attributable to "severe permanent injuries" proximately caused by the defective design and the defendant's failure to warn of the risks in using the vehicle. Appellee, the distributor of Nissan automobiles in the United States, is a California Corporation whose principal place of business is in Carson, California. On appellee's motion, the trial court dismissed the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction, pursuant to Super. Ct. Civ. R. 12 (b)(2). Citing D.C. Code § 13-423 (the long-arm statute) or, in the alternative, § 13-334 (1991 Repl.) (service on foreign corporations), appellants argue that the trial court erred in dismissing appellants' claim. We affirm.

I.

A.

Appellants' Nissan 300ZX was originally shipped from Japan to the United States on April 18, 1985, where it arrived in Norfolk, Virginia two weeks later. After being distributed by Nissan U.S.A. to an automobile dealership in Alexandria, Virginia the car was sold and resold on six separate occasions in Maryland and Virginia before it was finally purchased by Mr. Harold Johnson, a D.C. resident, who was the owner of the car at the time of the collision. *fn1

D.C.'s long-arm statute, D.C. Code § 13-423 (a)(1), provides, in part:

(a) A District of Columbia court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a person, who acts directly or by an agent, as to a claim for relief arising from the person's --

(1) transacting any business in the District of Columbia;

(b) When jurisdiction over a person is based solely upon this section, only a claim for relief arising from acts enumerated in this section may be asserted against him.

Here, appellants urge that Nissan U.S.A. is the sole distributor for Nissan automobiles in the continental United States, and accordingly "transacted . . . business" in the District of Columbia, thereby placing the company under the ambit of the long-arm statute. Appellants overlook, however, that transacting business is only one factor to be considered in the exercise of personal jurisdiction. "Courts have uniformly held that subsection (a)(1) confers personal jurisdiction over a defendant only if the plaintiffs claim arises from the defendant's contact with the District." Ross v. Product Dev. Corp., 736 F. Supp. 285, 289 (D.C. 1989) (emphasis added) (citations omitted). Appellants argue that, because Nissan was engaged in the business of distributing automobiles "in a region that included the District of Columbia with the expectation that the car would be sold to someone in the same region," and a collision occurred involving a vehicle owned by a District resident, then necessarily they satisfied the statutory requirement that the claim arise from the business transacted. Nissan's distribution of automobiles in a "region" that includes the District of Columbia is not sufficient to demonstrate jurisdiction over Nissan U.S.A. in the District of Columbia itself.

Appellants' broad interpretation of the long-arm statute ignores the seminal requirement that Nissan U.S.A. must undertake "some affirmative act by which the defendant brings itself within the jurisdiction and established minimum contact." Cohane v. Arpeja-California Inc., 385 A.2d 153, 158 (D.C. 1978) (citing Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 78 S. Ct. 1228, 2 L. Ed. 2d 1283 (1985)). For example, in Berwyn Fuel Inc. v. Hogan, 399 A.2d 79, 80 (D.C. 1979), noting that personal "jurisdiction . . . is restricted to claims arising from the particular transaction of business carried out in the District," we declined to extend personal jurisdiction to a fuel company whose truck struck an auto in Maryland solely on the basis that the company made occasional deliveries in the District. Similarly, in Cohane, supra, we held that the long-arm statute did not confer jurisdiction over a nonresident shipping company with respect to a dispute arising over a shipment to a customer in Pennsylvania, "solely on the ground that the defendant had also shipped goods to purchasers in the District." Here, too, the nexus between the car collision in North Carolina and appellee's business of distributing cars in the metropolitan area is simply too tenuous to satisfy the requirement of the long-arm statute.

B.

Appellants' second asserted basis for personal jurisdiction is D.C. Code ยง ...


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