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SHOPPERS FOOD WAREHOUSE v. MORENO

July 16, 1998

SHOPPERS FOOD WAREHOUSE, APPELLANT,
V.
ASUNCION MORENO, APPELLEE.



APPEAL FROM THE SUPERIOR COURT, STEPHANIE DUNCAN-PETERS AND LINDA TURNER HAMILTON, JJ.

Before Schwelb, Farrell, and Reid, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reid, Associate Judge:

The main issue presented by this case is whether the trial court had personal jurisdiction over appellant, a nonresident corporation [715 A2d Page 108]

which advertised its grocery stores in the District of Columbia communications media, where appellee, a District resident, alleged she suffered personal injuries in one of appellant's Maryland stores located near the District's border. The trial court concluded that it had personal jurisdiction over appellant. We affirm.

I.

FACTUAL SUMMARY

A District of Columbia jury found that appellee Asuncion Moreno slipped and fell in a grocery store owned by appellant Shoppers Food Warehouse MD Corporation and, as a result of Shoppers' negligence, sustained back and hand injuries. She was awarded damages in the amount of $197,307 for past and future medical expenses, mental anguish, and pain and suffering. *fn1 From the beginning of Ms. Moreno's lawsuit, Shoppers argued that the trial court lacked personal jurisdiction over it under D.C.Code § 13-423(a)(4) (1995) (causing tortious injury in the District of Columbia). *fn1 Later, Ms. Moreno claimed that even if jurisdiction were not based on subsection (a)(4), it rested on § 13-423(a)(1) (transacting any business in the District of Columbia).

Shoppers maintained that § 13-423(a)(4) did not apply because no tortious injury took place in the District. Furthermore, Shoppers argued that Ms. Moreno failed to show the applicability of § 13-423(a)(1) which, they asserted, must be read in conjunction with § 13-423(b). In its order of June 22, 1994, the trial court agreed with Shoppers that subsection (a)(4) was inapplicable because Ms. Moreno's injury occurred in Maryland, not the District. However, the trial court concluded that there was personal jurisdiction under subsection (a)(1) for the following reasons:

First, it is reasonable to require the Defendant to defend this suit in the District of Columbia. . . . The Defendant owns numerous stores in Maryland and Virginia, several of which are located within a few miles of the District of Columbia border.

. . . The Defendant contracts with and advertises in [T]he Washington Post, thereby targeting and soliciting customers in the District of Columbia area. . . . Furthermore, the Defendant has failed to "show that it [is] at a 'severe disadvantage' in being required to defend in [the District of Columbia]" . . . (quoting Electronic Media Int'l v. Pioneer Comm., Inc., 586 A.2d 1256, 1258 (Me. 1991)[)]. Since the Plaintiff resides in the District, she has a strong interest in litigating this suit here.

Second, the Defendant, by contracting with Washington based businesses (i.e., The Washington Post, the District of Columbia Yellow Pages) for adverti[s]ing purposes, has transacted business in the District of Columbia. Thus, the Defendant purposefully and voluntarily availed itself of the privileges and protections of the District of Columbia. . . .

Finally, the Defendant's contacts with the forum state were of such quality and nature that it is reasonable for the Defendant to reasonably anticipate being haled [715 A2d Page 109]

into court in the District of Columbia. It is reasonable to conclude that the Defendant derives a substantial portion of its revenue from District of Columbia residents it specifically targets with advertisements that demonstrate how the Defendant's prices compare favorably with the prices in supermarkets. . . .

Although the trial court did not explicitly mention § 13-423(b) in its June order, it referenced a prior trial court opinion, Daniels v. Knoff, 116 Daily Wash.L.Rptr. 2053, 2057 (Super.Ct. 1988), involving an advertisement in the District by a nonresident corporation. That opinion stressed "the foreseeability of injury to District of Columbia plaintiffs as a result of defendant's actions and the consequences of its actions by soliciting and advertising for business in the District of Columbia." *fn2 Accordingly, the trial court "conclude[d] that there are enough contacts with the District of Columbia in this case to satisfy the minimum contacts requirement."

Shoppers appeals on the basis that the trial court's order of June 22, 1994, constituted error because: (1) personal jurisdiction over it could not be based upon § 13-423(a)(1) and (b); (2) the trial court erred in denying its motion for a directed verdict; and (3) the trial court erred in permitting the jury to award damages for a permanent injury. We find no reason to disturb the trial court's judgment.

II.

ANALYSIS

A.

Personal Jurisdiction

This court has never determined whether newspaper and other advertisements in the District by a nonresident corporation owning a chain of stores, some of which are located in very close proximity to the District's borders, are sufficient to meet the minimum contacts requirement of the District's long-arm statute, and whether the advertising constitutes a sufficient nexus for the District's exercise of jurisdiction over a personal injury lawsuit where the injury took place in a store in a neighboring jurisdiction. Trial courts in the District that have examined this issue have disagreed. Different judges in both the Superior Court of the District of ...


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