ground in that it involves an interactive website with no other
contacts with the District of Columbia. All of the interactive
website cases reviewed by this court involved defendants with at
least some physical contact with the forum. While this court has
concluded that the quality and nature of the RBOC defendants'
website favors the exercise of personal jurisdiction in the
District of Columbia, certainly a substantial ground for
difference of opinion concerning the ruling exists.
III. INTERLOCUTORY APPEAL
A district court may certify an order for interlocutory appeal
when three conditions are met: (1) the order involves a
controlling question of law, (2) a substantial ground for
difference of opinion concerning the ruling exists, and (3) an
immediate appeal would materially advance the disposition of the
litigation. 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). In deciding whether to grant
interlocutory appeal, the District of Columbia Circuit follows
the collateral order doctrine. See Foremost-McKesson, Inc. v.
Islamic Republic of Iran, 905 F.2d 438, 443 (D.C.Cir. 1990);
Jungquist v. Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan,
115 F.3d 1020, 1026 (D.C.Cir. 1997).
Under the collateral order doctrine, a district court's order
may be appealed only when it (1) conclusively determines the
disputed question, (2) resolves an important issue completely
separate from the merits of the action, and (3) would be
effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment. United
States v. Rostenkowski, 59 F.3d 1291, 1296 (D.C.Cir. 1995),
citing Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, 437 U.S. 463, 468, 98
S.Ct. 2454, 57 L.Ed.2d 351 (1978). In the instant case a
determination on the issue of whether personal jurisdiction
exists when no contacts exist with the forum jurisdiction other
than a commercial, interactive Internet would conclusively
determine whether GTE may bring suit in this court. Additionally,
the case involves an antitrust allegation, so the personal
jurisdiction issue does not involve the merits of the action.
Further, since the complaint does not detail monetary damages, it
appears the plaintiff primarily seeks injunctive relief. All
indications thus far indicate that to reach final judgment the
parties will probably undergo voluminous and burdensome discovery
and possibly months of trial. To learn after that point, on
appeal, that the parties should not have proceeded so far, and at
such expense, would make the issue effectively unreviewable on
appeal from final judgment.
Several circuits have held that interlocutory appeal may be
taken on the issue of personal jurisdiction. See, e.g., ESAB
Group, Inc. v. Centricut, Inc., 126 F.3d 617, 622 (4th Cir.
1997) (accepting under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) the district court's
denial of the motion to dismiss on personal jurisdiction
grounds); Pintlar Corp. v. Rowland, 127 F.3d 1182 (9th Cir.
1997) (accepting on interlocutory appeal the bankruptcy court's
dismissal of certain counts for lack of personal jurisdiction).
The instant case, which the court has assigned to the "Complex
Track" pursuant to Local Rule 206.1, has thus far encompassed the
production of over 200 boxes of documents. The parties produced
these documents under the "limited" discovery ordered for the
purpose of facilitating settlement during the "cooling off"
period. Furthermore, from the parties' joint pretrial statements,
it seems apparent that if the case goes forward there may be
between 40 and 60 depositions, plus much more documentary
discovery. Also, the trial in this matter will probably take
several weeks. If the District of Columbia Circuit rules that
personal jurisdiction does not exist over the defendants, much
time and resources will have been wasted.
This expenditure of time and resources becomes especially
important because of the substantial ground for difference of
opinion concerning the exercise of personal jurisdiction in the
District of Columbia. Consequently, the court believes it
appropriate to certify the question of personal jurisdiction for
The court's September 28, 1998 Order ruling that personal
jurisdiction exists in the District of Columbia over the RBOC
defendants involves a controlling question of law. Further, a
substantial ground for difference of opinion concerning the
ruling exists. Additionally, an immediate appeal would materially
advance the disposition of the litigation, especially in terms of
avoiding the possibility of needlessly expending great amounts of
time and resources in protracted litigation. Accordingly, the
court will certify the September 28, 1998 Order for interlocutory
appeal. Further, for reasons of judicial economy, the court
orders a stay of proceedings in this case (except for settlement
discussions, which the court expects will continue).
ORDERED that defendant group BellSouth's motion for
certification of the court's ruling on personal jurisdiction be
and hereby is GRANTED; and it is
FURTHER ORDERED that all proceedings before this court, with
the exception of the ongoing settlement discussions with the
mediator, be and hereby are STAYED.
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