United States District Court, District of Columbia
January 8, 2001
GLENN L. FORMICA, PLAINTIFF,
CASCADE CANDLE COMPANY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Huvelle, District Judge.
Before the Court is defendant Cascade Candle Company's Motion to Quash
Service of Process or to Dismiss, or in the alternative, for Summary
Judgment, as well as its Motion for Relief against the Cross-Claim of
East of L.A., Inc. Defendant argues that there is a lack of personal
jurisdiction and insufficiency of service. The Court agrees that it
lacks jurisdiction over defendant, and thus, it need not address
defendant's argument regarding the insufficiency of service.
Plaintiff is a resident of the State of Connecticut. Defendant is a
corporation organized under the laws of the State of Oregon, with its
principal place of business located at 29365 Airport Road, Eugene,
Oregon. Defendant designs and manufactures scented candles. Plaintiff
asserts that he was injured when a candle manufactured by defendant
spontaneously exploded during the normal course of use. He had purchased
the candle from East of L.A., Inc., another defendant in this case,
which operates a store at 5520 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C.
Plaintiff believes the candle was supplied to East of L.A. by defendant
U.S.A. Unico, d/b/a/Central Casting, Inc., a nationwide distributor
organized and existing under the laws of State of California with its
principal place of business located at 1150 Sixth Street, Berkeley,
California, which purchased the candle from defendant Cascade Candle
Plaintiff argues that the Court has personal jurisdiction over
defendant pursuant to the District of Columbia's long-arm statute,
D.C.Code § 13-423(a)(1), which provides in relevant part:
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
(1) transacting any business in the District of
In order to exercise jurisdiction over defendant pursuant to this
statute, "only a claim for relief arising from acts enumerated in this
section may be asserted against [it]" D.C.Code § 13-423(b). "To
establish personal jurisdiction under the `transacting business' clause
of the long-arm statute, D.C.Code § 13-423(a)(1), a plaintiff must
demonstrate that (1) the defendant transacted business in the District;
(2) the claim arose from the business transacted in the District
(so-called specific jurisdiction); (3) the defendant had minimum
contacts with the District; and (4) the Court's exercise of personal
jurisdiction would not offend `traditional notions of fair play and
substantial justice.'" COMSAT Corp. v. Finshipyards S.A.M.,
900 F. Supp. 515, 521 (D.D.C. 1995) (internal quotation marks and
Plaintiff argues that jurisdiction exists based on defendant's sale of
its candles to a nationwide distributor, defendant Unico. (See Pl.Opp.
at 3). To support its contention that defendant is "transacting business"
in the District of Columbia, plaintiff cites a number of cases in which
this Court has found a small number of sales sufficient to establish
personal jurisdiction. (See Pl.Opp. at 4-5). Plaintiff's reliance on
these cases is misplaced. Three of them involved a finding of personal
jurisdiction under D.C.Code § 13-423(a)(4), rather than D.C.Code
§ 13-423(a)(1), see Masterson-Cook v. Criss Bros. Iron Works,
722 F. Supp. 810 (D.D.C. 1989); Akbar v. New
York Magazine Co., 490 F. Supp. 60 (D.D.C. 1980); Liberty Mutual
Insurance Company v. American Pecco Corp., 334 F. Supp. 522 (D.D.C.
1971), and as recognized by the D.C. Circuit, the analyses under (a)(1)
and (a)(4) are analytically distinct. See Crane v. Carr, 814 F.2d 758,
763 (D.C.Cir. 1987). Under § 13-423(a)(4), personal jurisdiction
can be found based on the defendant's
causing tortious injury in the District of Columbia
by an act or omission outside the District of
Columbia if [the defendant] regularly does or
solicits business, engages in any other persistent
course of conduct, or derives substantial revenue
from goods used or consumed, or services rendered,
in the District of Columbia[.]
In each of the three cases, the Court not only found that substantial
revenue had been derived from the small number of sales that occurred,
but as required by statute, there was no question that the injury
complained of had occurred in the District of Columbia. See
Masterson-Cook, 722 F. Supp. at 813; Akbar, 490 F. Supp. at 64; Liberty
Mutual Insurance Company, 334 F. Supp. at 523.
Plaintiff also cites two (a)(1) cases — Shoppers Food Warehouse v.
Moreno, 746 A.2d 320 (D.C. 2000), and Rhee Bros. v. Seoul Shik Poom,
869 F. Supp. 31 (D.D.C. 1994). Although the court in Shoppers Food
Warehouse found that "[e]ven a small amount of in-jurisdiction business
activity is generally enough to permit the conclusion that a nonresident
defendant has transacted business here," 746 A.2d at 331, the court must
determine whether there is personal jurisdiction pursuant to (a)(1) "on
a case-by-case basis, noting in each the particular activities relied
upon by the resident plaintiff as providing the supposed basis for
jurisdiction." Cellutech, Inc. v. Centennial Cellular Corp.,
871 F. Supp. 46, 49 (D.D.C. 1994) (quoting Environmental Research
Intern., Inc. v. Lockwood Greene Engineers, Inc., 355 A.2d 808, 811
(D.C. 1976)). "The long-arm statute analysis is subsumed by the due
process analysis expressed in the third and fourth prongs" of the (a)(1)
test, COMSAT Corp. v. Finshipyards S.A.M., 900 F. Supp. 515, 521 (D.D.C.
1995), and thus, "the appropriate inquiry is whether [defendant has] the
requisite `minimum contacts' with the District so that the exercise of
personal jurisdiction would not offend `traditional notions of fair play
and substantial justice.'" Material Supply Int'l, Inc. v. Sunmatch
Industrial Co., Ltd., 62 F. Supp.2d 13, 19 (D.D.C. 1999).
In Shoppers, a D.C. resident slipped and fell in a grocery store in
Maryland. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found that
personal jurisdiction existed on the basis that "through its extensive
advertising activity in a major District of Columbia newspaper," the
defendant "purposefully and deliberately solicited District residents as
customers for its nearby Maryland and Virginia stores and thus
transacted business in the District, and further, because plaintiff's
claim was related to or had a discernable relationship to its
advertising," defendant "could have reasonably anticipated being haled
into court to defend against a . . . suit brought by a District
resident." 746 A.2d at 335.
In Rhee Bros., this Court found that it had personal jurisdiction over
a New York corporation on the basis that the fact that 3.6% of its sales
and one of its customers were in the District demonstrated that it had
"purposely availed itself of the privilege of conducting business in the
District of Columbia by seeking sales of and distributing its goods in
the District of Columbia." 869 F. Supp. at 32.
The case before the Court is clearly distinguishable from Shoppers and
Rhee Brothers in that defendant's contacts with the District are far
less numerous and far less significant. As stated in the affidavit of
Alfred Roeske, defendant's president, defendant does not maintain any
offices or own property in the District, does not have any offices or
employees, agents, or other representatives in the District, does not
solicit any business in the District, and does not engage in any
advertising directed to the citizens and businesses of the District.
(Roeske Aff. ¶¶ 2-6). Moreover, defendant's arrangements with
distributor U.S.A. Unico are independent of any contracts between U.S.A.
Unico and its customer stores, as defendant does not receive any revenue
from candle sales in the District. (See id. ¶ 5). Thus, any connection
that defendant might have to D.C. citizens or businesses is, at most,
tenuous and indirect.
Plaintiff's sole basis for believing defendant transacts business in
the District is his belief that "[b]y selling candles it manufactured
for distribution to a nationwide distributor (Defendant Unico),
Defendant Cascade purposefully and knowingly placed its goods into a
nationwide stream of commerce, including the District of Columbia, where
Unico regularly sells goods. The contact that Cascade has made with the
District of Columbia is the proximate result of purposeful action taken
by Cascade to have its candle products nationally distributed." (Pl.Opp.
at 3). Plaintiff argues that such an act is sufficient, as the Court
"may assert its personal jurisdiction power `over a corporation that
delivers its products into the streams of commerce with the expectation
that they will be purchased by consumers in the forum State.'" (Pl.Opp.
at 3) (quoting World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286,
297-298, 100 S.Ct. 559, 62 L.Ed.2d 490 (1980)). Even if defendant put
its candles into a national stream of commerce with the knowledge that
they would reach the District, it is well-settled that "a defendant's
awareness that the stream of commerce may or will sweep the product into
the forum State does not convert the mere act of placing the product
into the stream into an act purposefully directed toward the forum
State." Asahi Metal Industry Co., Ltd. v. Superior Ct. of Cal.,
480 U.S. 102, 112, 107 S.Ct. 1026, 94 L.Ed.2d 92 (1987); see also Color
Systems, Inc. v. Meteor Photo Reprographic Systems, Inc., 1988 WL 13187,
at *2 (D.D.C. Feb. 11, 1988) (discussing the Supreme Court's adoption of
the Eighth and Third Circuits' interpretation of World-Wide Volkswagen
as "requiring something more than mere awareness on the part of
defendants that their products would enter the forum State"); Fogle v.
Ramsey Winch Co., 774 F. Supp. 19, 21 (D.D.C. 1991) (finding jurisdiction
over foreign defendant where defendant took steps beyond merely placing
a product into the stream of commerce by engaging in a national
marketing campaign, including national advertisements that reach
consumers in the District of Columbia). Because defendant has not
engaged in any additional conduct to "indicate an intent or purpose to
serve the market in the foreign State," defendant lacks the
"`substantial connection' . . . necessary for a finding of minimum
contacts." Id. (quoting Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462,
475, 105 S.Ct. 2174, 85 L.Ed.2d 528 (1985)).
Apart from the question of the placement of goods in the stream of
commerce, an evaluation of the factors considered when determining
whether the exercise of jurisdiction would offend traditional notions
of fair play and substantial justice reveals that an exercise of
jurisdiction over defendant in this case would be unreasonable. See
Asahi Metal Industry Co., Ltd., 480 U.S. at 113-15, 107 S.Ct. 1026.
First, it is unreasonable for defendant to expect to be haled into a
District of Columbia court with respect to a matter brought by a
Maryland plaintiff relating to an injury that occurred in Maryland. In
order to extend personal jurisdiction over defendant pursuant to the
District's long-arm statute, defendant must have had "fair warning" that
it would be sued by someone such as plaintiff in the District of
Columbia. Shoppers, 746 A.2d at 332 (quoting Burger King, 471 U.S. at
472, 105 S.Ct. 2174); see also World-Wide Volkswagen Corp., 444 U.S. at
292, 100 S.Ct. 559 (quoting Intl. Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310,
316, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945) ("The relationship between
the forum must be such that it is `reasonable . . . to require the
corporation to defend the particular suit which is brought there'")).
Plaintiff asserts that the candle manufactured by defendant was
purchased in the District of Columbia. However, it is uncontested that
plaintiff was a resident of Maryland when he purchased the candle, and
that he was injured in Maryland.
A related factor in determining whether the exercise of personal
jurisdiction over defendant is reasonable or fair is the District of
Columbia's "interest in adjudicating the dispute." World-Wide Volkswagen
Corp., 444 U.S. at 292. Where the plaintiff is not a resident of the
forum, the forum state's "legitimate interests in the dispute have
considerably diminished." Asahi Metal Industry Co., Ltd., 480 U.S. at
114, 107 S.Ct. 1026; see also Shoppers, 746 A.2d at 328 ("A State
generally has a manifest interest in providing its residents with a
convenient forum for redressing injuries inflicted by out-of-state
actors") (emphasis added) (internal citations and quotation marks
omitted). Thus, the District's interest in having this case litigated
within its borders is minimal.
Request for Further Discovery
Plaintiff requests that he be granted a period for further discovery
in the event the Court determines that there are not sufficient facts to
support a finding of personal jurisdiction over defendant at this time.
(Pl.Opp. at 6). To merit further jurisdictional discovery, a plaintiff
"must have at least a good faith belief that such discovery will enable
it to show that the court has personal jurisdiction over the defendant."
Caribbean Broadcasting System, Ltd. v. Cable & Wireless P.L.C.,
148 F.3d 1080, 1090 (D.C.Cir. 1998). Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate
such a belief, asserting only that he seeks "to establish Cascade's
business contacts within the District of Columbia." (Pl.Opp. at 6).
Plaintiff does not even suggest that he believes that defendant has any
business contacts with the District of Columbia other than the
attenuated link through defendant U.S.A. Unico. Therefore, plaintiff has
"alleged absolutely nothing, upon either information or belief, to
indicate that a court in the District of Columbia might constitutionally
assert jurisdiction over" defendant. Caribbean Broadcasting System, 148
F.3d at 1089. See also Naartex v. Watt, 722 F.2d 779, 788 (D.C.Cir.
1983) (denying jurisdictional discovery where pleadings contain "no
allegations of specific facts that could establish the requisite
Thus, the Court is without jurisdiction to hear this matter.
Accordingly, defendant's motion to dismiss is hereby GRANTED, its motion
to quash service is hereby DENIED AS MOOT, its motion for summary
judgment is hereby DENIED AS MOOT, and its motion for relief against the
cross-claim of East of L.A., Inc. is GRANTED. Furthermore, plaintiff's
claims and cross-claimant East of L.A.'s claim against defendant are
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