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FORMICA v. CASCADE CANDLE CO.

January 8, 2001

GLENN L. FORMICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CASCADE CANDLE COMPANY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Huvelle, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

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.

BACKGROUND

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 Company.

ANALYSIS

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 person's —
(1) transacting any business in the District of Columbia;

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 citation omitted).

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," ...


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