The opinion of the court was delivered by: Leon, District Judge.
Before the Court is a motion by defendant Wolf Coach, Inc.
("Wolf Coach") to dismiss a personal injury suit by a cameraman,
who was employed in Washington, D.C., and was electrocuted when
the mast of a news van manufactured, in part, by Wolf Coach,
struck a power line in northern Virginia. Wolf Coach, a
Massachusetts corporation, argues that this Court does not have
personal jurisdiction over the defendant and, alternatively,
that the case should be transferred to a more convenient forum.
For the following reasons, the Court denies the defendant's
motion to dismiss.
Plaintiff Geoffrey Manifold, a resident of Maryland, was a
cameraman for Fox Television Stations, Inc. ("Fox"), a District
of Columbia ("District") corporation. On May 2, 2000, he
reported to work at his place of employment in the District,
where he picked up his camera gear, retrieved his assignment,
and headed off in a news van. The news van, or electronic news
gathering ("ENG") vehicle, contained mobile broadcast equipment
to facilitate gathering and reporting news. The mobile broadcast
equipment included a mast/antenna ("mast") that can extend
sixty-two feet above grade. Defendant Will-Burt designed and
manufactured the mast, and defendant Wolf Coach retrofitted the
van to include the mast and the other ENG equipment.
Having suffered serious electrical injuries, including
second-degree burns, plaintiff and his wife filed six tort
counts against Wolf Coach, the company that retrofitted the van,
and Will-Burt Company, Inc. ("Will-Burt"), the company that
manufactured the mast. Specifically, the plaintiffs' claims
include negligence, a failure to warn, strict liability, a
breach of implied warranty, loss of consortium, and punitive
damages. The plaintiff also originally sued Fox and the company
that built the pan-tilt head for the van's dish, but voluntarily
dismissed both parties. Will-Burt has also filed a cross-claim
against the other defendants.
Subsequently, Wolf Coach filed this motion, seeking dismissal
based on jurisdictional and venue grounds. Wolf Coach contends
that this Court does not have personal jurisdiction over the
plaintiff under the various provisions of the District's
long-arm statute. If not dismissed, Wolf Coach argues that the
case should be transferred to another jurisdiction because of
forum non conveniens.
The Court cannot grant a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) "unless it appears beyond doubt
that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his
claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson,
355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957); Kowal v.
MCI Communications Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C.Cir. 1994).
Thus in evaluating the defendant's motion, the Court will assume
all the factual allegations set forth in the complaint. See Doe
v. United States Dep't of Justice, 753 F.2d 1092, 1102
(D.C.Cir. 1985), and will construe the complaint liberally in
favor of the plaintiff. Schuler v. United States,
617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C.Cir. 1979). Still, this Court "need not accept
inferences drawn by plaintiffs if such inferences are
unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint." Kowal, 16
F.3d at 1276.
1. Minimum Contacts Doctrine
The question of personal jurisdiction in this matter is
governed both by the District's long-arm statute and the
constitutional requirements of the Due Process Clause. GTE New
Media Services Incorporated v. BellSouth Corporation,
199 F.3d 1343, 1347 (D.C.Cir. 2000). The D.C. statute provides that the
plaintiffs must demonstrate that the defendant transacted
business in the District and that the plaintiffs' claim arose
from such business. D.C.Code Ann. § 13-423 (1981).*fn1 The
plaintiff must allege nonconclusory facts that establish a prima
facie showing of personal jurisdiction. See First Chicago Int'l
v. United Exchange Co., 836 F.2d 1375, 1378 (D.C.Cir. 1988).
Since the constitutional requirements have been found to be
coextensive with the Due Process requirements, the discussion of
the statute and the due process requirements collapses into one.
United States v. Ferrara, 54 F.3d 825, 828 (D.C.Cir. 1995).
The Court can support personal jurisdiction over a nonresident
defendant when the defendant "purposefully established minimum
contacts in the forum state." Asahi Metal Industry Co. v.
Superior Court, 480 U.S. 102, 108-09, 107 S.Ct. 1026, 94
L.Ed.2d 92 (1987). The minimum contacts must be such that
"maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of
fair play and substantial justice," International Shoe Co. v.
Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945)
(quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463, 61 S.Ct. 339,
85 L.Ed. 278 (1940)), and that the defendant "should reasonably
anticipate being haled into court." World-Wide Volkswagen Corp.
v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297, 100 S.Ct. 559, 62 L.Ed.2d 490
In World-Wide Volkswagen Corporation v. Woodson, for
example, the Supreme Court considered whether a district court
in Oklahoma had personal jurisdiction over a New York automobile
retailer, who never intended to serve the Oklahoma market. 444
U.S. at 288, 100 S.Ct. 559. In that case, plaintiffs purchased a
new car from the defendant in New York, and then drove the car
across country. While driving through Oklahoma, the plaintiffs
were involved in an accident and filed a products-liability
claim in Oklahoma against the defendant. The Supreme Court held
that the circumstances did not support personal ...