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September 30, 2002


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

Memorandum Opinion

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.

I. Background

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.

Plaintiff Manifold's assignment took him to Alexandria, Virginia, where he was told to conduct a live broadcast of a "remote live feed" at the Alexandria Police Department. The van, parked in front of the police department, had extended the mast. While plaintiff Manifold was holding the camera, the mast made contact with power lines located forty-nine feet above grade, causing an explosion that sent an electrical current down the mast and through transmission lines attached to the plaintiffs camera. The camera, areas around the truck, and areas along the transmission line all exploded. The plaintiff suffered severe electrical shock, and needed a helicopter to transport him to Washington Hospital Center's Shock Trauma Unit.

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.

II. Discussion

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.

A. Personal Jurisdiction

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 (1980).

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 ...

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