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IMAPizza, LLC v. At Pizza Ltd.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 24, 2018

IMAPIZZA, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
AT PIZZA LIMITED et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          TFMOTHY J. KELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff IMAPizza, LLC ("IMAPizza") operates a chain of pizza restaurants under the name "&pizza." Defendants-a company called At Pizza Limited ("At Pizza") and its alleged owners, Bhasker Dhir and Rupert Lyle-plan to operate a similar pizza restaurant called "@pizza." IMAPizza is understandably upset, and thinks that Defendants have improperly coopted the name and design of its restaurants.

         But there's a catch: all of IMAPizza's restaurants are located in the Eastern United States, while Defendants' restaurant is located in Scotland. Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss (ECF No. 18) on a variety of grounds, most of which reflect the same general argument: IMAPizza has improperly brought this lawsuit in an American court and (mostly) under American law, while it should have been brought in the United Kingdom under that country's laws.

         As is explained below, the Court largely agrees with Defendants. To the extent that IMAPizza brings claims under federal law, it improperly seeks to apply our laws to conduct that occurred overseas. The one claim it brings under District of Columbia law (alleging that Defendants trespassed by entering &pizza restaurants) is meritless. Those claims will be dismissed. The Court will also order the parties to brief whether the remaining claim (under United Kingdom law) should be dismissed under the doctrine of forum non conveniens.

         Finally, IMAPizza will also be required to submit an affidavit with sufficient facts to establish its citizenship for diversity purposes.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         IMAPizza, from its headquarters in the District of Columbia (the "District"), operates a restaurant chain called &pizza in the District and other locations in the Eastern United States. Compl. ¶¶6, 11.[1] "&pizza is an anti-establishment establishment" that prides itself on its "creative pies and craft beverages, localized shop design, and the strength, unity and vibe of its living-wage-paid, ampersand-tattooed" employees. Compl. ¶ 12.

         IMAPizza claims that its "trademarked name" is just one aspect of its "unique commercial impression." Id. ¶ 13. &pizza has other distinctive features as well, such as "an elongated oval skinny pizza design," "elongated rectangular skinny boxes," "slogans that include 'LOVE&pizza' and 'YOU&pizza, '" a set of "four core values," and employees that are referred to as its "Fribe." Id. ¶¶ 15-16. IMAPizza has also submitted copyright applications for the "architectural and interior design plans" of its restaurants, "including the layout, and look and feel of its locations." Id. ¶ 35.

         Lyle and Dhir reside in, and are citizens of, the United Kingdom. Id. ¶¶ 8-9. According to IMAPizza, they are "controlling owner[s] and director[s]" of At Pizza, the corporate entity (organized under the laws of the United Kingdom) through which they operate the @pizza business. 7#. ¶¶7-10.

         After "tour[ing] a number of &pizza locations in Washington, D.C.," Lyle allegedly "[r]ealiz[ed] the uniqueness of &pizza's restaurant chain" and decided to copy it. Id. ¶ 17. In October 2015, Lyle incorporated a private limited company called "& Pizza Limited" under the laws of the United Kingdom. Wagner Decl. Ex. 1, at 3-9. In June 2016, he renamed the business At Pizza. Id. at 10-12. IMAPizza alleges that Dhir, at Lyle's direction, also "took numerous trips to visit the Washington, D.C. locations of &pizza" to study the restaurants. Compl. ¶ 17. During their visits, Lyle and Dhir allegedly "entered into &pizza's Washington, D.C. locations masquerading as customers, took extensive pictures (not identifying themselves as the competition), accessed all parts of the restaurant that they could to observe its design, and returned to Scotland, U.K. with this copyrighted information." Id. ¶ 25. They also downloaded photographs of &pizza restaurants from websites operating on servers located in the United States, including "yelp.com" (a restaurant review website) and "flydulles.com" (the website for the Dulles International Airport). Id. ¶ 39. IMAPizza claims that these downloads included "at least three pictures for which [IMAPizza] owns the copyrights in the pictures themselves (in addition to the architectural and interior designs they depict)." Id. ¶ 40.

         For their part, Lyle and Dhir describe their travel to the United States somewhat differently in declarations they have submitted. Lyle admits that he was inspired by American restaurants like &pizza to start his own pizza business, but claims that he came across the restaurant by happenstance during a family vacation in July 2015-which was the only time he visited an &pizza restaurant. See Lyle Decl. ¶ 5. He denies having instructed Dhir to visit the United States. Id. ¶ 12. For his part, Dhir admits to having visited the United States once, in August 2017, as part of his research for the opening of @pizza. Dhir Decl. ¶¶ 8, 10. He claims, however, that he visited many different restaurants in two different cities during the trip, and was not fixated on &pizza. Id. ¶¶ 8-9. He also claims that he took pictures only for "purely personal" reasons, to "look for new ideas" for home-cooked meals with his family. Id. ¶ 9.

         IMAPizza claims that Lyle and Dhir used the information they gathered to create "copycat" restaurants "possessing the same look and feel" as &pizza. Compl. ¶ 25. In designing @pizza, they "copied &pizza's architectural and interior designs." Id. ¶ 38. They also copied other distinctive features of &pizza, such as the oval shape of the pizza, &pizza's slogans, and "the promotion of its staff as 'the Squad' or 'the Pack'" (similar to &pizza's "Tribe"). Id. ¶ 53. And they chose a trademark, @pizza, that was extremely similar to &pizza. Id. Dhir and Lyle also allegedly used photographs of &pizza (including the three photographs for which IMAPizza owns the copyrights) in a "marketing deck circulated by @pizza to its business partners," effectively passing off &pizza's unique designs as their own. Id. ¶¶ 26-29. (Dhir and Lyle claim that they used this document, which they describe as a "mood board," only "during the recruitment of a General Manager" and never for marketing purposes. Lyle Deck ¶ 11; Dhir Deck ¶¶ 5-7.) When IMAPizza demanded that Defendants cease and desist from this conduct, they refused. Compl. ¶¶ 30-31. In fact, they responded that Lyle or Dhir "would be personally escorting their general manager to Washington, D.C. so he or she could also carefully observe &pizza's design, operation and marketing." Id. ¶ 32. As of the filing of the complaint, Defendants planned to launch the first @pizza location in November 2017 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Id. ¶33.

         IMAPizza alleges that these acts have caused an effect on U.S. commerce. It claims that a large number of U.S. tourists visit Edinburgh, Scotland, every year, and that they "are likely to be confused as to an association or sponsorship between &pizza and @pizza." Id. ¶ 65(a). In addition, "a substantial number of university students in Edinburgh come from U.S. states in which &pizza is located" and will experience similar confusion. Id. ¶ 65(b). IMAPizza also alleges that a "potential business partner of @pizza has contacted &pizza to report the infringing use" of &pizza's trademark and "frustration experienced as a result of the potential partner actually being confused into believing that @pizza was affiliated with the well-established &pizza." Id. ¶ 22.

         IMAPizza filed this case in November 2017. It brings five causes of action. The first, under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq., alleges that Defendants have infringed IMAPizza's copyrights in the architectural works and three photographs mentioned above. Compl. ¶¶ 34-47. The second cause of action, for "passing off' under the common law of the United Kingdom, alleges that Defendants have improperly traded on the goodwill associated with IMAPizza's distinctive trademark and other features, thereby harming IMAPizza. Id. ¶¶ 48-61. The third and fourth causes of action, for "trademark infringement" and "unfair competition," respectively, bring similar claims under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1051 et seq. Compl. ¶¶ 62-78. The fifth and final cause of action alleges that Defendants committed trespass under District of Columbia law when they entered &pizza restaurants without permission for the purpose of stealing IMAPizza's intellectual property. Id. ¶¶ 79-87.

         Defendants have moved to dismiss on several grounds. Among other things, they have moved to dismiss all claims except the trespass claim for lack of personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). Defs.' Br. at 10-13. They have also moved to dismiss all claims except the "passing off' claim for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defs.' Br. at 13-21. In addition, Defendants' reply raised, for the first time, the issue of dismissal under the doctrine offorum non conveniens. Defs.' Reply at 25. The Court granted IMAPizza leave to file a surreply to address this new ground for dismissal, along with two other issues that Defendants raised for the first time in their reply. See ECF No. 36 (order); Pl.'s Surreply. Both parties have requested oral argument on the motion. Defs.' Br. at 22; Pl.'s Opp'n at 36. The Court finds, in its discretion, that oral argument would not be helpful to resolution of the motion, and therefore denies their request. LCvR 7(f).

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction (Rule 12(b)(2))

         The plaintiff bears the burden "to 'make a prima facie showing of the pertinent jurisdictional facts' to survive a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction." Livnat v. Palestinian Auth., 851 F.3d 45, 56-57 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (quoting First Chi. Int'l v. United Exch. Co., 836 F.2d 1375, 1378 (D.C. Cir. 1988)). '"Conclusory statements' or a 'bare allegation of conspiracy or agency' do not satisfy this burden." Id. at 57 (quoting First Chi. Int'l, 836 F.3d at 1378-79). Rather, the plaintiff "must allege specific acts connecting [each] defendant with the forum." Second Amendment Found, v. U.S. Conf. of Mayors, 274 F.3d 521, 524 (D.C. Cir. 2001) (quoting First Chi. Int'l, 836 F.3d at 1378). "[T]o establish a prima facie case, plaintiffs are not limited to evidence that meets the standards of admissibility .... Rather, they may rest their argument on their pleadings, bolstered by such affidavits and other written materials as they can otherwise obtain." Mwani v. bin Laden, 417 F.3d 1, 7 (D.C. Cir. 2005). "When deciding personal jurisdiction without an evidentiary hearing ..., the 'court must resolve factual disputes in favor of the plaintiff . . . ." Livnat, 851 F.3d at 57 (quoting Helmer v. Doletskaya, 393 F.3d 201, 209 (D.C. Cir. 2004)). But the Court need not accept inferences unsupported by the facts. Id.[2]

         If facts material to the Court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over the defendant remain in dispute, the Court must adopt appropriate procedures to resolve them. Cf. Herbert v. Nat'l Acad. of Scis., 974 F.2d 192, 197-98 (D.C. Cir. 1992) (subject matter jurisdiction). Typically this must occur before turning to the merits, see Kaplan v. Cent. Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 896 F.3d 501, 510-11 (D.C. Cir. 2018), unless the merits and jurisdiction are intertwined, cf. Herbert, 974 F.2d at 198 (subject matter jurisdiction). One available procedure is jurisdictional discovery, which the Court has discretion to order when presented with '"a good faith belief that such discovery will enable [the plaintiff] to show that the court has personal jurisdiction over the defendant, '" as opposed to "mere conjecture or speculation." FC Inv. Grp. v. IFXMarkets, Ltd., 529 F.3d 1087, 1093-94 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (quoting Caribbean Broad. Sys., Ltd. v. Cable & Wireless PLC, 148 F.3d 1080, 1090 (D.C. Cir. 1998)). The Court may also hold an evidentiary hearing to determine, by a preponderance of the evidence, whether personal jurisdiction exists. See Mwani, 417 F.3d at 7.

         B. Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (Rule 12(b)(6))

         "A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of a plaintiff s complaint; it does not require a court to 'assess the truth of what is asserted or determine whether a plaintiff has any evidence to back up what is in the complaint.'" Herron v. Fannie Mae, 861 F.3d 160, 173 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (quoting Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002)). "In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must construe the complaint 'in favor of the plaintiff, who must be granted the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged.'" Hettinga v. United States, 677 F.3d 471, 476 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (quoting Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979)). "But the Court need not accept inferences drawn by plaintiff if those inferences are not supported by the facts set out in the complaint, nor must the court accept legal conclusions cast as factual allegations." Id. "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must have 'facial plausibility,' meaning it must 'plead[] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'" Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court "may consider only the facts alleged in the complaint, any documents either attached to or incorporated in the complaint and matters of which [the court] may take judicial notice." Hurd v. District of Columbia, 864 F.3d 671, 678 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (alteration in original) (quoting EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C. Cir. 1997)).

         III. Analysis

         The Court will begin-as it must-by examining Defendants' argument that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over them. While this is a close question, the Court concludes that IMAPizza has made a prima facie showing of jurisdiction as is required to avoid dismissal at this stage. The Court will then turn to Defendants' argument that IMAPizza has failed to state a claim under the Copyright Act, the Lanham Act, and the common law of trespass, concluding that Defendants are correct and those claims must be dismissed. The Court further concludes that it lacks an adequate record to dismiss IMAPizza's remaining claim (for "passing off under the law of the United Kingdom) under the doctrine of forum non conveniens. The Court will order the parties to propose a schedule for briefing a renewed motion to dismiss on that ground. Finally, in order to ensure that it has diversity jurisdiction over the "passing off' claim, the Court will require IMAPizza to submit an affidavit establishing its citizenship.

         A. Personal Jurisdiction

         Defendants argue that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction to hear IMAPizza's intellectual-property claims (that is, everything except the trespass claim, which they concede the Court has jurisdiction to hear). See Defs.' Br. at 10-13; Defs.' Reply at 20-25. Personal jurisdiction is not a mere technicality, but '"an essential element of the jurisdiction of a district . . . court,' without which the court is 'powerless to proceed to an adjudication.'" Ruhr gas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 584 (1999) (quoting Emp'rs Reins. Corp. v. Bryant, 299 U.S. 374, 382 (1937)). The Court must address this issue before turning to the merits of IMAPizza's claims. See Kaplan v. Cent. Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 896 F.3d 501, 510-11 (D.C. Cir. 2018).

         There are two types of personal jurisdiction. Under the first type, known as general or "all-purpose" jurisdiction, courts located where defendants are at "at home" may exercise jurisdiction over any claim against them. Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 751 (2014). IMAPizza has wisely elected not to rely on general jurisdiction in this case, because Defendants-all of whom reside in the United Kingdom-cannot be considered "at home" anywhere in the United States. The second type, known as specific or "case-linked" jurisdiction, exists when there is a connection between the forum and the facts of the case. Walden v. Fiore, 134 S.Ct. 1115, 1121 n.6 (2014). This case concerns the second type.

         To establish specific personal jurisdiction, IMAPizza must show that jurisdiction is proper under both (1) the District of Columbia's long-arm statute and (2) the U.S. Constitution's Due Process Clause. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(k)(1)(A); Walden, 134 S.Ct. at 1121; Forms v. Rauf, 812 F.3d 1102, 1105-06 (D.C. Cir.), cert, denied, 137 S.Ct. 375 (2016).[3] As explained below, the Court concludes, drawing all inferences in IMAPizza's favor from the instant record, that it has met its burden of establishing a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction over Defendants.

         1. District of Columbia Long-Arm Statute

         The District of Columbia long-arm statute provides, among other things, for "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;
(2) contracting to supply services in the District of Columbia;
(3) causing tortious injury in the District of Columbia by an act or omission in the District of Columbia; [or]
(4) causing tortious injury in the District of Columbia by an act or omission outside the District of Columbia if he 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 ....

D.C. Code § 13-423(a)(1)-(4). The plaintiff must identify which prong of the long-arm statute she is relying on as the basis for jurisdiction. See FC Inv. Grp. LC v. IFX Markets, Ltd., 529 F.3d 1087, 1095-96 (D.C. Cir. 2008). Here, IMAPizza has relied solely on § 13-423(a)(1). See Pl.'s Opp'n at 28-33. Therefore, the Court will not consider the other subsections of the statute for purposes of this motion.[4]

         To invoke § 13-423 (a)(1), the plaintiff must first make a threshold showing "that the defendant has purposefully engaged in some type of commercial or business-related activity directed at District residents." Holder v. Haarmann & Reimer Corp., 779 A.2d 264, 270-71 (D.C. 2001) (emphasis added). Instead, IMAPizza skips ahead to the due process analysis, relying on cases stating that, under this subsection, "the statutory and constitutional jurisdictional questions, which are usually distinct, merge into a single inquiry." Pl.'s Opp'n at 28 (quoting United States v. Ferrara, 54 F.3d 825, 828 (D.C. Cir. 1995)). But IMAPizza overlooks the word "usually." As the D.C. Circuit has explained, § 13-423(a)(1) extends to the limits of due process only "for cases that fit within [the provision's] description." Forms, 812 F.3d at 1106 (quoting Crane v. Carr, 814 F.2d 758, 762 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (R.B. Ginsburg, J.)); see also Mouzavires v. Baxter, 434 A.2d 988, 993 (D.C. 1981) (explaining that § 13-423(a)(1) "covers any transaction of business in the District of Columbia that can be reached jurisdictionally without offending the due process clause" (emphasis added)).

         The case law does not precisely delineate the boundaries of "commercial or business-related activity" falling within the statute. Certainly, it covers "business transactions" in the everyday sense of commercial deal-making activities like negotiating or performing contracts. See, e.g., Helmer v. Doletskaya, 393 F.3d 201, 206-07 (D.C. Cir. 2004); Xie v. Sklover & Co., 260 F.Supp.3d 30, 41 (D.D.C. 2017). In fact, "contractual activities" are so central to § 13- 423(a)(1) that, even when they occur outside the District of Columbia, they may be deemed to occur "in the District" if they "cause a consequence here." Mouzavires, 434 A.2d at 992. The statute has also been extended to advertising in the District, see Shoppers Food Warehouse v. Moreno, 746 A.2d 320, 330-32 (D.C. 2000) (en banc), operating an office in the District, see Wilson v. Wilson, 785 A.2d 647, 650 (D.C. 2001), and holding a board meeting in the District, see Daley v. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., 26 A.3d 723, 727-28 (D.C. 2011). The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has held that a Pennsylvania attorney "transacted] business" in the District by representing a Florida corporation before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. See Lex Tex Ltd., Inc. v. Skillman, 579 A.2d 244, 249 (D.C. 1990). Courts have also held that employment decisions made in the District (such as a decision to fire an employee) constitute business transactions. See, e.g., Navab-Safavi v. Broad. Bd. of Governors, 650 F.Supp.2d 40, 52 (D.D.C. 2009), aff'd sub nom. Navab-Safavi v. Glassman, 637 F.3d 311 (D.C. Cir. 2011).

         By contrast, courts have declined to extend § 13-423(a)(1) to conduct that is not meaningfully "business-related." For example, participating outside the District in a criminal conspiracy that affects District residents does not necessarily constitute "transacting business" in the District. Holder, 779 A.2d at 274-75. Indeed, not even "the in-state commission of a tort is defined as 'doing business.'" Id. at 275 n.10 (emphasis added). Nor do professional activities that physically take place in the District necessarily constitute "business transactions" within the meaning of the statute. For example, in Etchebarne-Bourdin v. Radice, 982 A.2d 752 (D.C. 2009), the plaintiffs brought malpractice claims against doctors who had treated them in Virginia. Id. at 755-56. The plaintiffs claimed that the doctors had "transacted] business" in the District by attending continuing-medical-education courses there. Id. at 759. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals concluded that these professional activities did not constitute "transacting business," and noted that the doctors had not actively solicited patients in the District. Id. at 759-60. Purely personal matters may also not be sufficiently "business-related" to fall within the statute; one court has held, for example, that a separation agreement executed by a husband and wife in the District did not qualify. See Capel v. Capel, 272 F.Supp.3d 33, 39 (D.D.C. 2017).

         Defendants argue, with some force, that their contacts with the District do not resemble traditional business transactions. See Defs.' Reply at 21-22. IMAPizza seeks to rely on its allegation that Defendants targeted their acts of infringement, which occurred in the United Kingdom, at IMAPizza in the District. Pl.'s Opp'n at 30-32. But tortious conduct by a nonresident outside the District is not "transacting any business in the District," even if it affects a District resident. See Holder, 779 A.2d at 274-75. And of course, At Pizza never conducted its primary business (selling pizza) in the District. Nor is it alleged to have advertised here.

         Nonetheless, the Court concludes that, when all factual disputes are resolved and inferences are drawn in IMAPizza's favor, some of Dhir's contacts with the District qualify as business transactions under § 13-423(a)(1). Even in Defendants' own account, Dhir traveled to the District for a business purpose: to conduct research for At Pizza about other pizza restaurants. See Dhir Decl. ¶¶ 8-9. For a start-up like At Pizza, such research could be considered an important business activity. This performance of business duties in the District appears to constitute "transacting business" within the meaning of the statute. Cf. Lex Tex, 579 A.2d at 249 (holding out-of-state lawyer was "transacting business" by representing out-of-state client in District). Moreover, there was at least some kind of "transaction" in the traditional sense, as Dhir was a customer of IMAPizza during his visit. See Defs.' Reply at 21.

         Defendants also argue that these contacts cannot be attributed to Lyle and Dhir, because they acted solely in their capacities as officers of At Pizza. See Id. at 24-25. It is true that, under District of Columbia law, a plaintiff cannot establish personal jurisdiction over a corporate officer based solely on the corporation's conduct. See Flocco v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 752 A.2d 147, 162 (D.C. 2000). But this "fiduciary shield" rule is not absolute. Id. at 163 n.2O. It does not necessarily protect corporate officers who have personally benefited from their own misconduct. See Family Fed'n for World Peace v. Hyun Jin Moon, 129 A.3d 234, 243-44 (D.C. 2015). Similarly, it does not protect corporate agents who were not mere employees, but high-ranking officers responsible for the corporate policies that gave rise to the plaintiffs claims. See Nat'l Cmty. Reinv. Coal. v. NovaStar Fin., Inc., 604 F.Supp.2d 26, 30-31 (D.D.C. 2009). Here, Dhir personally had contacts with the District. See Dhir Decl. ¶ 8-9. And Dhir's contacts can be attributed to Lyle because, under IMAPizza's version of the facts, Dhir traveled to the District at Lyle's direction, see Compl. ¶ 17, from which one could infer he was Lyle's "agent" under the long-arm statute. See D.C. Code § 13-423(a); Smith v. Jenkins, 452 A.2d 333, 335-36 (D.C. 1982) (explaining that generally "an agency relationship results when one person authorizes another to act on his behalf subject to his control, and the other consents to do so"). But see Lyle Decl. ¶ 12. Moreover, Lyle and Dhir allegedly exercise control over At Pizza and caused it to engage in the conduct at issue, making them more than mere employees. See Compl. ¶¶ 8-9.

         Of course, it is not enough for IMAPizza to show that Defendants engaged in business transactions in the District. It must also show that its claims "aris[e] from" these business transactions. D.C. Code § 13-423(b). This requirement reflects the fact that § 13-423 provides for only specific personal jurisdiction, which requires the defendant's contacts with the forum to be related to the plaintiffs lawsuit. District of Columbia law sets a relatively low bar for suit- relatedness, requiring only a "discernible relationship" between the defendant's contacts and the plaintiffs claims. Jackson v. George, 146 A.3d 405, 412 (D.C. 2016) (quoting Shoppers, 746 A.2d at 329). "[T]he claim ha[s] to be related to or substantially connected with" the business transactions in question, such that "it is reasonably foreseeable that, as a result of the transactions, the defendant "could be sued in the District on a claim similar to that filed by" the plaintiff. Shoppers, 746 A.2d at 335-36. It is not necessary, where jurisdiction is based on § 13-423(a)(1), that the claim be contractual in nature. For example, in Shoppers, a slip-and-fall in a Maryland grocery store was held to "arise from" advertising in the District. 746 A.2d at 336.

         There is no need to belabor the question of suit-relatedness under District of Columbia law. The "arising from" requirement "operates as a due process check on the reach or scope of the 'transacting business' provision of the long-arm statute." Id. at 333. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has concluded that the "discernible relationship" test is sufficient to satisfy the U.S. Constitution's Due Process Clause. As will be discussed below, other courts have applied different tests, and the "discernible relationship" test is the least demanding-that is, it requires the loosest fit between a defendant's forum contacts and a plaintiffs claim. Therefore, if Defendants' alleged business transactions can support personal jurisdiction under the ...


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