United States District Court, District of Columbia
E. BOASBERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Rene Pinkett sustained injures from a B Yours Vibe 2 vibrator
that was allegedly manufactured by Defendant Vee
International, Inc. She thus brought this suit against both
Vee International and Dr. Leonard's Healthcare Corp.,
which sold her the vibrator from its mail-order catalogue. In
an Opinion dated September 28, 2018, this Court granted in
part and denied in part Dr. Leonard's motion to dismiss
for failure to state a claim. Now Vee International moves to
dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Because the
existence of such jurisdiction is currently unclear, the
Court will order jurisdictional discovery before deciding the
purchased the Vibe 2 from Dr. Leonard's mail-order
catalogue during May or June of 2015. See ECF No. 1
(Notice of Removal), Exh. A (Superior Court Documents) at
2-21 (Compl.), ¶ 8. According to the Complaint, Vee
International manufactured the Vibe 2 that was offered by Dr.
Leonard's. Id., ¶ 19. As relevant here,
Pinkett claims that Vee International - which does business
under the name Blush Novelties - “regularly conducts
and solicits business in Washington, D.C., ” by
“designing, manufacturing, modifying, marketing, and
selling sex toys and sexual aids to companies such as [Dr.]
Leonard['s].” Id., ¶¶ 6, 13. In
addition to Dr. Leonard's, Vee International sells its
products in the District “through many different online
retailers, ” such as Amazon and eBay. See Sup.
Ct. Docs. at 96-104 (Pl. MTD Opp.) at 2, 6 n.3. Bereft of
discovery, Plaintiff also notes the difficulty of
establishing personal jurisdiction. Id. at 4.
parties agree that Vee International is incorporated in New
York and maintains its principal place of business there.
See Sup. Ct. Docs. at 89-90 (Affidavit of Eric Lee,
COO, Vee International), ¶ 2; Compl., ¶ 6.
According to an affidavit from its Chief Operating Officer,
that Defendant does not have any offices, own or lease any
real estate, pay any state taxes, or maintain any bank
accounts in the District. See Lee Aff., ¶¶
5-8. Nor does Vee International market or sell its products
to any distributors who are incorporated or maintain their
principal place of business in the District. Id.,
¶ 4. Dr. Leonard's is incorporated in Delaware, for
instance, and maintains its principal place of business in
New Jersey. See Sup. Ct. Docs. at 72- 85 (Def. MTD)
International now moves to dismiss for lack of personal
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), a defendant may
move to dismiss a suit if the court lacks personal
jurisdiction over him. The plaintiff bears the burden of
establishing personal jurisdiction, FC Inv. Grp. LC v.
IFX Mkts., Ltd., 529 F.3d 1087, 1091 (D.C. Cir. 2008),
and its requirements “must be met as to each
defendant.” Rush v. Savchuk, 444 U.S. 320, 332
(1980). In deciding whether the plaintiff has shown a factual
basis for personal jurisdiction, courts resolve factual
discrepancies in her favor. See Crane v. N.Y. Zoological
Soc'y, 894 F.2d 454, 456 (D.C. Cir. 1990). When
personal jurisdiction is challenged, “the district
judge has considerable procedural leeway in choosing a
methodology for deciding the motion.” 5B Charles A.
Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice &
Procedure § 1351 (3d ed. 2004). The court may rest
on the allegations in the pleadings, collect affidavits and
other evidence, or even hold a hearing. Id.
Court may only exercise personal jurisdiction over Defendant
if permitted by D.C.'s long-arm statute and the
Constitution's Due Process Clause. See United States
v. Ferrara, 54 F.3d 825, 828 (D.C. Cir. 1995); Daley
v. Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., 26 A.3d 723, 727
(D.C. 2011); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1)(A). This
requirement translates into a two-step inquiry: the Court
“first examine[s] whether jurisdiction is applicable
under the . . . long-arm statute and then determine[s]
whether a finding of jurisdiction satisfies the
constitutional requirements of due process.” GTE
New Media Servs. Inc. v. BellSouth Corp., 199 F.3d 1343,
1347 (D.C. Cir. 2000).
are several ways for a D.C. court to obtain personal
jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant. First, Pinkett
relies on the Court's authority to exercise
“general jurisdiction” over a non-resident
defendant in certain circumstances. See Gorman v.
Ameritrade Holding Corp., 293 F.3d 506, 509 (D.C. Cir.
2002); D.C. Code § 13-334(a). Second, she argues that
the Court has “specific jurisdiction” over
Defendant because it “transact[ed] . . . business in
the District of Columbia.” § 13-423(a)(1). Third,
she contends that the Court also has specific jurisdiction
because Vee International “caus[ed] tortious injury in
the District of Columbia by an act or omission outside the
District of Columbia” and “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.” § 13-423(a)(4). As explained below, the
Court concludes that, on the current record, none of these
three bases is sufficient since Vee International likely
lacks the “minimum contacts” with the District
that the Due Process Clause requires. The Court will
nonetheless permit Pinkett to take some discovery because she
identifies certain facts that could, if more fully developed,
support the exercise of personal jurisdiction.
Process Clause permits general jurisdiction when a
non-resident defendant maintains sufficiently systematic and
continuous contacts with the forum state, regardless of
whether those contacts gave rise to the claim in the
particular suit. See Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia,
S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414-15 (1984). General
jurisdiction is appropriate based on “only a limited
set of affiliations with a forum, ” all of which are
tantamount to Defendant's domicile. See Daimler AG v.
Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 137 (2014). For corporations,
general jurisdiction may be asserted if the forum is one in
which the corporation is “‘fairly regarded as at
home, '” which has been defined as generally being
either its “place of incorporation” or its
“principal place of business.” Id.
(quoting Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v.
Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 924 (2011)). D.C. law incorporates
this due-process standard. See Gorman, 293 F.3d at
International, however, is incorporated and maintains its
principal place of business in New York. See Lee
Aff., ¶ 2; Compl., ¶ 6. Defendant is thus not
“fairly regarded as at home” in the District, and
general jurisdiction does not exist. See Daimler,
571 U.S. at 137-39 (“[T]he inquiry under
Goodyear is not whether a foreign corporation's
in-forum contacts can be said to be in some sense continuous
and systematic, it is whether that corporation's
affiliations with the State are so continuous and systematic
as to render [it] essentially at home in the forum
State.”) (internal quotations and citations omitted).
Nor is this the “exceptional case” where “a
corporate defendant's operations” beyond these two
“paradigm” forums may be “so substantial
and of such a nature as to render the corporation at home in
that State.” BNSF Ry. Co. v. Tyrrell, ...