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Harfouche v. Wehbe

United States District Court, D. Nevada

July 18, 2014

ELIE HARFOUCHE, Plaintiff,
v.
HAIFA WEHBE, et al., Defendant.

ORDER

LLOYD D. GEORGE, District Judge.

The plaintiff, Elie Harfouche, a concert promoter, filed the instant complaint against multiple defendants, including Haifa Wehbe, a Lebanese singer and performer, alleging that Wehbe violated a contractual commitment to perform on a tour throughout the United States and Canada, including in Las Vegas. Magistrate Judge Nancy Koppe has recommended that Wehbe be dismissed from the proceedings because Harfouche had not filed proof that he had properly served Wehbe (#48). Harfouche subsequently filed proof of service (#49, #51). The Court will therefore decline to adopt the recommendation as moot. Wehbe now moves to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction (#52). Defendant Joseph Rahi also moves to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the claims against him are barred by a statute of limitations (#56). Harfouche did not oppose Rahi's motion, but did oppose Wehbe's motion (#54). Rahi's motion to dismiss will therefore be granted. However, because the complaint sufficiently alleges that Wehbe agreed to perform in Nevada, the Court will deny the motion to dismiss.

Motion to Dismiss

The defendant's motion to dismiss, brought pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2), provides that a court may dismiss a complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. Nevada's long-arm statute allows jurisdiction in Nevada courts "over a party to a civil action on any basis not inconsistent with the constitution of this state or the Constitution of the United States." NRS 14.065(1); Graziose v. American Home Products Corp., 161 F.Supp.2d 1149, 1152 (D. Nev. 2001). The statute has been "liberally construed to reach the outer limits of federal Constitutional Due Process." Id. "A court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant consistent with due process only if she or he has certain minimum contacts' with the relevant forum such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'" Menken v. Emm, 503 F.3d 1050, 1056 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945). The Ninth Circuit has established a three-prong test for analyzing a claim of specific jurisdiction:

(1) The non-resident defendant must purposefully direct his activities or consummate some transaction with the forum or resident thereof; or perform some act by which he purposefully avails himself of the privilege of conducting activities in the forum, thereby invoking the benefits and protections of its laws;
(2) The claim must be one which arises out of or relates to the defendant's forum-related activities and;
(3) The exercise of jurisdiction must comport with fair play and substantial justice, that is, it must be reasonable.
Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 802 (9th Cir. 2004).

The plaintiff bears the burden of satisfying the first two prongs, after which the burden shifts to the defendant to "present a compelling case" that the exercise of jurisdiction in Nevada would not be reasonable. Bancroft & Masters v. Augusta Nat'l Inc., 223 F.3d 1082, 1086 (9th Cir. 2000).

Factual Background

In April 2007, Harfouche, currently a resident of New York, entered a contract with Wehbe, a resident of Beirut, Lebanon (#1, ¶¶ 4, 7, & 12). Harfouche agreed to organize and promote a nine-city tour of the United States and Canada, which Wehbe would headline (#1, ¶ 12). The tour was to run from October 10, 2007, through November 30, 2007, and included a performance in Las Vegas, Nevada (#1, ¶ 14). Harfouche alleges that after he expended significant expenses to prepare for the tour, and after Wehbe began to tour in Canada pursuant to the contract, Wehbe breached their contract by performing in an entirely separate tour in lieu of completing the tour as contracted for with Harfouche (#1, ¶ 17-18).

In 2010, Harfouche filed a similar complaint against Wehbe in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, as he was a resident of New Jersey at the time the contract was signed. That complaint was subsequently dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. Harfouche v. Wehbe, 950 F.Supp.2d 766 (D. N. J. 2013). Harfouche thereafter filed the instant complaint in Nevada.

Analysis

The Court finds that it has personal jurisdiction over the defendant in this case. The first prong requires that Wehbe "purposefully direct [her] activities" towards Nevada. According to the Ninth Circuit, "in contract cases, we typically inquire whether a defendant purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities' or consummates a transaction' in the forum, focusing on activities such as delivering goods or executing a contract." Schwarzenegger, 374 F.3d at 802. Here, Harfouche alleges that Wehbe contractually agreed to perform in Las Vegas. This allegation is sufficient. Of particular note, in dismissing the complaint in New Jersey, ...


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