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Beckner v. New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co.

United States District Court, D. Nevada

June 11, 2015

CATHERINE BECKNER, an individual; SCOTT BECKNER, an individual, Plaintiffs,
v.
NEW JERSEY MANUFACTURERS INSURANCE COMPANY, a foreign corporation; DOE INDIVIDUALS I-X, inclusive; and ROE ENTITIES I-X, inclusive Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS [Dkt. #3]

ANDREW P. GORDON, District Judge.

Defendant New Jersey Manufacturers Company ("NJM") moves to dismiss the claims brought against it in Nevada by plaintiffs Catherine Beckner and Scott Beckner, to whom it issued a car insurance policy in August 2012 while the couple was living in New Jersey. NJM is a New Jersey corporation with three offices, all of which are in New Jersey. It does not conduct business in Nevada. It does not own property in Nevada. It does not have any employees who work in Nevada or direct communications to Nevada. Nor does it have a Nevada bank account. In short, NJM does not have sufficient minimum contacts with Nevada to justify haling it here to defend this case. I therefore grant NJM's motion to dismiss on personal jurisdiction grounds.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

The Beckners were in a car accident on Interstate-215 in Nevada in August of 2013.[2] Both were severely injured. But when they tried to collect payment from NJM for their resulting medical expenses, NJM "failed to acknowledge or effectuate prompt, fair and equitable settlement of [their] claim, in violation of NRS 686A. 310."[3]

NJM does not dispute these allegations for purposes of its motion. Instead, NJM argues that this Court sitting in Nevada lacks personal jurisdiction over it. A New Jersey corporation whose three offices are all in that state, NJM does not conduct business in Nevada. Nor does it own any property in Nevada, have any employees that work in Nevada, or own a Nevada bank account.

II. DISCUSSION

1. Personal Jurisdiction

"The general rule is that personal jurisdiction over a defendant is proper if it is permitted by a long-arm statute and if the exercise of that jurisdiction does not violate federal due process."[4] Because "Nevada's long-arm statute authorizes the exercise of personal jurisdiction to the extent allowed by federal due process, "[5] I need only determine whether the exercise of jurisdiction over defendants would be consistent with due process.

2. Minimum Contacts: General Jurisdiction and Specific Jurisdiction

Due process requires the defendant have at least "minimum contacts" with the forum state so that "maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice."[6] "[T]he defendant's conduct and connection with the forum State [must be] such that he should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there."[7] "[I]t is the defendant, not the plaintiff or third parties, who must create contacts with the forum State."[8]

When analyzing whether a defendant has sufficient minimum contacts with a forum state, courts distinguish between general jurisdiction and specific jurisdiction. General jurisdiction is appropriate when the defendant's forum activities are so "substantial, continuous and systematic"[9] that the defendant can be deemed to be "essentially at home in the forum state."[10] "This is an exacting standard, as it should be, because a finding of general jurisdiction permits a defendant to be haled into court in the forum state to answer for any of its activities anywhere in the world."[11] In this case, none of the parties contends that I could exercise general jurisdiction over defendants.

Specific jurisdiction, on the other hand, exists if "the defendant purposely avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State... [and] the controversy [is] sufficiently related to or arose out of [the defendant's] contacts with the forum state."[12] "This purposeful availment requirement ensures that a defendant will not be haled into a jurisdiction solely as a result of random, fortuitous, or attenuated contacts."[13] The Ninth Circuit has established a three-prong test for determining specific jurisdiction:

a. The non-resident defendant must purposefully direct its activities or consummate some transaction with the forum or resident thereof, or perform some act by which it purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities in the ...

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