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Gatekeeper Inc. v. Stratech Sys.

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division

June 9, 2010, Decided; June 9, 2010, Filed

Case No. 1:09cv1326

Opinion

 [*664]  MEMORANDUM OPINION

At issue on defendants' renewed motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction is the question, unresolved in  [*665]  this circuit, whether specific personal jurisdiction analysis properly proceeds on a claim-specific basis. Put differently, the question presented is this: in the absence of general personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, must a plaintiff establish specific jurisdiction--statutorily and constitutionally--for each claim alleged on a claim-by-claim basis? By Order dated May 19, 2010, granting the motion in part and denying it in part, this question was answered in the affirmative, and this Memorandum Opinion elucidates  [**2] the reasons for this ruling. In essence, absent general jurisdiction, specific jurisdiction must be established for each alleged claim; failure to do so for any alleged claim requires nonprivileged dismissal or transfer 1 of that claim.

All of the parties in this diversity breach of contract and tortious interference action are engaged in the business of producing, marketing, and selling under-vehicle bomb detection devices deployed at hotels and government facilities in the Middle East and elsewhere. Plaintiffs, Gatekeeper Inc. ("Gatekeeper") and Christoper A. Millar, are both citizens of Virginia. 2 Defendants, Stratech Systems, Ltd. ("Stratech") and David Chew (collectively "Stratech defendants"), are both citizens of Singapore. The third defendant, Thomas J. Lang, is a citizen of Florida, and an independent contractor who performed consulting services for Stratech and Gatekeeper. Plaintiff Millar, a former Stratech employee, is now a Gatekeeper employee, and Chew is president of Stratech.

This suit arises from acts that allegedly occurred in Singapore in  [**3] 2009. Specifically, the complaint alleges that Chew--while in Singapore--told Lang, in a telephone conversation and in person, that Millar and Gatekeeper had stolen Stratech's under-vehicle bomb detection technology and thus Gatekeeper did not own the intellectual property rights to the detection devices it was attempting to sell, through Lang, to the Marriott group of hotels in the Middle East and perhaps elsewhere. Plaintiffs allege that Chew's accusations caused Lang to withdraw from his agreement with Gatekeeper to use Gatekeeper's devices in connection with a bid to be submitted to Marriott and to enter instead into an agreement with Stratech to use Stratech's competing devices for this purpose. Alleging the loss of this business as damages, plaintiffs filed this action alleging breach of contract and tortious interference by Chew, Stratech, and Lang. The contract in issue is a settlement agreement--executed in part and performed in part in Virginia--related to previous litigation between Millar, Chew, and Stratech ("the Settlement Agreement"). The Settlement Agreement contains a non-disparagement clause that plaintiffs allege Stratech defendants violated when Chew told Lang that  [**4] plaintiffs had stolen Stratech's techology. With respect to the tortious interference claim, Gatekeeper alleges that defendants improperly interfered with its business expectancy with Marriott through tortious acts allegedly committed outside the Commonwealth.

On Stratech defendants' threshold motion, Gatekeeper was dismissed from the breach of contract claim as it was not a party to the Settlement Agreement and thus lacked standing to allege its breach. Moreover, at the argument on summary judgment, plaintiffs' counsel clarified that Millar is not a party to the tortious interference claim. Thus, Millar is the sole plaintiff in the breach of contract claim  [*666]  and Gatekeeper is the sole plaintiff in the tortious interference claim.

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718 F. Supp. 2d 664 *; 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56625 **

GATEKEEPER INC., et al., Plaintiffs, v. STRATECH SYSTEMS, LTD., et al., Defendants.

Prior History: Gatekeeper Inc. v. Stratech Sys., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 57646 (E.D. Va., Feb. 19, 2010)

CORE TERMS

contacts, personal jurisdiction, forum state, tortious interference, nonresident, breach of contract claim, general jurisdiction, claim-specific, give rise, Settlement