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De James v. Magnificence Carriers, Inc. - 654 F.2d 280 (3d Cir. 1981)


Even in nondiversity cases, if service of process must be made pursuant to a state long-arm statute or rule of court, the defendant's amenability to suit in federal district court is limited by that statute or rule.


Appellant Joseph DeJames, a New Jersey longshoreman, was injured while working on the M.V. Magnificence Venture (the vessel) when it was moored to a pier in Camden, New Jersey. DeJames filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, alleging negligence and strict liability in tort against, inter alia, the charterers of the vessel and Hitachi Shipbuilding and Engineering Co., Ltd. (Hitachi), a Japanese corporation with its principal place of business in Japan. Hitachi had converted the vessel in Japan from a bulk carrier to an automobile carrier. DeJames alleged that Hitachi's conversion work was defective After the complaint was filed, process was served on Hitachi at its place of business in Japan by the Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs apparently in accordance with the requirements of an international treaty. Hitachi filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the the district court granted. DeJames appealed.


Did Hitachi’s actions meet the minimum contacts requirement for jurisdiction?




The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed, holding that the conversion work done by Hitachi was performed exclusively in Japan and had no connection with the forum state; thus there were insufficient grounds to support the assertion of jurisdiction over appellee. Moreover, the court held that in order for DeJames to effect valid service he had to rely on the forum state's long-arm rule through Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(e) or (i), either of which permitted reliance on a state statute authorizing extraterritorial service of process.

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