Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
“Transacting business” is a term of art which means less than doing business but more than performing some inconsequential act within a jurisdiction. In short, transacting business requires a defendant to engage in some type of purposeful activity within the territory. The term “transacting business” can be only a single act which in fact amounts to the transaction of business within a state (or territory). Thus, it is enough that there is a contract with a Virgin Islands resident and the object of that contract is to be performed, even if only in part, in the Virgin Islands. 5 V.I.C. § 4903(a)(1).
On May 2, 2006, Eduardo Matos (“Mr. Matos”) was driving a truck carrying concrete in an area known as Mahogany Run on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. He suffered injuries when the truck rolled over. The truck was allegedly manufactured and sold by Nextran and pro se defendant Mack Truck Sales of South Florida (“Mack Truck”). Mr. Matos and his wife, Santa Matos (together, the “Plaintiffs”), subsequently commenced this action against Nextran and Mack Truck (together, the “Defendants”), asserting five theories of recovery: (1) negligence; (2) defective design and manufacture; (3) strict liability; (4) breach of express and implied warranties; and (5) loss of consortium. Nextran thereafter made a limited appearance for the sole purpose of moving to dismiss this matter for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). The Plaintiffs filed an opposition in which they asked for permission to conduct jurisdictional discovery. That request was granted and jurisdictional discovery ensued.
Have the plaintiffs made out a prima facie case for the court to exercise its long-arm jurisdiction over Nextran?
The first step of the inquiry asks whether Nextran deliberately targeted the Virgin Islands. While “[i]t is not significant that one or the other party initiated the relationship,” the “unilateral activity of those who claim some relationship with a nonresident defendant” is not enough to sustain the exercise of specific jurisdiction. Furthermore, “contacts with a state's citizens that take place outside the state are not purposeful contacts with the state itself.” The Plaintiffs rely almost exclusively on Blanco's deposition testimony. That testimony reflects that Nextran has sold several of its trucks to various Virgin Islands residents since at least 1999. The designs of those trucks were specifically tailored to meet the needs of Nextran's Virgin Islands customers. Nextran has also dispatched its training representatives and mechanics to the Virgin Islands to assist its customers in the use of their trucks and to service its trucks in the Virgin Islands. By doing so, Nextran established “continuing relationships and obligations” in the Virgin Islands. In the Court's view, Nextran's activities constitute purposeful availment of the privilege of doing business in the Virgin Islands such that Nextran could reasonably expect to be haled into court here. Nextran has elected not to explicitly articulate any argument to show that defending itself in the Virgin Islands presents any burden whatever. In the Court's view, “[t]his is not a case where a severe burden is placed on an alien defendant… . Nor does this case involve one isolated occurrence where the defendant had no connection with the forum state[.]” “No claims of exorbitant travel expenses, unavailability of evidence, drains on judicial resources or countervailing state interests have been made.” Indeed, as discussed above, Nextran concedes that it has sent employees and representatives to the Virgin Islands. Furthermore, Nextran has specifically manufactured and sold its products to Virgin Islands residents for use in the territory. The complaint in this matter alleges that those products are defective and have caused tortious injury in the Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands therefore has a substantial interest in litigating the Plaintiffs' claims. Similarly, Mr. Matos resides in the Virgin Islands and the injuries he alleges to have suffered occurred here. The Court has little doubt that the Plaintiffs also have a strong interest in litigating their claims in the territory. Finally, Nextran does not assert, not does anything currently in the record establish, that any other jurisdiction has a greater interest in litigating the Plaintiffs' claims. Considering these several factors, the Court finds, on balance, that the exercise of jurisdiction over Nextran accords with traditional notions of “fair play and substantial justice,” at least at this stage of this litigation.