Law School Case Brief
Nationwide Contractor Audit Serv. v. Nat'l Compliance Mgmt. Servs. - 622 F. Supp. 2d 276 (W.D. Pa. 2008)
General and specific jurisdiction are analytically distinct categories, not two points on a sliding scale. In determining whether it has either general or specific jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, a court must take specific analytical steps. The court first determines whether the defendant's contacts with the forum state are "systematic and continuous," i.e., sufficient to support general personal jurisdiction. The threshold for establishing general jurisdiction is very high, and requires a showing of extensive and pervasive facts demonstrating connections with the forum state. The plaintiff must show significantly more than mere minimum contacts to establish general jurisdiction. In short, this higher threshold demands contacts with the forum which approximate physical presence.
Plaintiff compliance auditing firm sued defendant competitor in the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Court of Common Pleas for tortious interference with prospective contracts, unfair competition, and violation of the Lanham Ac. Both parties assisted oil and gas pipeline contractors in complying with employee drug and alcohol abuse prevention regulatory requirements. One of the founders of the plaintiff compliance auditing firm was a former employee of the defendant competitor. The firm claimed, inter alia, that the president of the competitor falsely told a potential customer of the firm that the founder was subject to a non-compete agreement. The competitor removed the case to federal district court and moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.The district court held that personal jurisdiction over the competitor did not exist under 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 5322 or 5301.
Do internet advertising and scant involvement in the forum state support a finding of a district court that it had personal jurisdiction over a defendant?
The revenues and percentage of business from contracts with Pennsylvania-based pipeline operators were insufficient to confer general jurisdiction, nor were contacts with Pennsylvania contractors sufficiently extensive and pervasive to establish general jurisdiction. The competitor's Internet web site, although somewhat commercially interactive, was not targeted specifically to Pennsylvania. Specific jurisdiction was not established because the firm failed to show that the competitor's alleged tortious activities were expressly aimed at Pennsylvania. As jurisdiction and venue were appropriate in Kansas, transfer there instead of dismissal was warranted.
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