A defendant can be subject to either specific or general personal jurisdiction in a forum state. To assert "general" jurisdiction, a plaintiff must establish that the defendant's contacts with the forum state are so "continuous and substantial" with the forum state that the defendant should expect to be hauled into court on any cause of action. Thus, where a non-resident defendant participated in transactions with the forum state that are the "bread and butter" of the defendant's business, the court may exercise jurisdiction over the defendant in any cause of action. In making this determination, the court must examine the defendant's contacts over "a reasonable period" of time. To establish specific jurisdiction, a defendant must have purposefully directed his activities at residents of the forum, sufficient to establish minimum contacts under International Shoe. Specific personal jurisdiction may arise from particular or sporadic contacts if the claim is related to or arises out of the defendant's contacts with the forum.
Planning to build and lease a warehouse, plaintiff successor partnership hired defendants, a corporation and its president, to perform geotechnical tests on the property. Relying on defendants' geotechnical report, plaintiff hired a general contractor to develop the land and build the warehouse. Plaintiff sued defendants for breaches of duty of performance, express and implied warranties, contract, and professional care. Defendants moved to dismiss and alternatively requested leave to file a third-party complaint. The district court denied defendants' motion to dismiss and request for leave to file a third-party complaint.
Were defendants, a corporation and its president, correct to claim for the dismissal of the complaint of plaintiff successor partnership against them?
First, under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2), the court had specific personal jurisdiction over defendants for claims arising from or relating to the parties' contract based on the contract terms, place and character of prior negotiations, contemplated future consequences, or the parties' course of dealings. Second, under Rule 12(b)(3), venue properly was laid under 28 U.S.C.S. § 1391(a)(2) because a substantial part of defendants' activities as to the formation and performance of the contract occurred in the district. Third, the contractor was not a necessary party under Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(a)(1) because complete relief could be accorded between the parties absent the contractor. Finally, defendants had no right to Fed. R. Civ. P. 14(a) impleader because the contractor was not shown to be liable to defendants if they were liable to the successor.