Thursday, March 05, 2009

Eleventh Circuit Finds Personal Jurisdiction Lacking under FRCP 4(k)(2) for Lack of Relatedness

Per Oldfield v. Pueblo De Bahia Lora, S.A., --- F.3d ----, 2009 WL 330935 (11th Cir. Feb. 12, 2009):

As previously stated, a fundamental element of the specific jurisdiction calculus is that plaintiff's claim must “arise out of or relate to” at least one of defendant's contacts with the forum. Burger King, 471 U.S. at 472, 105 S.Ct. at 2182. The Supreme Court has not yet fully delineated the contours of the “relatedness” requirement, see Helicopteros, 466 U.S. at 415 n. 10, 104 S.Ct. at 1873, leaving state and lower courts to fashion their own blueprint for analysis, see Miller Yacht Sales, Inc. v. Smith, 384 F.3d 93, 97 (3d Cir.2004) (Scirica, C.J., dissenting in part) (“The courts of appeals have adopted divergent interpretations of ‘arise out of or relate to’ as that phrase relates to the specific jurisdiction analysis.”). Unlike other courts, FN32 we have not developed or adopted a specific approach to determining relatedness; instead, we have heeded the Supreme Court's warning against using “mechanical or quantitative” tests.

. . .

Parrot Bay Village's [the defendant] internet contacts with the United States were related to Oldfield's negligence claim, but only in the sense that but-for the website being made available to United States residents Oldfield would not have gone to Costa Rica, boarded the fishing boat, and suffered an injury. The problem with this but-for approach is that it is over-inclusive, making any cause of action, no matter how unforeseeable, necessarily “related to” the initial contact. See Nowak v. Tak How Invs., Ltd., 94 F.3d 708, 715 (1st Cir.1996) (commenting that “but-for” causation formulation is too overinclusive to satisfy relatedness requirement because it “has ... no limiting principle; it literally embraces every event that hindsight can logically identify in the causative chain.”). Instead, we examine whether the injury Oldfield suffered--while aboard a fishing vessel that Pueblo [the co-defendant] neither owned nor operated--was a foreseeable consequence of his viewing the Parrot Bay Village website, reserving a room at the resort, and arranging for a fishing trip run by someone else. Thus stated, it is apparent that the nexus between Oldfield's injury and the internet contact is too remote to satisfy the relatedness requirement. A finding that such a tenuous relationship between Pueblo's relevant contacts and the negligence of the captain who was not employed or controlled by Pueblo somehow satisfied the relatedness requirement would not only contravene the fairness principles that permeate the jurisdictional due process analysis, but would also interpret the requirement so broadly as to render it virtually meaningless.

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