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Neelon v. Krueger

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

June 17, 2016

DANIEL P. NEELON, Plaintiff,



         Defendants Blair Krueger and Desert Eagle Resources, Ltd. f/k/a Garrison International Ltd. move, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P 50(b), for judgment as a matter of law for lack of personal jurisdiction. Defendants assert that Plaintiff did not provide sufficient evidence at trial to establish that the court had personal jurisdiction over Defendants. The court finds that Plaintiff has met his burden at trial. Accordingly, the court DENIES Defendants' motion.

         I. Procedural History

         This is not Defendants' first challenge to this court's jurisdiction. At the outset of this litigation, Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint [#18] for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). In considering the motion, the court (Saylor, D.J.) applied the prima facie standard, taking the specific facts affirmatively alleged by the plaintiff as true. Mem. & Order on Defs.' Mot. Dismiss 7 [#43]. The court determined that Plaintiff had met his burden of demonstrating that the exercise of jurisdiction was consistent with the due process requirements of the United States Constitution. Id. at 8-16. Defendants moved, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), to amend the decision to state that there is a substantial ground for difference of opinion and that an immediate appeal from the Order denying the motion to dismiss may materially advance the ultimate resolution of this litigation. Defs.' Mot. Amend Order, Certify Appeal & Stay Proceedings Pending Appeal [#48]. The court denied the motion. Electronic Order [#56].

         After the case was reassigned to the undersigned and following discovery, Defendants moved for summary judgment on several grounds, including that Plaintiff failed to produce evidence to support a finding of personal jurisdiction. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. [#321]. The court rejected Plaintiff's contention that the issue of personal jurisdiction had been finally resolved on the motion to dismiss. The court explained that a finding of personal jurisdiction under the prima facie standard is "an implicit deferral until trial of the final ruling on [personal] jurisdiction." Mem. & Order 19 [#368] (citing Boit v. Gar-Tec Prods., Inc., 967 F.2d 671, 678 (1st Cir. 1992) (stating that resolution under the prima facie standard "avoids . . . issues of . . . ‘law of the case'")). The court treated the pre-trial motion as one for reconsideration and denied it based on the record evidence previously cited by the court in support of the prior finding of personal jurisdiction under the prima facie standard.

         The case proceeded to trial on Plaintiff's cause of action for defamation. After Plaintiff rested at trial, Defendants moved for judgment as a matter of law based on a lack of evidence to establish personal jurisdiction. Mot. J. Matter Law Pl.'s Lack Evid. Establish Personal Jurisdiction [#557]. The court denied the motion, finding that the evidentiary proffer in Plaintiff's case-in-chief sufficient to overcome the motion. Order Denying Mots. J. Matter Law [#565]. At the conclusion of trial, Defendants filed the Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b) Based on Plaintiff's Lack of Evidence to Establish Personal Jurisdiction [#626] ("Renewed Motion"), now before the court.

         II. Standard of Review

         A motion for judgment as a matter of law under Fed.R.Civ.P. 50 "may only be granted when, after examining the evidence of record and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party, the record reveals no sufficient evidentiary basis for the verdict." Crowe v. Bolduc, 334 F.3d 124, 134 (1st Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         "When a party makes a motion post-trial re-alleging a lack of personal jurisdiction, the party may request, or the judge may determine on his own, to make the jurisdictional inquiry in light of the facts that were revealed at trial using a preponderance of the evidence standard." N. Laminate Sales, Inc. v. Davis, 403 F.3d 14, 23 (1st Cir. 2005). The court views Defendants' post-trial motion as making such a request and accordingly, uses the preponderance of the evidence standard in the inquiry as to the jurisdictional facts revealed at trial.

         III. Personal Jurisdiction

         To establish personal jurisdiction over Defendants, Plaintiff "must meet the requirements of both the Massachusetts long-arm statute and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Cossart v. United Excel Corp., 804 F.3d 13, 18 (1st Cir. 2015). Plaintiff has done both.

         a. Federal Constitution

         In the context of specific jurisdiction, the Constitution requires that a defendant have maintained "minimum contacts" with the forum, "such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (internal quotation marks omitted). Whether minimum contacts exist is assessed through a tripartite test. First, "the litigation [must] result[] from alleged injuries that ‘arise out of or relate to'" the defendant's in-forum activities. Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472 (1985) (citations omitted). Second, there must be "‘some act by which the defendant purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum . . . thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws.'" Id. at 475 (quoting Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253 (1958)). Third, the defendant's conduct and activities much be such that it is "‘reasonable . . . to require the [defendant] to defend'" a suit in the chosen forum. World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 292 (1980) (quoting Int'l Shoe, 326 U.S. at 317).

         i. ...

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