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Ouellette v. Truepenny People, LLC

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

November 29, 2018




         Charles Ouellette (“Plaintiff”) brought this claim for breach of contract and tortious interference with an advantageous business relationship. Defendant moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). For the reasons below, Defendant's motion (Docket No. 15) is denied.


         We derive our summary of the factual background from Plaintiff's evidentiary proffers and from Defendant's undisputed proffers. Copia Communications, LLC v. Amresorts, L.P., 812 F.3d 1, 2 (1st Cir. 2016).

         On or about August 9, 2017, Plaintiff spoke on the phone with Raj Dubey, President of True Penny about a potential job for True Penny's “Maine project.” On or about August 14, 2017, they spoke again, and Mr. Dubey extended Plaintiff a job offer, which Plaintiff immediately accepted. Mr. Dubey then requested that Plaintiff send copies of his passport and social security card to initiate the hiring process. Plaintiff emailed copies of the documents and, in that email, memorialized Mr. Dubey's offer.

         After Plaintiff accepted Mr. Dubey's offer, he notified his employer that he would be resigning from his position to take the job with True Penny. Thereafter, however, the relationship soured, and Plaintiff never worked for True Penny. The reasons that the relationship deteriorated are irrelevant to the jurisdictional question presented.

         At all times, Plaintiff was a citizen of Massachusetts and all his communication with True Penny occurred from the Commonwealth. According to Plaintiff, both parties had the expectation that at least some of his work for the “Maine project” would be done from his home in Massachusetts.

         True Penny is a Florida corporation. True Penny asserts that it has never performed any work in Massachusetts, serviced any Massachusetts-based clients, and has not registered to do business in the Commonwealth.

         Standard of Review

         When considering a Rule 12(b)(2) motion without an evidentiary hearing, a district court uses the prima facie standard to evaluate whether it has personal jurisdiction over the defendant. Under this standard, “the inquiry is whether the plaintiff has proffered evidence which, if credited, is sufficient to support findings of all facts essential to personal jurisdiction.” Phillips v. Prairie Eye Ctr., 530 F.3d 22, 26 (1st Cir. 2008). The plaintiff bears the burden of showing that the court may exercise personal jurisdiction over the defendant and “must put forward evidence of specific facts to demonstrate that jurisdiction exists.” A Corp. v. All Am. Plumbing, 812 F.3d 54, 58 (1st Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Further, courts “take the plaintiff's evidentiary proffers as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff's claim.” C.W. Downer & Co. v. Bioriginal Food & Sci. Cor., 771 F.3d 59, 65 (1st Cir. 2014). Finally, courts also “consider uncontradicted facts proffered by the defendant.” Id.


         “In determining whether a non-resident defendant is subject to its jurisdiction, a federal court exercising diversity jurisdiction is the functional equivalent of a state court sitting in the forum state.” Sawtelle v. Farrell, 70 F.3d 1381, 1387 (1st Cir. 1995). Thus, in order to establish personal jurisdiction over Defendant, Plaintiff must satisfy the requirements of both the Massachusetts long-arm statute and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. WorldWide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 290, 100 S.Ct. 559 (1980).

         The Massachusetts long-arm statute enumerates eight specific grounds on which a nonresident defendant may be subjected to personal jurisdiction by a court of the Commonwealth. See Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 223A, § 3. Massachusetts courts have held that the long-arm statute “asserts jurisdiction over the person to the constitutional limit only when some basis for jurisdiction enumerated in the statue has been established.” Good Hope Indus., Inc. v. Ryder Scott Co., 378 Mass. 1, 6, 378 N.E.2d 76 (1979). Therefore, this court is “required to decline to exercise jurisdiction if the plaintiff [is] unable to satisfy at least one of the statutory prerequisites.” Id.

         Additionally, “courts should consider the long-arm statute first, before approaching the constitutional question.” SCVNGR, Inc. v. Punchh, Inc., 478 Mass. 324, 330, 85 N.E.3d 50 (2017). Determining first whether the long-arm statute's requirements are met is consistent with the duty to avoid “decid[ing] questions of a constitutional nature unless absolutely necessary to a decision of the case.” Burton v. United States, 196 U.S. 283, 295, 25 S.Ct. 243 (1905).

         1. Massachusetts ...

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