Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Worcester
Heard: October 2, 2018.
action commenced in the Superior Court Department on
April 11, 2017. A motion to dismiss was heard by James G.
Reardon, Jr., J., and a motion for reconsideration was
considered by him.
Supreme Judicial Court on its own initiative transferred the
case from the Appeals Court.
Clinton Smith, Jr., for the plaintiff.
E. Mitchell for the defendants.
Jennifer A. Creedon & Meghan L. Morgan, for Massachusetts
Defense Lawyers Association, amicus curiae, submitted a
Present (Sitting at Worcester): Gants, C.J., Lenk, Gaziano,
Lowy, Budd, Cypher, & Kafker, JJ.
plaintiff, Caroline Roch, a New Jersey resident, sued
defendants David and Donna Mollica, New Hampshire residents,
in Superior Court for negligence. The claim arose out of an
incident in Florida. A deputy sheriff served both defendants
with in-hand process in Worcester. The defendants moved to
dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Mass.
R. Civ. P. 12 (b) (2), 365 Mass. 754 (1974). A Superior Court
judge allowed the motion to dismiss; the plaintiff appealed.
The judge also denied the plaintiff's motion for
reconsideration. We transferred the appeal from the Appeals
Court on our own motion.
conclude that, as a matter of both State common law and due
process, Massachusetts courts have personal jurisdiction over
nonresident individuals who are served with process while
intentionally, knowingly, and voluntarily in
Massachusetts. Because the defendants here were
served under these circumstances, we reverse the judge's
order allowing the defendants' motion to dismiss and
remand to the Superior Court for proceedings consistent with
a defendant moves to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of adducing
facts on which jurisdiction may be found. ... In considering
a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, we
accept as true the essential uncontroverted facts that were
before the judge" (citation, alteration, and quotations
omitted). SCVNGR, Inc. v. Punchh, Inc., 478
Mass. 324, 325 n.3 (2017), quoting Miller v. Miller,
448 Mass. 320, 321 (2007) .
uncontested facts are as follows. The plaintiff was a
freshman member of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute
softball team. The defendants are the parents of the
team's head coach. During a spring training trip to
Florida, the team and coaches visited with the defendants at
a house the defendants had rented. The house had a swimming
pool. As part of an initiation ritual, without warning,
upperclassmen members of the team pushed the freshman members
into the pool. The plaintiff hit and injured her shoulder on
the edge of the pool. According to the complaint, the
defendants "negligently allowed a dangerous act of
initiation or hazing to be imposed upon" the plaintiff
and "negligently failed to obtain or seek immediate
medical attention and/or medical advice for" her. The
defendants were served with process while attending a
softball game at Worcester State College in Worcester.
judge held a nonevidentiary hearing on the defendants'
motion to dismiss. At the hearing, plaintiff's counsel
contended that the Superior Court had personal jurisdiction
over the defendants because the defendants were served in
Massachusetts. The judge responded that service of process is
conceptually distinct from personal jurisdiction, and
suggested that personal jurisdiction was improper here
because the plaintiff's case had no connection to
Massachusetts. The judge allowed the defendants' ...