Before a court can exercise jurisdiction over a defendant in a lawsuit, there must be personal jurisdiction – either general or specific.
General jurisdiction is much broader, subjecting a defendant to suit in the forum state in all matters, even those that have no direct relationship to the forum state. By contrast, specific jurisdiction exists only with regard to the defendant’s forum-based contacts.
Facts of the Case
In a recently decided case, the plaintiff was a woman who was allegedly hurt as a result of a fall on the premises of a senior living community. The plaintiff (who was joined in the lawsuit by her husband, who sought compensation for loss of consortium) alleged that her fall was caused by the defendants’ failure to exercise due care in maintaining the premises of the living community.
One of the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ lawsuit on the grounds that there was a lack of personal jurisdiction as to that defendant and that the plaintiffs had failed to state a claim against it under any legal theory. The plaintiffs argued that there was sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the defendant was subject to the jurisdiction of the court; alternatively, the plaintiffs requested that they be allowed to engage in jurisdictional discovery.
The Court’s Order
The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts denied the plaintiffs’ motion without prejudice. The court first reviewed the various defendants against which the plaintiffs had filed suit. The first defendant was a Virginia corporation that had been registered as a foreign corporation in Massachusetts since 2003; the court noted that this defendant managed and operated the assisted living center where the female plaintiff’s injury occurred and was indisputably a proper party to the action. Likewise, the court found that there was no dispute as to the court’s jurisdiction over the second defendant, a Delaware limited liability corporation registered in Massachusetts since 2005.
With regard to the third defendant, the court observed that it was a Delaware limited liability company with its principal place of business in Virginia; it was also the parent company of one of the other defendants. In reviewing the evidence and arguments submitted by the respective parties, the court held that there was an issue as to whether the third defendant had sufficient contacts with Massachusetts or exerted sufficient control over its subsidiary to invoke specific personal jurisdiction in Massachusetts. Accordingly, the court decided that the best course of action was to allow the plaintiffs to take additional discovery aimed at the third defendant’s relationship with or control of the other defendants.
Need Help with a Cape Cod Slip and Fall Claim?
Serious injuries can occur as a result of property owners’ negligence. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a slip and fall accident on someone else’s property, you should consult with an attorney about your legal right to seek monetary compensation. To schedule an appointment with a knowledgeable Cape Cod premises liability lawyer, call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, at (888) 262-6664. There is no charge for the consultation, and we can come to your home or hospital room, if need be.
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