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Legal Memorandum: Dismissal for the Lack of Personal Jurisdiction

Issue: In order to resolve a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, is it proper for a court to permit discovery into pertinent facts?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Motion to dismiss; Absence of personal jurisdiction
Jurisdiction: Federal, Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 765 F.2d 42; 83 F. Supp. 2d 442; 318 F.3d 446; 220 F.3d 99; 354 F. Supp. 2d 549; 960 F. Supp. 925
Cited Statutes: Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2)
Date: 07/01/2007

Resolution of a motion to dismiss for absence of personal jurisdiction depends on facts outside the pleadings.  Hartman v. Texaco, Inc., 29 V.I. 41, 72-73 (D.V.I. 1993), quoted in C & C/Manhattan v. Sunex Int’l, Inc., 42 V.I. 3, 5 (Terr. Ct. 1999).  “‘The plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing that jurisdiction exists to survive the motion to dismiss.  At this stage, all allegations of jurisdictional facts are considered in a light most favorable to an assertion of in personam jurisdiction.'”  Id., 42 V.I. at 5 (quoting Hartman, 29 V.I. at 72-73).  Accord Lechner v. Marco-Domo Internationales Interieur GmbH, No. 03 Civ. 5664(JGK) (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 14, 2005).  In fact, even a threshold showing of jurisdiction, establishing that the plaintiff’s position is not frivolous, warrants further discovery.  Id.

            The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has made clear that in circumstances such as are presented here, the plaintiff is “entitled to conduct discovery into the jurisdictional facts.”  Renner v. Lanard Toys Ltd., 33 F.3d 277, 283 (3d Cir. 1994) (holding that although the record at the time of appeal did not show the “purposeful availment” in Pennsylvania required to satisfy minimum contacts, the record was ambiguous and incomplete, such that the plaintiffs were not required “to accept Lanard’s analysis of the facts without a chance to probe further”; and remanding because the “case was disposed of without any opportunity for the normal discovery process”).  See Nehemiah v. Athletics Congress, 765 F.2d […]

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