Multiple Choice from the 2006 CivPro Exam
Essay Question from the 2008 CivPro Exam

Multiple Choice from the 2006 CivPro Exam

With updated answers:

12.        In which of the following cases is personal jurisdiction over the defendant least appropriate?

a.     A federal civil rights action concerning the defendant’s arrest of the plaintiff in Buffalo (in the Northern District of New York). Defendant lives in Pennsylvania and is served there. The action is brought in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York.

b.     A California state-law product liability action brought as a diversity action by a California plaintiff against a corporation incorporated in Delaware with its principal place of business in Tennessee. The defendant corporation has a large factory in Buffalo, New York (in the Northern District of New York), but the plaintiff at no time has this asset of the corporation attached by the federal court. The defendant corporation is served (through service on its Chief Legal Officer) in Tennessee. The action is brought in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York.

c.     A California state-law diversity action concerning a brawl between the plaintiff and the defendant in California. The plaintiff is a citizen of California and the defendant a citizen of New York. The defendant is served while on a business trip in California. The action is brought in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York.

d.     An action by a New York citizen against a California citizen for violation of a federal antiterrorism act. The defendant’s alleged violations of the federal act were all committed in Iraq. The defendant has no contacts with the state of New York. The action is brought in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York.

e.    An action by a New York plaintiff against a German defendant for breach of German contract law concerning a contract signed in Germany with performance in Germany. At the initiation of the suit the American plaintiff had the federal court attach the assets of a trust that had been created by the German’s mother with the German as the beneficiary. The assets of the trust and the trustee are located in New York City. Defendant is served in Germany. The action is brought in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Answer:

a.     A federal civil rights action concerning the defendant’s arrest of the plaintiff in Buffalo (in the Northern District of New York). Defendant lives in Pennsylvania and is served there. The action is brought in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Wrong. A New York state court would clearly have specific personal jurisdiction over the defendant under Int’l Shoe standards. The defendant’s actions in New York gave rise to the cause of action. Since a New York state court would have PJ, under FRCP 4(k)(1)(A), a federal court in New York would too.

b.     A California state-law product liability action brought as a diversity action by a California plaintiff against a corporation incorporated in Delaware with its principal place of business in Tennessee. The defendant corporation has a large factory in Buffalo, New York (in the Northern District of New York), but the plaintiff at no time has this asset of the corporation attached by the federal court. The defendant corporation is served (through service on its Chief Legal Officer) in Tennessee. The action is brought in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Wrong. A New York state court would very likely have general personal jurisdiction over the defendant under Int’l Shoe standards under Perkins and Goodyear. The defendant engages in substantial continuous activities in the state of New York, by virtue of having a large factory in that state. It is very likely "at home" in the state and so can be sued in New York on any cause of action. Since a New York state court would have PJ, under FRCP 4(k)(1)(A), a federal court in New York would too. [NOTE: In the light of Daimler, this answer is no longer correct. As a result of Daimler a corporation is in general only at home in its principal place of business and state of incorporation.]

Attachment is irrelevant. It is relevant (if at all) only in cases of in rem and quasi in rem personal jurisdiction, not general personal jurisdiction.

c.     A California state-law diversity action concerning a brawl between the plaintiff and the defendant in California. The plaintiff is a citizen of California and the defendant a citizen of New York. The defendant is served while on a business trip in California. The action is brought in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Wrong. The defendant is a citizen of New York and so is domiciled there. Domicile is a clear source of general personal jurisdiction. Since a New York state court would have PJ, under FRCP 4(k)(1)(A), a federal court in New York would too.

d.     An action by a New York citizen against a California citizen for violation of a federal antiterrorism act. The defendant’s alleged violations of the federal act were all committed in Iraq. The defendant has no contacts with the state of New York. The action is brought in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Correct. There would be no PJ in a state court in New York. There are no Int’l Shoe connections with the state of New York. Those who thought there was PJ might be thinking of FRCP 4(k)(2), which would allow for PJ even if a New York state court would not have PJ. But that provision would allow for PJ only if the defendant “is not subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of general jurisdiction of any state.” This defendant is a California citizen and so would clearly be subject to general PJ in California state courts.

e.    An action by a New York plaintiff against a German defendant for breach of German contract law concerning a contract signed in Germany with performance in Germany. At the initiation of the suit the American plaintiff had the federal court attach the assets of a trust that had been created by the German’s mother with the German as the beneficiary. The assets of the trust and the trustee are located in New York City. Defendant is served in Germany. The action is brought in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Wrong. It is true that PJ in this case is somewhat suspect. This is a quasi in rem action. The property that is the source of PJ is the defendant’s New York financial assets (namely the corpus of a trust in his name). In the light of Shaffer, quasi in rem actions should be viewed with skepticism. But, as I mentioned often in class, they are often still brought, and the connection between the property and the forum in this case is clearer than it was in Shaffer (which involved shares that were considered to be located in Delaware under Delaware law because the corporation was incorporated in Delaware). Furthermore the exercise in PJ is more reasonably foreseeable in this case than in Shaffer. It is not surprising that one’s financial assets in New York might be seized for a quasi-in-rem action in New York. But most importantly PJ in this case is only debatable. In answer d the exercise of PJ is clearly wrong. So d is the correct answer.

Comments

Ben Abel

Professor,

I had a question in relation to your explanation of choice B. Your explanation seems to suggest that quasi in rem and in rem actions do not fall under general personal jurisdiction. I was under the impression that both were ways to get general PJ. Am I incorrect, or did you mean as opposed to in personum general PJ? Thank you for your help.

Michael Green

There is a sense in which quasi in rem can be understood as general personal jurisdiction, because it allows the defendant to be sued on any cause of action - but unlike general in personam jurisdiction, the quantum of PJ is limited to the value of the property that is the source of PJ. It is unusual, however, to speak of general and specific PJ in connection with anything but in personam PJ.

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