This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Perry Schwartz, et al.,
Virtucom, Inc., et al.,
St. Regis Ventures, Inc., d/b/a Virtucom Group,
Filed January 17, 2006
Toussaint, Chief Judge
No. CT 02-265
James H. Kaster, Jessica J.
Clay, Nichols Kaster & Anderson, PLLP, 4644 IDS Center, 80 South Eighth
Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondents)
Jack E. Pierce, Pierce Law Firm,
P.A., 6040 Earle Brown Drive,
Suite 420, Minneapolis, MN 55430
Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding
Chief Judge; and Worke, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D
O P I N I O N
TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge
St. Regis Ventures, Inc., d/b/a Virtucom Group, appeals from the denial
of its motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, arguing that the
district court erroneously determined that it had general personal jurisdiction
over the appellant. Because we conclude
that respondent has established a prima facie showing of continuous and
systematic contacts between appellant and Minnesota, we affirm.
D E C I S I O N
The existence of personal jurisdiction is a question of law, which we
review de novo. Nw. Airlines, Inc. v. Friday, 617 N.W.2d 590, 592 (Minn. App. 2000). Plaintiff bears the burden to make a prima
facie showing that the nonresident defendant has sufficient contacts with the
forum. Dent-Air, Inc. v. Beech Mountain Air Serv., Inc., 332 N.W.2d 904, 906-07
1983). This remains the focus of the inquiry
even if the nonresident defendant disputes the extent of its contacts with the
forum state. Id.
at 907 n.1. In close cases, “doubts
should be resolved in favor of retention of jurisdiction.” Hardrives,
Inc. v. City of LaCrosse, 307 Minn. 290, 296, 240
N.W.2d 814, 818 (1976).
In considering a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction
under Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.02 (2004), “the factual allegations in the complaint
and supporting affidavits are to be taken as true.” Marquette Nat’l
Bank of Minneapolis v. Norris, 270 N.W.2d
290, 292 (Minn.
1978). Therefore, for purposes of
determining personal jurisdiction, the district court may look beyond the
complaint to other facts in evidence without converting the motion to dismiss
into a motion for summary judgment. Hunt v. Nevada State Bank, 285 Minn. 77, 83, 172 N.W.2d
292, 297 (1969). Plaintiff may satisfy
its burden and make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction even if the
district court believes a more developed record might reveal that a basis for
such jurisdiction is lacking. Dever
v. Hentzen Coatings, Inc., 380 F.3d 1070, 1076 (8th Cir. 2004).
Due process requires that, for purposes of personal jurisdiction, “the
defendant has ‘minimum contacts’ with the state so that ‘maintenance of the
suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial
justice.’” Griffis v. Luban, 646 N.W.2d 527, 531-32 (Minn.
2002) (quoting Int’l Shoe Co. v.
Washington, 326 U.S.
310, 316, 66 S. Ct. 154, 158 (1945)). The
non-resident “should reasonably anticipate being haled into the [state’s]
court.” World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297, 100 S. Ct.
559, 567 (1980). Therefore, “[w]here the
defendant had ‘continuous and systematic’ contacts with the forum state, the
court can exercise ‘general’ jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant for all
purposes, even for a claim that is not related to the defendant’s contacts with
the forum state.” Griffis, 646 N.W.2d at 532 (citing Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 415 n.9, 104 S.
Ct. 1868, 1872 n.9 (1984)).
Minnesota courts utilize a five-factor
test to ascertain when sufficient contacts give rise to personal jurisdiction
over a nonresident defendant. Hardrives, 307 Minn. at 294, 240 N.W.2d at 817 (adopting
the reasoning of Aftanase v. Economy
Baler Co., 343 F.2d 187 (8th Cir. 1965)).
The five factors are
quantity of the contacts;
(2) the nature
and quality of the contacts;
(3) the source
and connection of those contacts to the cause of action;
interest of the forum state; and
(5) the convenience of the parties.
Dent-Air, 332 N.W.2d at 907. The first two factors are dispositive for
purposes of a general-personal-jurisdiction analysis. See
Hardrives, 307 Minn.
at 298, 240 N.W.2d at 819. Chiefly, the district
court must ascertain whether the nonresident defendant “purposefully availed[ed]”
itself of the benefits of Minnesota
Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253, 78 S. Ct.
1228, 1240 (1958).
Here, the quantity and quality of appellant’s contacts with Minnesota are critical
to a finding of general personal jurisdiction and are best analyzed by looking
at the appellant’s contacts in the aggregate.
Compare Perkins v. Benguet Consol.
Mining Co., 342 U.S. 437, 445, 447-48, 72 S. Ct. 413, 418, 419 (1952)
(holding that the exercise of general personal jurisdiction over a foreign
corporation was “reasonable and just” because the president maintained an
office where he kept company files, held directors’ meetings, conducted
business correspondence, and distributed salary checks drawn on bank accounts
within the forum), and Lakin v.
Prudential Sec., Inc., 348 F.3d 704, 714 (8th Cir. 2003) (allowing for
jurisdictional discovery because plaintiff alleged that defendant entered into
numerous business transactions with forum residents and because defendant
maintained an interactive website that allowed a user to exchange electronic
mail, establish online accounts, and calculate home-mortgage rates), with Helicopteros, 466 U.S. at 415-17, 104 S.
Ct. at 1872-73 (finding that contacts of Colombian corporation were not
continuous and systematic when foreign corporation made purchases and related
trips to forum, when CEO traveled to forum once to negotiate contract, and when
checks payable to foreign corporation were drawn on forum bank), and Dent-Air,
332 N.W.2d at 909 (finding no personal jurisdiction when plaintiff alleged that
defendant executed three lease agreements with Minnesota residents, responded
to mere inquiries by Minnesota residents without aggressively initiating a
contract, and consented only to boilerplate language that Minnesota law would
control the lease).
Here, respondent asserts that appellant is a New York
corporation conducting business in Minnesota. The amended complaint alleges that appellant
has regular and continuous business contacts with Target Corporation. The relevant affidavits also suggest that appellant
has continuous business contacts with Best Buy Corporation and that appellant
creates online content for www.bestbuy.com.
These contacts, if existing to the extent alleged by respondent, are
sufficient to make a prima facie showing of general personal jurisdiction.
Finally, further fact-finding may demonstrate that appellant’s website provides
an additional contact upon which general personal jurisdiction may rest. But further fact-finding would only be
appropriate with evidence that appellant operates an interactive website that Minnesota residents
continuously and systematically utilize. See Lakin, 348 F.3d at 712. But see Lorix v. Crompton Corp., 680 N.W.2d 574, 582 (Minn. App. 2004), review denied (Minn. Sept. 21, 2004) (due process requires
more than a continuously accessible website for purposes of general
jurisdiction). But such facts are not
currently before this court.
Thus, while discovery may yield a different result, we cannot say that at
this time, given the nature of respondent’s allegations regarding appellant’s
contacts with Minnesota,
the courts of this state lack general personal jurisdiction over appellant.