may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1994).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Smarte Carte, Inc.,
Lam Van Tran,
Filed December 3, 1996
Washington County District Court
File No. C9956055
Michael J. Dougherty, 1047 Avon Street N., St. Paul, MN 55103 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Short, Judge, and Davies, Judge.
Smarte Carte, Inc., a Minnesota-based corporation, sued Lam Van Tran, a nonresident employee, to enforce a noncompete provision and to recover allegedly embezzled funds. Tran moved to dismiss due to lack of personal jurisdiction and insufficient service of process. The trial court granted the motion, refusing to find personal jurisdiction "merely because Tran happened to be employed by a company which is incorporated in the state." On appeal from that judgment, Smarte Carte argues Tran's attendance at business meetings in Minnesota, together with the choice-of-law provision in Tran's employment contract, establishes sufficient minimum contacts for the trial court to exercise personal jurisdiction over Tran. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
When a defendant challenges personal jurisdiction at the pretrial stage, the plaintiff must make a prima facie showing the defendant has sufficient minimum contacts with Minnesota to justify requiring a defense in this state. Hardrives, Inc. v. City of LaCrosse, 307 Minn. 290, 293, 240 N.W.2d 814, 816 (1976); see International Shoe v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S. Ct. 154, 158 (1945) (holding due process requires defendant have sufficient contacts with forum state such that traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice are not violated); Minn. Stat. § 543.19 (1994) (providing for personal jurisdiction over nonresidents); Valspar Corp. v. Lukken Color Corp., 495 N.W.2d 408, 411 (Minn. 1992) (holding long-arm statute is satisfied if federal due process requirements are met). A nonresident defendant is subject to jurisdiction if the defendant purposely avails himself of the privilege of conducting activities that invoke the benefits and protections of the forum state's laws. World-Wide Volkswagen v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297, 100 S. Ct. 559, 567 (1980); see Keeton v. Hustler Magazine, 465 U.S. 770, 774, 104 S. Ct. 1473, 1478 (1984) (finding personal jurisdiction existed where defendant purposely directed activities at residents of forum state); Burger King v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 473, 105 S. Ct. 2174, 2182 (1985) (noting sufficient contacts existed where nonresident reached beyond his state's borders and created obligations with citizens of forum state). Jurisdictional disputes are issues of law, which we review de novo. V.H. v. Estate of Birnbaum, 543 N.W.2d 649, 653 (Minn. 1996).
Smarte Carte argues the trial court erred in refusing to exercise personal jurisdiction over Tran. We disagree. The record demonstrates: (1) Tran is a resident of California; (2) from 1975 to 1990, Tran was employed by Smarte Carte, a Minnesota corporation; (3) Tran worked exclusively in southern California from 1975 to 1990; (4) from 1990 to 1994, Tran worked as a relief location manager at various airports, but maintained his residency in southern California; (5) Tran has never worked or resided in Minnesota; (6) Tran attended 2-3 meetings in Minnesota over his 20-year employment relationship with Smarte Carte; (7) Tran's employment contract, executed in California without negotiation, contained a Minnesota choice-of-law provision; and (8) Tran's alleged wrongdoing occurred outside Minnesota and had no connection with the Minnesota business meetings.
Given these facts, Tran has insufficient contacts with Minnesota for the trial court to exercise personal jurisdiction over him in conformity with the due process requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. See Burger King, 471 U.S. at 482, 105 S. Ct. at 2187 (recognizing choice-of-law provision in parties' contract was insufficient to establish minimum contacts). An employment relationship between a nonresident employee and a Minnesota corporation does not, alone, satisfy minimum contacts requirements. Because Smarte Carte failed to offer evidence that Tran purposely availed himself of the privilege of conducting business in Minnesota, the trial court properly dismissed Smarte Carte's claims.