may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
Gregory J. Loff, et al.,
individually and on behalf of others
similarly situated, as a class action,
Bettinsoli Tarcisio, et al.,
American Arms Incorporated, a Missouri corporation,
File No. C3961623
Richard J. Nygaard, Mark A. Mitchell, Todd P. Zettler, Rider Bennett Egan & Arundel, L.L.P., 2000 Metropolitan Center, 333 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondents Gregory J. Loff, et al.)
Austin D. Ditzler, Ditzler & Koziol, The Crossings, Suite 106A, 250 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for appellants)
John F. Angell, Leo I. Brisbois, Stich, Angell, Kreidler, Brownson & Ballou, The Crossings, Suite 120, 250 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55401-2122 (for respondent American Arms Incorporated)
Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Short, Judge, and Mansur, Judge.[*]
A Minnesota resident and a Wisconsin resident, who were injured in Minnesota while using 12-gauge shotguns, sued a Missouri-based gun importer and an Italian gun manufacturer. Bettinsoli Tarcisio & C.S.N.C., the Italian gun manufacturer, moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction and for failure to state a tort claim. On appeal from the trial court's denial of both motions, Bettinsoli argues it has insufficient contacts with Minnesota to justify being sued in a Minnesota court. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
The exercise of personal jurisdiction over Bettinsoli is proper only if it complies with both the Minnesota long-arm statute, Minn. Stat. § 543.19 (1996), and the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Ulmer v. O'Malley, 307 N.W.2d 775, 777 (Minn. 1981). Minnesota interprets its long-arm statute to extend personal jurisdiction in its courts to the maximum extent allowed by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Vikse v. Flaby, 316 N.W.2d 276, 281 (Minn. 1982). Thus, the question in this case is whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction over Bettinsoli comports with the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Due process requires that, in order to be subjected to the jurisdiction of the forum state, a nonresident defendant must have certain minimum contacts with the forum state such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. International Shoe Co. v. State of Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S. Ct. 154, 158 (1945); see Vikse, 316 N.W.2d at 283 (concluding assertion of personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendant did not violate traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice). It is "essential in each case that there be some act by which the defendant purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws." Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253, 78 S. Ct. 1228, 1240 (1958). In short, the nonresident must be able to reasonably anticipate being haled into the state's courts. Moreover, any contacts by nonresidents with Minnesota that are extensive enough to satisfy due process requirements for exercise of personal jurisdiction are also sufficient to authorize the exercise of personal jurisdiction under the statute. Marquette Nat'l Bank v. Norris, 270 N.W.2d 290, 294 (Minn. 1978).
Once a defendant challenges personal jurisdiction, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove the minimum contacts necessary for due process. Hardrives, Inc. v. City of LaCrosse, 307 Minn. 290, 293, 240 N.W.2d 814, 816 (1976). The plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of sufficient state-related activities through the complaint and supporting evidence, which will be taken as true for purposes of evaluating defendant's motion to dismiss. Id.
Minnesota has adopted the test announced in Aftanase v. Economy Baler Co., 343 F.2d 187 (8th Cir. 1965), to apply the fundamental fairness standard of International Shoe. See Marquette Nat'l Bank, 270 N.W.2d at 295 (acknowledging Minnesota's adoption of Aftanase factors). Under Aftanase, a court reviews five factors to determine whether it has authority to assert personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendants. Dent-Air, Inc. v. Beech Mountain Air Serv., Inc., 332 N.W.2d 904, 907 (Minn. 1983). The primary factors a court must consider are (a) the quantity of contacts, (b) the nature and quality of contacts, and (c) the connection or relationship between the cause of action and the contacts. Marquette Nat'l Bank, 270 N.W.2d at 295. Two secondary factors are Minnesota's interest in providing a forum to adjudicate the controversy and the convenience of the parties in litigating in Minnesota. Id. This test is just another way of asking whether a party has established enough contacts with Minnesota to justify being sued here and whether those contacts were established with the purpose of conducting business in this state. Real Properties, Inc. v. Mission Ins. Co., 427 N.W.2d 665, 668 (Minn. 1988).
Bettinsoli argues it would be unfair to require it to defend claims in a Minnesota court because it has no direct contacts with Minnesota, the cause of action involves a commercial contract transaction rather than a personal injury, and its "awareness" that guns might end up in this market is insufficient to confer jurisdiction. See Asahi Metal Indus. Co. v. Superior Court, 480 U.S. 102, 112, 107 S. Ct. 1026, 1032 (1987) (concluding nonresident defendant's awareness that stream of commerce may or will sweep product into forum state does not convert act of placing product into stream into an act purposefully directed toward forum state); In re Minnesota Asbestos Litigation, 552 N.W.2d 242, 247-48 (Minn. 1996) (concluding exercise of personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendant would violate due process because no evidence it purposefully established direct or indirect contacts with Minnesota, or that it should reasonably anticipate being haled into court in Minnesota). We disagree. Taking the allegations in the complaint and supporting affidavits as true, the record demonstrates: (1) Bettinsoli initiated contact with the Missouri-based gun importer to establish a United States network for the sale of its guns; (2) a Bettinsoli representative visited the United States and negotiated the contract with the gun importer; (3) from 1992 to 1996, Bettinsoli supplied the gun importer with 12-gauge shotguns it had specifically manufactured for Ducks Unlimited members; (4) these guns were accompanied by manuals written in English; (5) pursuant to an initial order with the gun importer, Bettinsoli manufactured 1,350 guns embossed with the Ducks Unlimited logo; (6) Ducks Unlimited has approximately 500,000 members nationwide, with 42,000 members located in Minnesota; (7) both plaintiffs were injured in Minnesota while using Bettinsoli's 12-gauge shotguns with the Ducks Unlimited logo; and (8) both plaintiffs sued Bettinsoli and the gun importer under theories of negligence and strict liability relating to the gun's design. By establishing a relationship with the gun importer, Bettinsoli specifically undertook to introduce its guns into the stream of commerce. By designing its shotgun with a Ducks Unlimited logo, Bettinsoli prepared its product for sale to members throughout the United States, including Minnesota. See Rostad v. On-Deck, Inc., 372 N.W.2d 717, 722 (Minn. 1985) (holding nonresident defendant with no direct contacts with Minnesota subject to personal jurisdiction because it contracted with retailers to serve national and Minnesota markets, therefore purposefully availing itself of benefits and responsibilities of doing business in Minnesota); see also A. Uberti & C. v. Leonardo, 892 P.2d 1354, 1360-65 (Ariz. 1995) (concluding Italian gun manufacturer had sufficient minimum contacts with Arizona because it knowingly and intentionally manufactured its product for the United States, thus contemplated serving Arizona market).
Bettinsoli's conduct, including its national marketing plan, supports personal jurisdiction. The quantity and quality of Bettinsoli's contacts with Minnesota, and the connection between those contacts and this cause of action weigh in favor of the trial court's exercise of jurisdiction. Both Minn. Stat. § 543.19 and constitutional due process concerns have been satisfied. The trial court properly exercised personal jurisdiction over Bettinsoli in conformity with the due process requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
[*]* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.