may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Rodney W. Gatz,
Larry G. Juergensen,
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,
St. Paul Synod, et al.,
Our Savior's Lutheran Church,
Filed August 17, 1999
Ramsey County District Court
File No. C8987423
Priscilla Lord Faris, Faris & Faris, 701 Fourth Avenue South, Suite 1200, Minneapolis, MN 55415 (for respondent Rodney Gatz)
Daniel J. Connelly, Faegre & Benson LLP, 2200 Norwest Center, 90 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402-3901 (for respondents Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)
Eric J. Magnuson, Dan J. Gendreau, Rider, Bennett, Egan & Arundel, LLP, 2000 Metropolitan Centre, 333 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Parker, Judge.[*]
Appellant Lutheran Church of Our Savior challenges the district court order denying appellant's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Appellant argues the court erred in determining appellant had sufficient contacts with Minnesota to satisfy due process requirements for personal jurisdiction. We reverse.
An order denying a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction is appealable as a matter of right. Jenson v. R.L.K. & Co., 534 N.W.2d 719, 722 (Minn. App. 1995), review denied (Minn. Sept. 20, 1995). Determining whether personal jurisdiction exists is a question of law, which this court reviews de novo. Id. In making this determination we assume the allegations in the plaintiff's complaint and collateral supporting evidence are true. Winkel v. Eden Rehab. Treatment Facility, Inc., 433 N.W.2d 135, 137 (Minn. App. 1988). When personal jurisdiction is challenged, the plaintiff has the burden of presenting a prima facie case demonstrating sufficient minimum contacts. Does 1-22 v. Roman Catholic Bishop of Fall River, 509 N.W.2d 598, 600 (Minn. App. 1993).
A court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant if: (1) the requirements of Minnesota's long-arm statute are met; and (2) there are sufficient minimum contacts to satisfy constitutional due process requirements. Jenson, 534 N.W.2d at 722.
Under its long-arm statute, Minnesota may exercise personal jurisdiction over any foreign corporation or nonresident individual or the individual's personal representative if the corporation or individual transacts any business within the state and the cause of action arises from that business. Minn. Stat. § 543.19, subd. 1(b) (1998). Appellant is a church in Louisiana. Because appellant's only connection to Minnesota is the contact its employee Larry Juergensen had during his visit to Minnesota in September 1994, appellant is subject to Minnesota's jurisdiction under the long-arm statute only if Juergensen transacted business while acting in the scope of his employment during that trip. See Lange v. National Biscuit Co., 297 Minn. 399, 401, 211 N.W.2d 783, 784 (1973) (liability imposed upon employer under doctrine of respondeat superior only if employee acts within scope of employment).
But only when the evidence in the record is conclusive on all of the necessary elements or there is an absence of evidence to support a necessary element is a scope of employment question determined as a matter of law. Hentges v. Thomford, 569 N.W.2d 424, 427 (Minn. App. 1997), review denied (Minn. Dec. 8, 1997). Because there are facts in dispute on this issue, whether Juergensen was acting within the scope of employment in Minnesota cannot be determined as a matter of law. Rather, for purposes of deciding jurisdiction, we accept as true respondent's contention that Juergensen transacted business while in the scope of employment. See Roman Catholic Bishop, 509 N.W.2d at 601 (assuming a priest was acting in the scope of employment for purposes of jurisdiction only). Thus, the district court did not err in denying appellant's motion to dismiss based on the long-arm statute.
Next, we must determine whether the district court erred in concluding appellant had sufficient minimum contacts to satisfy due process requirements.
Before a court can constitutionally exercise jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, the plaintiff must make a prima facie showing that defendants have sufficient contacts with a state so that requiring them to defend in the state does not violate traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.
Dent-Air, Inc. v. Beech Mountain Air Serv., Inc., 332 N.W.2d 904, 906-07 (Minn. 1983) (citing International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S. Ct. 154, 158 (1945)). To meet this burden, the plaintiff must show sufficient Minnesota contacts in the complaint and supporting evidence, which are to be viewed as true for purposes of this analysis. V.H. v. Estate of Birnbaum, 529 N.W.2d 462, 466 (Minn. App. 1995), aff'd by 543 N.W.2d 649 (Minn. Feb. 16, 1996). Appellant contends the court erred by determining it has sufficient minimum contacts with Minnesota to satisfy due process requirements. We agree.
Minnesota utilizes a five-factor test to determine whether due process requirements are met. Marquette Nat'l Bank v. Norris, 270 N.W.2d 290, 295 (Minn. 1978). The primary factors are the quantity of contacts, the nature and quality of the contacts, and the nexus between the cause of action and the contacts. Estate of Birnbaum, 529 N.W.2d at 466. Secondary factors include the state's interest in providing a forum and the convenience of the forum to the parties. Id. If a cause of action arises out of the contact with the state, a single, isolated transaction can be sufficient to confer jurisdiction over a party. TRWL Fin. Establishment v. Select Intern., Inc., 527 N.W.2d 573, 576 (Minn. App. 1995). But where, as here, there is but one contact, Minnesota is said to have "specific," instead of general personal jurisdiction, and the nature and quality of the contact becomes dispositive of the issue. Id.
In evaluating the nature and quality of a contact, this court must ascertain whether appellant has purposefully availed itself of the benefits and protection of Minnesota law. Dent-Air, 332 N.W.2d at 907. The question is whether appellant had "fair warning" of being sued in Minnesota. TRWL Fin. Establishment, 527 N.W.2d at 576 (quoting Real Properties, Inc., v. Mission Ins. Co., 427 N.W.2d 665, 668 (Minn. 1988)).
Here, Juergensen is a Minnesota resident who went to Louisiana and was hired by appellant to serve as its pastor in Louisiana. While returning to Minnesota to move his belongings, Juergensen attended a religious education seminar in Minnesota before returning to Louisiana. While returning to Louisiana, Juergensen and his passenger, respondent Rodney Gatz, were involved in a car accident in Missouri that resulted in this litigation.
It is undisputed that appellant has no members in Minnesota, and holds no property here. In fact, appellant's only contact with Minnesota involved hiring Juergensen, a Minnesota resident who, while moving to Louisiana, attended a seminar in Minnesota. Further, the cause of action did not arise out of Juergensen's attendance at the seminar, but out of a car accident in Missouri that resulted in an injury to a passenger who had no relationship with appellant. Thus, the nexus between the cause of action and appellant's contact with Minnesota is limited and does not support a finding of jurisdiction.
While Minnesota has an interest in allowing an injured resident to sue within the borders of the state, Dent-Air, 332 N.W.2d at 908, Minnesota is an inconvenient forum for appellant, a Louisiana church with no presence here. And in any case, the last two factors are secondary, the proof of which alone does not establish that due process permits Minnesota to exercise personal jurisdiction. TRWL Fin. Establishment, 527 N.W.2d at 578.
Finally, the nature and quality of appellant's one contact with Minnesota is not substantial enough to conclude that appellant purposefully availed itself of the benefits and protections of Minnesota law: the connection between the contact and the cause of action is too tenuous for us to conclude that appellant had fair warning that it would be haled into a Minnesota court to defend a lawsuit arising out of an automobile accident that occurred in Missouri. While appellant may have foreseen the possibility of an accident on Juergensen's return trip, "mere foreseeability that a transaction will have an impact in the forum state will not confer personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant." TRWL Fin. Establishment, 527 N.W.2d at 577-78. We conclude that even assuming that Juergensen's attendance at the seminar was within the scope of his employment, this solitary contact with Minnesota is not sufficient to meet due process requirements for personal jurisdiction.
[*] Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.