This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).




Mark Leslie, as Trustee for the heirs

of Virginia M. Ronning-Leslie,



Lance Kittleson, deceased, et al.,


Filed August 17, 1999


Shumaker, Judge

Ramsey County District Court

File No. C4-97-9787

Katherine A. Brown Holmen, Dudley & Smith, P.A., 2602 Firstar Center, 101 East Fifth Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-1896, and

Michael R. LaFleur, 4687 Clark Avenue, White Bear Lake, MN 55110 (for appellant)

R. Michael Waterman, Mudge, Porter, Lundeen & Seguin, 110 Second Street, P.O. Box 469, Hudson, WI 54016 (for respondents)

Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Short, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.



Appellant, as trustee for next of kin of decedent Virginia Running-Leslie, challenges the trial court's order dismissing the action for insufficiency of process and for lack of personal jurisdiction. We affirm.


Don Paul Novitzke's Wisconsin law firm, Novitzke, Gust & Sempf, owned a 1995 Mercury automobile. Novitzke allowed his stepson, Lance Kittleson, to drive the car on June 28, 1997. The car and another vehicle collided in Wisconsin, and Kittleson and his passenger, Virginia Ronning-Leslie, were killed.

The trustee for Ronning-Leslie's next of kin brought a wrongful death action in Minnesota against respondents Kittleson, Kittleson's estate, Don Paul Novitzke, and the law firm. The respondents moved to dismiss the action for lack of personal jurisdiction, alleging that the accident happened in Wisconsin and that all defendants were Wisconsin residents.

Ronning-Leslie resided in Minnesota at the time of her death. The trustee alleged that Kittleson lived with Ronning-Leslie. The respondents contended that Kittleson lived in Wisconsin, and they presented affidavits showing that Kittleson had a Wisconsin driver's license, registered his own car in Wisconsin, and had bank statements sent to a post office box in Wisconsin. Furthermore, Kittleson's divorce decree entered in Wisconsin four days before the accident contained a finding that Kittleson lived in Wisconsin.

The trial court granted the motion to dismiss, finding an insufficiency of service of process over the Kittleson estate and lack of personal jurisdiction over all other defendants. The trustee appealed.


Whether a court has personal jurisdiction over a party is a question of law that we review de novo. Stanek v. A.P.I., Inc., 494 N.W.2d 829, 832 (Minn. App. 1991), review denied (Minn. Oct. 31, 1991). Lack of personal jurisdiction is an affirmative defense that may be raised by motion or by pleading. Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.02. The defense is waived if not raised by motion or pleading. Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.08. Respondents preserved the defense of lack of personal jurisdiction by asserting it in their joint answer and by making it the ground for their joint motion to dismiss the action.

A Minnesota court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant only if (1) the long-arm statute, Minn. Stat. § 543.19, is satisfied, and (2) the nonresident has sufficient contact with Minnesota to satisfy due process. Rostad v. On-Deck, Inc., 372 N.W.2d 717, 719 (Minn. 1985).

Personal jurisdiction attaches through the long-arm statute if the nonresident

(a) Owns, uses, or possesses any real or personal property situated in this state, or

(b) Transacts any business within the state, or

(c) Commits any act in Minnesota causing injury or property damage, or

(d) Commits any act outside Minnesota causing injury or property damage in Minnesota, subject to the following exceptions when no jurisdiction shall be found: * * *

Minn. Stat. § 543.19, subd. 1 (1998).

Even if the long-arm statute is satisfied, personal jurisdiction will not attach unless the nonresident's contacts with the forum state satisfy due process. We consider five factors: (1) the quantity of the contacts; (2) the nature and quality of the contacts; (3) the source and connection of the claim with those contacts; (4) the interest of Minnesota in providing a forum for the litigation; and (5) the convenience of the parties. Dent-Air, Inc. v. Beech Mountain Air Serv. Inc., 332 N.W.2d 904, 907 (Minn. 1983). Additionally, we ask whether the nonresident could reasonably anticipate being brought into court in Minnesota. Id.

Decedent Lance Kittleson

The trustee named Lance Kittleson as a defendant in the action. Kittleson died in the car accident on June 28, 1997. Personal jurisdiction cannot be exercised over a deceased person. Wood v. Martin, 328 N.W.2d 723, 724 (Minn. 1983).

Estate of Lance Kittleson

The sole method of acquiring personal jurisdiction over a decedent's estate is by a lawsuit against the personal representative. Minn. Stat. §§ 524.3-104, 524.3-715, subd. 22, 524.3-810 (1998). The trustee failed to sue the personal representative of the Kittleson estate.

Don Paul Novitzke

Novitzke is a member of the law firm that owned the car Kittleson was driving at the time of the accident. Novitzke gave Kittleson permission to use the car. The trustee argues that Novitzke knew Kittleson was a Minnesota resident when he lent the car to him and that Novitzke knew Kittleson would drive to Minnesota. The trustee contends that a single transaction connected to the forum state can be enough to subject a nonresident to personal jurisdiction in the forum state. There is no dispute that Novitzke kept and used the car in Wisconsin and that the accident occurred in Wisconsin. There was no transaction that connected Novitzke to Minnesota.

Law Firm of Novitzke, Gust & Sempf

This Wisconsin law firm owned the car Kittleson was driving at the time of the accident. One of the partners is licensed to practice law in Minnesota, and he argued a case in the Minnesota Court of Appeals in 1994. The firm might occasionally have done business in Minnesota. Personal jurisdiction compatible with due process can be general or specific. General jurisdiction requires "continuous and systematic" contacts between the nonresident and the forum state. Behm v. John Nuveen & Co., 555 N.W.2d 301, 306 (Minn. App. 1996). Specific jurisdiction exists if the claim arises from the nonresident's contact with the forum state. Id. (citations omitted). Taking all of the trustee's jurisdictional allegations as true, he has failed to demonstrate the existence of personal jurisdiction over the law firm. See Schermerhorn v. Hoiland, 337 N.W.2d 692 (Minn. 1983), cert. denied, 465 U.S. 1092, 104 S. Ct. 1580 (1984) (holding that in motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, plaintiff's allegations must be taken as true). The firm's occasional, sporadic contacts with Minnesota were not continuous and systematic, and the accident did not arise out of the firm's contact with Minnesota.