Judge Burroughs up in Boston recently wrote a clear and correct opinion regarding corporate citizenship, principal place of business, personal jurisdiction, and jurisdictional discovery. She was short and to the point, and we will try to be so as well.
The case is Lopez v. Angiodynamics, Inc., 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 208161 (D. Mass. Oct. 28, 2021). It is one of a number of similar cases, all involving the same defendant, all of which may be found on our current personal jurisdiction cheat sheet. The plaintiff claimed injuries from a vascular access port device. She filed her complaint against two related companies in Massachusetts state court. The defendants removed the case to federal court on grounds of federal diversity jurisdiction. The plaintiff then filed a motion for remand, arguing that the defendants were Massachusetts citizens and, therefore, removal was prohibited by the forum defendant rule. The issue was whether the manufacturer defendants were citizens of Massachusetts or somewhere else.
The defendants were incorporated in Delaware. Thus, the specific issue was where their principal places of business were located. The Lopez court applied the nerve center test and concluded that both defendants’ principal places of business were in New York. According to a CFO’s affidavit, that is where their operations were carried out, where the C-suites were, where the accounting, legal, and human resources departments were, and where all significant corporate decisions were made. The plaintiff advanced some evidence of Massachusetts activities by the defendants, but similar evidence had failed in prior similar cases and also failed here. The case would stay in federal court.
Next on the menu was whether the plaintiff could carry the burden of establishing that personal jurisdiction existed over the defendants. Because the defendants were not citizens of Massachusetts, general personal jurisdiction was out of the question under Bauman. The court’s inquiry under both the Massachusetts long arm statute and the U.S. Constitution was whether the defendants’ business activities in Massachusetts (including some research, development, marketing, and regulatory activities) were connected to the plaintiffs’ injuries. They weren’t. There was no link between whatever the defendants did in the Bay State with the medical device at issue (which was manufactured in New York).
Meanwhile, the plaintiff lived in Texas, was implanted with the device in Texas, and was allegedly injured in Texas, and was treated in Texas. Why was the case filed in Massachusetts? Were the plaintiff lawyers Red Sox fans? Did they crave lobster rolls? Were they fans of Emerson, Thoreau, Julia Child, Uma Thurman, John Krasinski, Larry Bird, and Bill Burr? Was a visit to the Norman Rockwell Museum on their bucket list? No matter. There was “no perceptible connection between the work that Defendants do in Massachusetts and Mr. Lopez’s claims.” Consequently, there was no specific personal jurisdiction over the defendants in this case.
The plaintiff also threw a Doug Flutie-esque Hail Mary pass and argued that because the defendants had been served with process in Massachusetts, that fact alone made them subject to personal jurisdiction there. That argument is not wicked smart and would, as the Lopez court pointed out, render SCOTUS precedent on personal jurisdiction a nullity.
Finally, the plaintiff sought leave to conduct jurisdictional discovery. As the great Boston rock group Aerosmith sang, “Dream On.” Because the plaintiff failed to make out “a colorable case for the existence of personal jurisdiction,” the Lopez court declined to exercise its discretion to grant jurisdictional discovery. The court dismissed the complaint with prejudice.
In one of their early hits, The Bee Gees sang, “I will be back to Massachusetts.” Not so for the Lopez case.