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Decusati v. Reiss Engineering, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

July 30, 2015

ROBERT DeCUSATI, Plaintiff,
v.
REISS ENGINEERING, INC., Defendant.

OPINION

JOHN A. GIBNEY, Jr., District Judge.

Robert DeCusati, a resident of Virginia, applied for a position as CFO at Reiss Engineering, Inc. ("REI"), a Florida corporation with its principal place of business in Florida. After an interview in Florida and other contact through telephone and email, REI offered DeCusati the position. Before he began work, however, REI rescinded the offer, blaming an unsatisfactory credit check.

DeCusati filed this action against REI for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq., and Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq. Specifically, DeCusati alleges REI did not provide DeCusati with the required FCRA notices at his Virginia residence before the rescission and that REI owes him compensation for work he undertook for the company before REI took back its offer. REI filed this motion to dismiss under 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(3) for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue.

Because REI lacks the necessary contacts with Virginia, the Court finds personal jurisdiction lacking. Accordingly, the Court does not examine venue and dismisses the action.

I. FACTS

On January 13, 2015, DeCusati found an online job posting for a position as REI's CFO, and he applied for the job. In the following weeks, DeCusati traveled to Orlando, Florida, for an interview with REI; received an email offering employment that said the offer was "contingent upon the results of a background, education, and credit check"; and accepted the offer. Throughout the process, DeCusati and REI communicated over email and telephone. After accepting REI's offer, Decusati sold his company in Richmond, Virginia, and prepared to move to Florida. In early February, DeCusati went to a training seminar in Orlando, Florida. On February 16, 2015, DeCusati told REI that he had previously filed for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. On February 20, 2015, REI revoked DeCusati's offer due to an unsatisfactory background and credit check.

II. DISCUSSION[1]

State law dictates whether a federal court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant. Young v. New Haven Advocate, 315 F.3d 256, 261 (4th Cir. 2002). To exercise personal jurisdiction in a Virginia federal court, the Court must determine "whether the action falls within the ambit of Virginia's long-arm statute, "[2] and "whether the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment[3] permits jurisdiction." Lufthansa Sys. Infratec GmbH v. Wi-SKY Inflight, Inc., No. 3:10-cv-745, 2011 WL 862314, at *3 (E.D. Va. Mar. 9, 2011) (citing ESAB Group v. Centricut, 126 F.3d 617, 622 (4th Cir. 1997)). Virginia's long-arm statute allows personal jurisdiction over defendants to the extent permissible under the due process clause, Peninsula Cruise, Inc. v. New River Yacht Sales, Inc., 257 Va. 315, 319, 512 S.E.2d 560, 562 (1999), so "the statutory inquiry merges with the constitutional inquiry." Consulting Eng'rs Corp. v. Geometric Ltd., 561 F.3d 273, 277 (4th Cir. 2009).

The constitutional test for due process requires the defendant to have "minimum contacts" with the state so that "maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'" ALS Scan, Inc. v. Digital Serv. Consultants, Inc., 293 F.3d 707, 711 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Wash., 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)). The defendant's contacts with the forum state must be "so substantial that they amount to a surrogate for presence and thus render the exercise of sovereignty just." ESAB, 126 F.3d at 623. "The linchpin for long-arm jurisdiction... is the quantity and quality of the defendant's activity in the forum state." Stover v. O'Connell Assocs., 84 F.3d 132, 136 (4th Cir. 1996).

Minimum contacts can be satisfied through either general jurisdiction or specific jurisdiction. ALS Scan, 293 F.3d at 711-12 (citing Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414 (1984)). General jurisdiction exists when a defendant has "continuous and systematic" activities in the state. Consulting Eng'rs, 561 F.3d at 276 n.3. DeCusati does not assert general jurisdiction over REI; he only asserts specific jurisdiction. Pl.'s Opp'n at 11.

Specific jurisdiction exists when the claims "arise out of or relate to" the defendant's contacts with the forum state. Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472-73 (1985) (citing Helicopteros, 466 U.S. at 414). Three factors guide specific jurisdiction: "(1) the extent to which the defendant purposefully availed' itself of the privilege of conducting activities in the State; (2) whether the plaintiffs' claims arise out of those activities directed at the State; and (3) whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction would be constitutionally reasonable.'" Consulting Eng'rs, 561 F.3d at 278 (quoting ALS Scan, 293 F.3d at 712).[4]

A. REI Did Not Purposefully Avail Itself

To be subject to the personal jurisdiction of the Court, a defendant must "purposefully avail[] itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State." Burger King, 471 U.S. at 475 (quoting Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253 (1958)). The Court cannot hale a defendant into its jurisdiction because of "random, fortuitous, or attenuated contacts" or some "unilateral activity of another party or a third person." See id. (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Helicopteros, 466 U.S. at 417). Accordingly, the analysis focuses on "whether the defendant's conduct connects him to the forum in a meaningful way." Walden v. Fiore, 134 S.Ct. 1115, 1125 (2014). "The plaintiff cannot be the only link between the defendant and the forum." Id. at 1122. Instead, the out-of-state defendant must expressly target the forum state. Young, 315 F.3d at 262-63.

Courts examine many factors when reviewing whether a defendant purposefully availed itself, see Consulting Eng'rs, 561 F.3d at 278, but here the parties focus on two: (1) whether REI's communications with DeCusati over email and telephone establish ...


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