786 F.2d 173 (3rd Cir. 1986), 85-5487, Dent v. Cunningham

Docket Nº:85-5487.
Citation:786 F.2d 173
Party Name:Jo Carolyn DENT & James A. Dent, Sr. v. Josephine CUNNINGHAM & General Motors Corp., a corporation of the State of Delaware. Appeal of Jo Carolyn DENT and James A. Dent, Sr.
Case Date:March 19, 1986
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Page 173

786 F.2d 173 (3rd Cir. 1986)

Jo Carolyn DENT & James A. Dent, Sr.

v.

Josephine CUNNINGHAM & General Motors Corp., a corporation

of the State of Delaware.

Appeal of Jo Carolyn DENT and James A. Dent, Sr.

No. 85-5487.

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

March 19, 1986

Argued March 3, 1986.

Page 174

McLemore and McElroy, Paul D. McLemore (Argued), Trenton, N.J., for appellants.

Lenox, Giordano, Devlin, Delehey & Socey, George Wilgus, III (Argued), Lawrenceville, N.J., for appellee General Motors Corp.

Lewis, Siegel & Wood, Arthur Z. Charsinsky, Thomas E. Brown (Argued), Trenton, N.J., for appellee Josephine Cunningham.

Before ALDISERT, Chief Judge, HUNTER, Circuit Judge, and POLLAK, District Judge [*].

OPINION

ALDISERT, Chief Judge.

In this diversity case we must determine whether the district court properly applied the law of personal jurisdiction and the New Jersey borrowing rule for statutes of limitations. We determine the district court correctly found that it lacked personal jurisdiction over defendant Cunningham, and affirm its dismissal of that portion of the complaint. However, because we hold that the court incorrectly applied the California statute of limitations for personal injuries instead of the longer New Jersey statute, we reverse its dismissal of the claim against defendant General Motors.

I.

On April 23, 1983 Jo Carolyn Dent, a New Jersey resident, was injured when she was a passenger in an auto accident in Los Angeles, California. The automobile was manufactured by General Motors, a Delaware corporation, and was driven by her aunt, Josephine Cunningham, a California resident.

Over one year later, on December 14, 1984, Dent and her husband filed this diversity action in New Jersey district court

Page 175

against Cunningham and General Motors. Cunningham moved to dismiss, arguing the district court lacked personal jurisdiction over her for the action. General Motors also moved to dismiss, arguing that under the New Jersey borrowing rule, the one year California statute of limitations for tort actions, Cal.Code Civ.P. Sec. 340(3), should apply rather than New Jersey's two-year statute, N.J.Stat.Ann. Sec. 2A:14-2, and that the complaint should therefore be time-barred.

The district court granted both defendants' motions, and the Dents appeal.

II.

The Dents argue that the district court misapplied the law of personal jurisdiction and New Jersey's conflict of laws rules. Because these issues involve the selection, interpretation, and application of legal precepts, review is plenary. Universal Minerals, Inc. v. C.A. Hughes & Co., 669 F.2d 98, 102-03 (3d Cir.1981).

III.

The Dents advance two reasons in support of their contention that the district court erred in dismissing their action against defendant Cunningham. They assert that federal courts comprise a national court system and should not be bound to the jurisdictional limitations imposed by the forum state, but should instead have a national reach. Alternatively, they claim that even if New Jersey law is applied Cunningham had sufficient contacts with the State of New Jersey "that the assertion of jurisdiction would not offend due process of law." Br. for appellants at 7.

We are not impressed by either argument. We have previously considered and rejected the national reach argument in Max Daetwyler Corp. v. R. Meyer, 762 F.2d 290 (3d Cir.1985), and re-affirm its declaration that "[i]n the absence of a federal statute authorizing nationwide service of process federal courts are referred to the statutes or rules of the state in which they sit." Id. at 295. "[W]e reject the national contacts theory on which the district court predicated its jurisdiction." Id. at 297. We also agree with the district court's determination that Cunningham, a California resident, was beyond its proper in personam jurisdiction. In Max Daetwyler Corp., we stated that the propriety of such jurisdiction is evaluated under a two-step process: "a court ... look[s] to the state's long-arm statute and then determines whether the exercise of jurisdiction would satisfy due process." Id. at 293. New Jersey's long-arm statute provides for service of process "consistent with due process of law." N.J.Ct.R. 4:4-4(e). Under such circumstances, "the inquiry is principally one of inquiry into the constitutional propriety of the exercise of jurisdiction." Id. at 293. We have previously instructed:

The line of cases from International Shoe [Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed.2d 95 (1945) ] to World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 100 S.Ct. 559, 62 L.Ed.2d 490 (1980), mandates that, in assessing the sufficiency of [the defendant's] contacts, this court must examine both the extent to which [the defendant] availed himself of the privileges of [the forum] law and the extent to which he could reasonably anticipate being involved in litigation in the [forum].

Id. at 295 (citations omitted).

As the district court explained, the record contains no allegations of contacts by Cunningham with the forum state other than the following statement from appellants' Certification in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss:

6. The defendant, Josephine B. Cunningham is my maternal aunt who reared me and resided in the State of New Jersey from 1947 until 1968 when she moved to the State of California. Since 1968 she has visited me at least every two years and remains in frequent communication with me and my family by telephone and mailed correspondence.

App. at A-9. No case has yet held that such evanescent contacts with a state could support personal jurisdiction. The district

Page 176

court, therefore, did not err in holding that it would offend "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice" if such remote family-related...

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61 practice notes
  • 743 F.Supp. 318 (D.N.J. 1990), Civ. A. 86-4481, National Starch and Chemical Corp. v. Great American Ins. Cos.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit District of New Jersey
    • July 19, 1990
    ...of waste sites are located there. Further, New Jersey has a significant interest in compensating its domiciliaries, Dent v. Cunningham, 786 F.2d 173, 177 (3d Cir.1986), and NSCC is domiciled in New Jersey. Accordingly, for all the foregoing reasons, I find that New Jersey law should govern ......
  • 102 B.R. 392 (D.N.J. 1989), 88-4968, In re Reach, McClinton & Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit District of New Jersey
    • June 9, 1989
    ...to the protection of the California statute of limitations." Id. The bankruptcy court distinguished the cases of Dent v. Cunningham, 786 F.2d 173 (3d Cir.1986), and Warner v. Auberge Gray Rocks Inn, Ltee., 827 F.2d 938 (3d Cir.1987), which held that the New Jersey statute of limitation......
  • 925 F.2d 661 (3rd Cir. 1991), 90-3313, Rolick v. Collins Pine Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
    • February 5, 1991
    ...court's decision depends upon interpretation and application of Pennsylvania law. Thus, our review is plenary. Dent v. Cunningham, 786 F.2d 173, 175 (3d Cir.1986). A. The PWCA provides benefits to injured employees regardless of fault. See 77 Pa.Stat.Ann. Secs. 1-1603 (Purdon 1987). Employe......
  • 930 F.2d 1040 (3rd Cir. 1991), 89-5611, Helton v. Fauver
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
    • April 10, 1991
    ...Secs. 1291 and 2253. Helton's appeal presents questions of constitutional law reviewable under a plenary standard. See Dent v. Cunningham, 786 F.2d 173, 175 (3rd Cir.1986). We are bound by a state supreme court's construction of a state penal statute. Missouri v. Hunter, 459 U.S. 359, 368, ......
  • Free signup to view additional results
61 cases
  • 743 F.Supp. 318 (D.N.J. 1990), Civ. A. 86-4481, National Starch and Chemical Corp. v. Great American Ins. Cos.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit District of New Jersey
    • July 19, 1990
    ...of waste sites are located there. Further, New Jersey has a significant interest in compensating its domiciliaries, Dent v. Cunningham, 786 F.2d 173, 177 (3d Cir.1986), and NSCC is domiciled in New Jersey. Accordingly, for all the foregoing reasons, I find that New Jersey law should govern ......
  • 102 B.R. 392 (D.N.J. 1989), 88-4968, In re Reach, McClinton & Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit District of New Jersey
    • June 9, 1989
    ...to the protection of the California statute of limitations." Id. The bankruptcy court distinguished the cases of Dent v. Cunningham, 786 F.2d 173 (3d Cir.1986), and Warner v. Auberge Gray Rocks Inn, Ltee., 827 F.2d 938 (3d Cir.1987), which held that the New Jersey statute of limitation......
  • 925 F.2d 661 (3rd Cir. 1991), 90-3313, Rolick v. Collins Pine Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
    • February 5, 1991
    ...court's decision depends upon interpretation and application of Pennsylvania law. Thus, our review is plenary. Dent v. Cunningham, 786 F.2d 173, 175 (3d Cir.1986). A. The PWCA provides benefits to injured employees regardless of fault. See 77 Pa.Stat.Ann. Secs. 1-1603 (Purdon 1987). Employe......
  • 930 F.2d 1040 (3rd Cir. 1991), 89-5611, Helton v. Fauver
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
    • April 10, 1991
    ...Secs. 1291 and 2253. Helton's appeal presents questions of constitutional law reviewable under a plenary standard. See Dent v. Cunningham, 786 F.2d 173, 175 (3rd Cir.1986). We are bound by a state supreme court's construction of a state penal statute. Missouri v. Hunter, 459 U.S. 359, 368, ......
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