814 F.2d 758 (D.C. Cir. 1987), 86-5345, Crane v. Carr

Docket Nº:86-5345.
Citation:814 F.2d 758
Party Name:Kent B. CRANE, Appellant, v. Archie CARR, III, et al.
Case Date:March 27, 1987
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Page 758

814 F.2d 758 (D.C. Cir. 1987)

Kent B. CRANE, Appellant,


Archie CARR, III, et al.

No. 86-5345.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

March 27, 1987

Argued Feb. 2, 1987.

Page 759

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Civil Action No. 85-03938).

Stephen S. Boynton, Vienna, Va., for appellant.

Alan R. Siciliano, Upper Marlboro, Md., for appellees.

Before GINSBURG, BUCKLEY and GINSBURG, Circuit Judges.

Opinion for the Court filed by Circuit Judge RUTH BADER GINSBURG.


This case concerns the length of one finger of the District of Columbia longarm statute, specifically, D.C.Code Sec. 13-423(a)(4); that provision authorizes courts in the District to exercise adjudicatory authority over a non-resident defendant as to a claim for relief arising from the defendant's

causing tortious injury in the District of Columbia by an act or omission outside the District of Columbia if [the defendant] regularly does or solicits business, engages in any other persistent course of conduct, or derives substantial revenue from goods used or consumed, or services rendered, in the District of Columbia[.]

An allegedly libelous letter to Belize gave rise to the action. The letter was written in, and mailed from, New York by Archie Carr, III, an officer of a New York nonprofit corporation, the New York Zoological Society (NYZS or Society). Addressed to the President of the Belize Audubon Society, the letter concerned a District of Columbia resident, Kent B. Crane, and a proposal he had made to establish in Belize a ranch for exotic wild game animals and an endangered animal breeding center. Alleging the requisite diversity of citizenship, see 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1332(a)(1), Crane sued NYZS and four of its officers (Carr, and three officers superior to him), all New York residents, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The complaint alleged two claims, one for libel, the other for placing Crane in a "false light."

On defendants' threshold motion, the district court dismissed the action for lack of personal jurisdiction. Crane v. Carr, No. 85-3938 (D.D.C. Apr. 30, 1986). 1 In that

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court's view, the District of Columbia long-arm statute did not accommodate the case because "plaintiff ha[d] failed to establish a 'persistent course of conduct,' or either of the two other contacts enumerated in (a)(4), that might permit personal jurisdiction." Id., slip op. at 4. Moreover, the district court added, even if the case satisfied the requirements of the District of Columbia long-arm statute, dismissal would nonetheless occur, because "[d]efendants do not possess the 'minimum contacts' with D.C. necessary to satisfy the due process clause." Id. at 4-5.

We vacate the district court's judgment as to the corporate defendant, NYZS. Crane's case was dismissed with no opportunity for discovery on the issue of personal jurisdiction. 2 But the claims in suit, libel and "false light," are the kind in which the injury, foreseeably, is felt with greatest force in the place where the plaintiff lives. See Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783, 789-90, 104 S.Ct. 1482, 1486-87, 79 L.Ed.2d 804 (1984); Keeton v. Hustler Magazine, Inc., 465 U.S. 770, 780, 104 S.Ct. 1473, 1481, 79 L.Ed.2d 790 (1984) (bulk of harm in case of libel occurs in plaintiff's domicile); cf. Asahi Metal Indus. v. Superior Court, --- U.S. ----, 107 S.Ct. 1026, 94 L.Ed.2d 92 (1987); World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 295-99, 100 S.Ct. 559, 566-68, 62 L.Ed.2d 490 (1980) (due process limit is crossed when complainant attempts to draw in nonresident defendant based on unilateral, even if foreseeable, activity of others who bear some relationship to defendant). In addition, Crane has pointed to links NYZS has with the District, see infra p. 761, sufficient at least to permit further inquiry regarding personal jurisdiction, so that the statutory and constitutional questions can be resolved on a fuller record.

We affirm the dismissal of the action as to the individual defendants, however, because Crane conceded on appeal, both on brief and at oral argument, that he seeks no relief against those defendants in their individual capacity. See Brief for Appellant at 3 (individuals are named defendants only "in their official capacity"). The sole relief Crane requests in this action is monetary. He seeks that relief only against NYZS. Whatever discovery Crane might seek from the four individuals as officers or managing agents of NYZS, see FED.R.CIV.P. 30(b)(6), 32(a)(2), he now pursues no claim for relief against the individuals, and therefore tenders no basis for retaining them in the party lineup.


On December 14, 1984, Archie Carr, III, Assistant Director of Wildlife Conservation International, a division of NYZS, responded to an inquiry from the President of the Belize Audubon Society concerning the proposal of Kent B. Crane to develop a game ranch and endangered species breeding program in Belize. The letter, written on NYZS stationery and signed by Carr as Assistant Director of Wildlife Conservation International, was unfavorable to Crane and his proposal. Carr wrote that Crane was "indeed a 'wheeler-dealer,' " a man who "sounds like ... the kind of wildeyed, arrogant, rich yo yo that [Carr has] always feared would threaten the reef, the land and the people of Belize." Appellant's Appendix (App.) at 44-46. Carr...

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