Pries v. Watt, No. 20245

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtMILLER
Citation410 S.E.2d 285,186 W.Va. 49
PartiesJacqueline PRIES, Relator, v. Honorable Clarence L. WATT, III, Judge of the Circuit Court of Putnam County and John L. Pries, Respondents.
Decision Date17 October 1991
Docket NumberNo. 20245

Page 285

410 S.E.2d 285
186 W.Va. 49
Jacqueline PRIES, Relator,
v.
Honorable Clarence L. WATT, III, Judge of the Circuit Court
of Putnam County and John L. Pries, Respondents.
No. 20245.
Supreme Court of Appeals of
West Virginia.
Submitted Sept. 10, 1991.
Decided Oct. 17, 1991.

Page 286

[186 W.Va. 50] Syllabus by the Court

1. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution operates to limit the jurisdiction of a state court to enter a judgment affecting the rights or interests of a nonresident defendant. This due process limitation requires a state court to have personal jurisdiction over the nonresident defendant.

2. In order to obtain personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, reasonable notice of the suit must be given the defendant. There also must be a sufficient connection or minimum contacts between the defendant and the forum state so that it will be fair and just to require a defense to be mounted in the forum state.

3. To what extent a nonresident defendant has minimum contacts with the forum state depends upon the facts of the individual case. One essential inquiry is whether the defendant has purposefully acted to obtain benefits or privileges in the forum state.

4. "A writ of prohibition will lie where the trial court does not have jurisdiction or, having jurisdiction, exceeds its legitimate powers." Syllabus Point 3, State ex rel. McCartney v. Nuzum, 161 W.Va. 740, 248 S.E.2d 318 (1978).

Brenda Waugh, Maureen Conley, Legal Aid Soc. of Charleston, Charleston, for relator.

David Hill, Hill, McCoy & Corey, Hurricane, for respondent John L. Pries.

MILLER, Chief Justice:

In this original proceeding in prohibition, the relator, Jacqueline Pries, seeks to prevent the respondent judge from proceeding further in a case for modification of spousal support filed in the Circuit Court of Putnam County by John L. Pries, the relator's ex-husband. The relator contends that the circuit court does not have jurisdiction of her person and that further proceedings therefore violate due process. We agree, and we make the rule in prohibition permanent.

In July of 1984, the relator and her husband were divorced in Morris County, New Jersey, after thirty-six years of marriage. The divorce decree required Mr. Pries to pay the relator $205 per week in alimony.

Sometime thereafter, Mr. Pries moved to Putnam County, West Virginia, and ceased making alimony payments. By order dated February 5, 1990, a New Jersey court found that Mr. Pries owed over $4,700 in back alimony as of December 15, 1989, and ordered him to pay an additional $100 towards reducing the arrearages. The relator

Page 287

[186 W.Va. 51] was apparently able to attach a portion of Mr. Pries' social security benefits as partial payment of the alimony due.

In January of 1991, Mr. Pries filed a petition in the Circuit Court of Putnam County seeking modification of the New Jersey alimony award. The relator, who still resides in New Jersey, was served by mail with a copy of the complaint. Her pro se motion to dismiss the action for lack of personal jurisdiction was apparently denied, and the matter was set for hearing in June of 1991. The Legal Aid Society of Charleston undertook representation of the relator and instituted this proceeding in prohibition.

The United States Supreme Court has held that "[t]he Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment operates as a limitation on the jurisdiction of state courts to enter judgments affecting rights or interests of nonresident defendants.... [A] valid judgment imposing a personal obligation or duty in favor of the plaintiff may be entered only by the court having jurisdiction over the person of the defendant." Kulko v. Superior Court, 436 U.S. 84, 91, 98 S.Ct. 1690, 1696, 56 L.Ed.2d 132, 140 (1978). The Court cited two prerequisites for personal jurisdiction: First, the defendant must be afforded reasonable and adequate notice of the suit, and second, the defendant must have certain minimum contacts with the forum state such that the maintenance of the suit would not offend traditional concepts of fair play and substantial justice. See International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945). The Court in Kulko recognized that an essential element of the minimum contacts question is whether the defendant's activities are such that it is reasonable and fair to subject him to suit in the forum state, a determination that must be made on the particular facts of each case. The majority in Kulko also quoted with approval this line from Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253, 78 S.Ct. 1228, 1240, 2 L.Ed.2d 1283, 1298 (1958): " '[I]t is essential in each case that there be some act by which the defendant purposefully avails [him]self of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State.' " 436 U.S. at 94, 98 S.Ct. at 1698, 56 L.Ed.2d at 142.

In World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 100 S.Ct. 559, 62 L.Ed.2d 490 (1980), and, more recently, in Asahi Metal Industry Co. v. Superior Court, 480 U.S. 102, 107 S.Ct. 1026, 94 L.Ed.2d 92 (1987), the Supreme Court had occasion to elaborate on some of the factors that would be used to determine whether the exercise of jurisdiction was reasonable in...

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24 practice notes
  • STATE EX REL. ALLSTATE INS. v. Gaughan, No. 24510.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 14, 1998
    ...lie where the trial court does not have jurisdiction or, having jurisdiction, exceeds its legitimate powers." Syl. pt. 4, Pries v. Watt, 186 W.Va. 49, 410 S.E.2d 285 (1991). See also, Syl. Pt. 3, State ex rel. McCartney v. Nuzum, 161 W.Va. 740, 248 S.E.2d 318 (1978), overruled on other grou......
  • Kessel v. Leavitt, No. 23557.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 22, 1998
    ...general business contacts" with forum state as prerequisite to finding personal jurisdiction); Syl. pt. 3, in part, Pries v. Watt, 186 W.Va. 49, 410 S.E.2d 285 (1991) (focusing upon whether nonresident defendant "has purposefully acted to obtain benefits or privileges in the forum state" in......
  • State ex rel. Ford Motro Co. v. McGraw, No. 15–1149.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • May 18, 2016
    ...over a nonresident defendant, prohibition is the appropriate remedy to prevent further prosecution of the suit.” Pries v. Watt, 186 W.Va. 49, 53, 410 S.E.2d 285, 289 (1991). See also Norfolk S. Ry. Co. v. Maynard, 190 W.Va. 113, 120, 437 S.E.2d 277, 284 (1993) (observing that writ of prohib......
  • State ex rel. Bell Atlantic-West Virginia, Inc. v. Ranson, ATLANTIC-WEST
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 17, 1997
    ...legitimate powers.' Syllabus Point 3, State ex rel. McCartney v. Nuzum, 161 W.Va. 740, 248 S.E.2d 318 (1978)." Syl. pt. 4, Pries v. Watt, 186 W.Va. 49, 410 S.E.2d 285 Gerard R. Stowers, Geoffrey A. Haddad, Bowles Rice McDavid Graff & Love, David B. Frost, Joseph J. Starsick, Jr., Charleston......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
23 cases
  • STATE EX REL. ALLSTATE INS. v. Gaughan, No. 24510.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 14, 1998
    ...lie where the trial court does not have jurisdiction or, having jurisdiction, exceeds its legitimate powers." Syl. pt. 4, Pries v. Watt, 186 W.Va. 49, 410 S.E.2d 285 (1991). See also, Syl. Pt. 3, State ex rel. McCartney v. Nuzum, 161 W.Va. 740, 248 S.E.2d 318 (1978), overruled on other grou......
  • Kessel v. Leavitt, No. 23557.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 22, 1998
    ...general business contacts" with forum state as prerequisite to finding personal jurisdiction); Syl. pt. 3, in part, Pries v. Watt, 186 W.Va. 49, 410 S.E.2d 285 (1991) (focusing upon whether nonresident defendant "has purposefully acted to obtain benefits or privileges in the forum state" in......
  • State ex rel. Ford Motro Co. v. McGraw, No. 15–1149.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • May 18, 2016
    ...over a nonresident defendant, prohibition is the appropriate remedy to prevent further prosecution of the suit.” Pries v. Watt, 186 W.Va. 49, 53, 410 S.E.2d 285, 289 (1991). See also Norfolk S. Ry. Co. v. Maynard, 190 W.Va. 113, 120, 437 S.E.2d 277, 284 (1993) (observing that writ of prohib......
  • State ex rel. Bell Atlantic-West Virginia, Inc. v. Ranson, ATLANTIC-WEST
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 17, 1997
    ...legitimate powers.' Syllabus Point 3, State ex rel. McCartney v. Nuzum, 161 W.Va. 740, 248 S.E.2d 318 (1978)." Syl. pt. 4, Pries v. Watt, 186 W.Va. 49, 410 S.E.2d 285 Gerard R. Stowers, Geoffrey A. Haddad, Bowles Rice McDavid Graff & Love, David B. Frost, Joseph J. Starsick, Jr., Charleston......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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