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Civil Practice – Personal Jurisdiction – Specific Jurisdiction – N.C. Attorney – Canadian Corporation

Manley v. Air Canada. (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-02-1150, 12 pp.) (Louise W. Flanagan, Ch.J.) E.D.N.C.

Holding: Where defendant, a Canadian airline, hired an N.C. attorney to assist it in labor/management relations, conducted correspondence with that attorney in North Carolina and mailed payments into this state, and where plaintiff’s breach of contract claims arise out of those activities, this court has specific jurisdiction over defendant.

Defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction is denied.

Even though defendant has daily flights into Raleigh and Charlotte, another airline operates those flights, and defendant obtains de minimis revenue from N.C. passengers. This court does not have general jurisdiction over defendant.

Plaintiff contends that defendant has purposely availed itself of the privilege of conducting activities in North Carolina because (1) defendant solicited plaintiff, an N.C. resident, to enter into the parties’ 2006 agreement; (2) its CEO traveled to North Carolina to meet with plaintiff for their prior 2005 agreement; (3) defendant made a number of phone calls and conducted other correspondence with plaintiff while he was located in North Carolina; and (4) parts of the contract were performed in North Carolina. Defendant, on the other hand, contends that specific personal jurisdiction is inappropriate here because (1) it was plaintiff s unilateral decision to perform parts of the contract in North Carolina, and (2) the 2005 agreement is a separate contract and any visit by defendant’s CEO to North Carolina is therefore irrelevant.

Defendant directed its activities at North Carolina in more than a random, fortuitous, or attenuated way, such that it should have been able to anticipate being sued in this forum. Defendant reached into North Carolina to employ the services of plaintiff, an N.C. attorney.

Although the parties’ 2005 agreement is indeed separate as a legal matter, the court cannot overlook that the retention of plaintiff’s services in the 2006 agreement grew out of a relationship established by the earlier contract, which involved a personal visit by defendant’s CEO to North Carolina. Even absent this personal visit, the frequent telephone calls and correspondence into North Carolina (both during negotiation of the contract and the performance thereof) and the mailing of checks to plaintiffs home address in North Carolina to pay invoices he submitted are sufficient “minimum contacts” for specific personal jurisdiction purposes.

Finally, the exercise of personal jurisdiction over defendant would not be constitutionally unreasonable. Defendant, a major international airline, faces some minor burden in defending this action in North Carolina, but not to an extent that would offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice or put defendant at a severe disadvantage compared to plaintiff. And although

North Carolina’s interest in adjudicating the dispute may be diminished where the contract is expressly governed by the law of Quebec, it undoubtedly does have an interest in the resolution of lawsuits filed by its citizens, including plaintiff.

Motion denied.

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