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Civil Practice – Personal Jurisdiction – Family & Business Ties – Sufficient Contacts

Civil Practice – Personal Jurisdiction – Family & Business Ties – Sufficient Contacts

Richards v. Tim Bell Racing, LLC (Lawyers Weekly No. 012-098-16, 9 pp.) (Chris Dillon, J.) Appealed from Iredell County Superior Court (Theodore Royster, J.) N.C. App. Unpub.

Holding: Even though the California defendants regularly travel to North Carolina to visit their son, they also come to work in their son’s business, defendant Tim Bell Racing, LLC (TBR); furthermore, via telephone and email, they help their son run TBR. The trial court erred when it concluded that it lacked personal jurisdiction over the California defendants.

Reversed and remanded.

The trial court found that defendants David and Bonnie Bell’s “contacts with North Carolina are substantially related to their son, who is a citizen and resident of North Carolina, and his business.” This finding does not support the trial court’s conclusion that it did not have personal jurisdiction over David and Bonnie.

G.S. § 1-75.4(4)(a) gives our courts personal jurisdiction over anyone who causes injury in this state and who carries on solicitation or services activities within this state. Telephone calls and email messages can be solicitations within the meaning of § 1-75.4(4)(a).

The record reveals that David and Bonnie are consistently involved with the management of TBR, a North Carolina LLC. Furthermore, an audio recording tends to show that David required certain items to be inserted into plaintiff’s termination agreement. Additionally, Bonnie signed insurance documents filed with the state as the “CFO” of TBR.

Both David and Bonnie were involved in solicitation and service activities within North Carolina. Thus, our long-arm statute allows for the exercise of personal jurisdiction over David and Bonnie, provided they also have minimum contacts with North Carolina.

David and Bonnie have regularly visited North Carolina and have directed communications toward North Carolina for the purpose of helping to manage the finances and daily operations of TBR and offering advice and direction to plaintiff in his role as an employee of TBR. There is evidence that, despite David and Bonnie’s contention that their visits to North Carolina were solely social visits, during which they offered business advice to their son, David and Bonnie in fact directed a portion of their activities during these visits to TBR and its employees, including plaintiff.

In addition, North Carolina has a strong interest in adjudicating this dispute. It involves a North Carolina plaintiff employed by a North Carolina LLC, and David and Bonnie, who have purposefully directed activities at plaintiff and the LLC.

Reversed and remanded.

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