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Bernaud v. Sazdov

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 23, 2016

UTE BERNAUD, Plaintiff,
v.
ALEKSANDAR SAZDOV, et al., Defendants.

          RULING AND ORDER

          Stefan R. Underhill United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Ute Bernaud brings the instant suit against defendants Aleksandar Sazdov, the Wildwood Boardwalk Special Improvement District Management Corporation ("Wildwood SID"), and Wildwood Boardwalk Tram Cars.[1] Bernaud alleges that, on August 18, 2013, while vacationing in Wildwood, New Jersey, she was injured when exiting a tram car operated by Sazdov, an employee of Wildwood SID.

         Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that they are not subject to personal jurisdiction in Connecticut. See Doc. # 17. Defendants assert that the court lacks jurisdiction under Connecticut's long arm statutes because none of the defendants reside in or have transacted any business within the state. Furthermore, defendants argue that, even if they are subject to personal jurisdiction under the Connecticut long arm statutes, subjecting them to personal jurisdiction in Connecticut would violate due process.

         On January 21, 2016, I held oral argument on the defendants' motion to dismiss. See Doc. # 21. At oral argument, I indicated that I was prepared to grant the motion because Bernaud did not provide any evidence of the defendants' contacts within the forum state. In response, Bernaud requested leave to submit additional evidence of the defendants' contacts with the forum state. I granted that request and ordered Bernaud to submit the additional documents within a week from the hearing. Bernaud submitted additional documents and the defendants filed a supplemental response to Bernaud's submission. This ruling is based on all of the materials before me.

         I. Standard of Review

         On a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(2), the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the court has jurisdiction over the defendant. See Thomas v. Ashcroft, 470 F.3d 491, 495 (2d Cir. 2006). A plaintiff may initially carry this burden "by pleading in good faith . . . legally sufficient allegations of jurisdiction, i.e., by making a ‘prima facie showing' of jurisdiction." Jazini v. Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., 148 F.3d 181, 184 (2d Cir. 1998) (quoting Ball v. Metallurgie Hoboken-Overpelt, S.A., 902 F.2d 194, 197 (2d Cir. 1990)). A plaintiff can make this showing through his "own affidavits and supporting materials, " Marine Midland Bank, N.A. v. Miller, 664 F.2d 899, 904 (2d Cir. 1981), containing "an averment of facts that, if credited . . ., would suffice to establish jurisdiction over the defendant." Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Robertson-Ceco Corp., 84 F.3d 560, 567 (2d Cir. 1996) (quoting Ball, 902 F.2d 194, 197 (2d Cir. 1990)).

         In resolving the personal jurisdiction issue, a court must "construe the pleadings and affidavits in the light most favorable to [the plaintiff], resolving all doubts in his favor." A.I. Trade Finance, Inc. v. Petra Bank, 989 F.2d 76, 79-80 (2d Cir. 1993). When deciding a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the court may consider affidavits and other evidence submitted by the parties. Ensign-Bickford Co. v. ICI Explosives USA, Inc., 817 F.Supp. 1018, 1026 (D. Conn. 1993) ("[T]he plaintiff must make a ‘prima facie showing' through affidavits or other evidence that the defendant's conduct was sufficient for the court to exercise personal jurisdiction.").

         II. Discussion

         A district court sitting in diversity applies the forum state's personal jurisdiction rules. See Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Robertson-Ceco Corp., 84 F.3d 560, 567 (2d Cir. 1996). To establish a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction, a plaintiff must satisfy a two-part inquiry. First, it must allege facts sufficient to show that Connecticut's long-arm statute reaches a defendant, and second, it must establish that the court's exercise of jurisdiction will not violate due process. See Chirag v. MT MARIDA MARGUERITE SCHIFFAHRTS, 933 F.Supp.2d 349, 352 (D. Conn. 2013), aff'd sub nom. Chirag v. MT Marida Marguerite Schiffahrts, 604 F.App'x 16 (2d Cir. 2015) (citing Knipple v. Viking Communications, 236 Conn. 602, 605-06 (1996)). At the prima facie stage, a plaintiff need not point to any evidence that supports jurisdiction. Instead, it "need only assert facts constituting . . . jurisdiction" all of which should be judged "in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Id. (quoting Amerbelle Corp. v. Hommell, 272 F.Supp.2d 189, 192 (D. Conn. 2003)).

         A. Connecticut's Long Arm Statutes

         The Connecticut long arm statute has two provisions that are relevant to the instant suit. First, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-59b, sets the limits on a Connecticut court's exercise of jurisdiction over an individual defendant sued in tort. That statute determines whether Sazdov is subject to the court's jurisdiction. Second, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 33-929(f), determines whether a foreign corporation, such as Wildwood SID, is subject to suit in Connecticut.

         1. The Court Lacks Personal Jurisdiction over Sazdov

         Section 52-59b provides, in relevant part, that a court may exercise personal jurisdiction over an individual defendant who, in person or through an agent: "commits a tortuous act outside of the state causing injury to person or property within the state" so long as the person or agent "(A) regularly does or solicits business . . . in the state, or (B) expects or should reasonably expect the act to have consequences in the state and derives substantial revenue from interstate or international commerce . . . ." Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-59b(a)(3).

         Sazdov argues that Bernaud fails to allege any facts that could possibly establish that Sazdov falls within Connecticut's long arm statute. Sazdov has submitted a declaration attesting to the fact that he has never transacted or solicited business in Connecticut nor does he derive substantial revenue from goods sold or services ...


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