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ESAB Group, Inc. v. Centricut, Inc. Case Brief

Summary of ESAB Group, Inc. v. Centricut, Inc., U.S. Dist. Ct. of Appeals, 4th Circuit (1997)

Cause of action: The following is a cause of action for ruling based on personal jurisdiction within the range of a long-arm statute, and a federal RICO Act under which a claim in the trial court is based as well. State cause is based on conspiracy, economic interference, breach of K among others.

Procedural History: DF filed several motions, including one to dismiss on a rule 12(b) lack of minimal contacts PJ, which was dismissed by District Court.  They held based on the Calder case, and granted leave to DF to file interlocutory appeal, as did the 4th Circuit.

Facts: Six count charge against DF on the state side, and one count on Fed side under RICO statute.  PL and DF are competitors somewhat in the field of developing welding and cutting machinery.  DF conducts its business essentially in NH, with no offices, business contacts or sales reps in SC, where the claim is based.

They do have 26 clients residing in SC, which accounts for one percent of their total customers and even less than one percent of their gross annual sales.  Once, DF purchased $10K-$20K worth of parts from an SC supplier.  They claim they never targeted any advertising in SC, having only once published an ad in a national trade journal.

Issue(s): Under federal rules of Civil Procedure, may the district court in SC obtain PJ over NH DF’s when the cause of action is pursuant to a complaint alleging a civil RICO claim and related state claims?

Court’s Rationale/Reasoning: Exercise of PJ under fed circumstances goes under the provisions of the 5th amendment, but the federal court must have a constitutionally sufficient relationship between DF and the forum, and authorization for service of a summons on the person.  The court inquires (1) whether the state long-arm statute authorizes the exercise of jurisdiction over the DF, and (2) if it does, then the court determines whether the state court’s exercise of such jurisdiction is consistent with due process of 14th amendment (cause/action through state and not fed court here).  Court determined no authorization, but they decided to merge the state claim with the constitutional claim.  The merge produced same result, as there was no intent found on DF’s part to target SC.

As for the constitutional claim (RICO Act under the 5th amendment), the court first applied the Int’l Shoe test, and the claim passed.  The court then decided to borrow from SMJ, where fed courts can hear claims involving both state and federal questions, as long as both claims derive from the same argument.  It concluded the District Court has authority over DF’s to decide both the federal and state claims alleged against DF.  Since there is PJ, DF’s can defend the case, and there is nothing with violates the traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice which would injure DF in doing so.

Rule:Rule 4(k)(1): unless a fed. statute or rule provides otherwise, a fed. trial court’s statutory grant of PJ shall consist of the state jurisdictional statute of the state in which the fed. court is located.

Where a fed. trial court exercises jurisdiction pursuant to a state’s long arm statute in which the court sits, the constitutionality of that statute is measured under the parameters of the 14th amendment, since the delegation of jurisdiction flows from a state statute.

District Courts have discretion to hear pendent state claims where there is a substantial federal claim arising out of a common nucleus of operative fact.  Court must weigh judicial factors such as judicial economy, fairness to litigants and convenience.

Holding: Yes.  Under pendent jurisdiction, the court is granted jurisdiction for the whole cause of action under federal RICO statute as the federal question is not far related from the state question.

No. DF’s were not properly served under SC’s long-arm statute, since DF manifested no behavior intentionally targeted at or focused on the forum state, and thus no PJ or SMJ



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