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Third Party Defendant’s Activities In “Bulge Area” Rendered Exercise of Personal Jurisdiction Over It Proper
Fitzgerald v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP
This personal injury action arises from an incident on December 21, 2009, when Plaintiff Christel Fitzgerald fell on a patch of ice in a parking lot adjacent to a Wal-Mart store in Alexandria, Virginia. Plaintiff filed suit in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, Maryland against six different Wal-Mart entities which she claimed owned, operated, or were responsible for the premises. She also named USM, Inc. (“USM” or “Third Party Plaintiff”) as a Defendant, alleging that it had a contract with one or more Wal-Mart entities to perform or oversee snow removal at the premises. Defendants removed the action to federal court. Thereafter, USM filed a Third Party Complaint against MCHI, Inc. d/b/a Snow Patrol, Inc. (“Snow Patrol” or “Third Party Defendant”), the company contracted by USM to perform snow removal services at the Alexandria location on the date of Plaintiff’s fall. USM sought indemnification and/or contribution from Snow Patrol in an amount equal to any damages awarded against USM in Plaintiff’s first party action. Snow Patrol filed a Motion to Dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2).
Because Snow Patrol was impleaded as a third party defendant under Fed. R. Civ. P. 14, it was subject to the “100-mile bulge” of Rule 4(k)(1)(B). Rule 4(k) extends the territorial jurisdiction of the federal courts; thus, whether or not the forum state could exercise jurisdiction over the party in the same circumstances is immaterial. Application of the 100-mile bulge rule, however, may still be limited by the Due Process Clause. For the Court to exercise personal jurisdiction over Snow Patrol, it must find that Snow Patrol established sufficient minimum contacts with the bulge area.
The Court concluded that the Third Party Plaintiff made a prima facie showing that the Court had jurisdiction over Snow Patrol because: 1) Snow Patrol was incorporated in Virginia; 2) its business address was in Fairfax, Virginia; and, 3) its registered agent was located in Broad Run, Virginia. It was undisputed that all of these addresses were within 100 miles of both the Greenbelt and Baltimore federal courthouses. Moreover, the underlying accident involving the Plaintiff occurred at a Wal-Mart store in Alexandria, Virginia, which was also within 100 miles of the courthouses. Finally, Snow Patrol did not dispute that it contracted with USM to provide snow removal services at the Alexandria site. It was, therefore, clear from the record that Snow Patrol purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting business activities within the bulge area, such that the exercise of personal jurisdiction by the Court was proper. Accordingly, the Court denied Snow Patrol’s Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction.
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