Unpublished Disposition, 924 F.2d 1063 (9th Cir. 1991)Annotate this Case
SAWYER OF NAPA, a California Corporation, Plaintiff-Appellant,v.SANG WOO COMPANY LTD.,; Johnny Kin Chiu Chee, anindividual, Defendants-Appellees.
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Submitted Jan. 18, 1991.* Decided Feb. 1, 1991.
Before SCHROEDER, PREGERSON, and T.G. NELSON, Circuit Judges.
In this diversity action, Sawyer of Napa, a California corporation, appeals the district court's dismissal of Sawyer's claims against Johnny Chee for lack of personal jurisdiction. Because we agree that the California district court lacks jurisdiction over Chee, we affirm.
Appellant Sawyer of Napa is a California corporation which manufactures leather coats and jackets. Sang Woo is a Hong Kong corporation which also manufactures leather apparel. Sang Woo and Sawyer had on-going business dealings. In June 1989, Sawyer filed suit against Sang Woo and its owner, Johnny Chee, alleging various state law claims, including fraud, breach of contract, unfair competition, and conversion.
The district court granted dismissal of the claims against Chee, finding that Chee's California contacts were "almost nonexistent." The district court also stated that Chee's actions in California arose from his duties as a corporate officer; the district court stated that without reason to pierce the corporate veil, an assertion of personal jurisdiction against Chee was not appropriate.
Sawyer challenges the district court's holding, claiming that Chee's contacts with California support an assertion of jurisdiction. Sawyer describes Chee's California contacts as consisting of: (1) Chee's solicitation of Sawyer's business through faxes and orders; (2) Chee's meeting with representatives of Sawyer in California in 1988; (3) Chee's purchase of samples with a personal check for which Chee was later reimbursed by Sang Woo; and (4) Chee's relationship with a former Sawyer employee. We agree with the district court that these contacts are insufficient to support an exercise of personal jurisdiction in California district court.
We review de novo the district court's determination of whether personal jurisdiction can properly be asserted. Sinatra v. National Enquirer, Inc., 854 F.2d 1191, 1194 (9th Cir. 1988). Where, as here, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction over the defendant. Id.
Because this is a diversity action, the assertion of jurisdiction must satisfy the forum state's law as well as federal due process requirements. Corporate Inv. Business Brokers v. Melcher, 824 F.2d 786, 787 (9th Cir. 1987). The applicable California jurisdictional statute states: "A court of this state may exercise jurisdiction on any basis not inconsistent with the Constitution of this state or of the United States." Cal.Civ.P.Code Sec. 410.10. Thus, jurisdiction here is limited only by constitutional dictates regarding due process. Sher v. Johnson, 911 F.2d 1357, 1361 (9th Cir. 1990).
If a non-resident defendant has "substantial" or "continuous and systematic" contacts with the forum state, the court may assert general jurisdiction over that defendant, even if the cause of action is unrelated to those contacts. Heliocopteros Nacionales de Columbia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414-15 & n. 9 (1984). Here, Chee's contacts with California certainly cannot be called "substantial" or "continuous and systematic." The record shows that Chee visited California only a single time and had no personal connections to California other than actions done in his capacity as officer and agent of Sang Woo Company. Without additional evidence of Chee's connections to California, or evidence demonstrating that Chee was the alter ego of Sang Woo, see Kransco Mfg., Inc. v. Markwitz, 656 F.2d 1376, 1378-79 (9th Cir. 1981), there are insufficient grounds to support the exercise of general jurisdiction.
Even where a defendant's contacts are not pervasive enough to warrant an exercise of general jurisdiction, a court may nevertheless exercise limited jurisdiction over a cause of action arising out of the defendant's activities in the forum state. We have adopted a three-part test for determining whether limited jurisdiction may be exercised:
(1). The nonresident defendant must do some act or consummate some transaction with the forum or perform some act by which he purposefully avails himself of the privilege of conducting activities in the forum, thereby invoking the benefits and protections of its laws.
(2). The claim must be one which arises out of or results from the defendant's forum-related activities.
(3). Exercise of jurisdiction must be reasonable.
Haisten v. Grass Valley Medical Reimbursement Fund, Ltd., 784 F.2d 1392, 1397 (9th Cir. 1986).
Here, there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that Chee as an individual purposefully availed himself of the ability to conduct business in California. We have held that "a corporate officer who has contact with a forum only with regard to the performance of his official duties is not subject to personal jurisdiction in that forum." Kransco, 656 F.2d at 1379 (quoting Chem Lab Products, Inc. v. Stepanek, 554 F.2d 371, 372 (9th Cir. 1977)). Sawyer has not demonstrated that Chee's actions in California were done in Chee's personal capacity, rather than in his capacity as president of Sang Woo Company; therefore, the district court was correct in holding that an assertion of limited jurisdiction was not appropriate. Kransco, 656 F.2d at 1378-79.