IMO Industries, Inc. v. Kiekert AG

155 F.3d 254 (3rd Cir. 1998)
  • Opinion Date: September 3, 1998

TORTIOUS INTERFERENCE; JURISDICTION—Where allegedly tortious interference with a contract is not expressly aimed at a jurisdiction such as New Jersey, the Due Process Clause requirement of minimum contacts is not met, and personal jurisdiction does not exist.

A multinational corporation, with its principal place of business in New Jersey, alleged that a German corporation tortiously interfered with its attempt to sell its wholly owned Italian subsidiary to one of the tortfeasor’s competitors, a French corporation. The alleged tortfeasor sent a series of letters to the Italian subsidiary, a New York investment firm, and the plaintiff’s representative in the sale, threatening that it would revoke the licensing agreement it had with the subsidiary if the deal went through. According to the complainant, the deal never went through because of these threats, causing it considerable loss. The thwarted seller argued that personal jurisdiction against the tortfeasor was proper based upon its minimum contacts with New Jersey. The corporation also argued that the tortfeasor’s commission of an intentional tort, the effects of which would be felt in New Jersey, justified jurisdiction. The district court dismissed the case for lack of personal jurisdiction and the Third Circuit affirmed.

The Third Circuit applied the Calder test to this case. The Calder test requires that three elements must be satisfied in order for a tort to serve as the basis of jurisdiction. These elements are: first, the defendant committed an intentional tort; second, the forum was the focal point of the harm suffered by the plaintiff as a result of that tort; and third, the forum was the focal point of the tortious activity in the sense that the tort was aimed at the forum. In this case, the Third Circuit held that the third prong of this test was not satisfied. The solicitation of bids was done in New York, and the bid that the tortfeasor allegedly interfered with came from a French company. The subject of the bidding was an Italian company, and the licensing agreement (upon which the alleged tortious activity was based) appears to have been governed by German law. The fact that the letters may have been passed to the corporation in New Jersey did not overcome the fact that New Jersey was not the focus of the dispute.