District Court Finds No Specific Personal Jurisdiction Where Plaintiffs Cannot Show That “But For” the Defendant’s Activities in the Forum State, Their Injuries Would Not Have Occurred

The World in U.S. Courts: Summer 2014 - Personal Jurisdiction

Krishanti v. Rajaratnam, U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, April 28, 2014

Plaintiffs are victims of bombing attacks allegedly committed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (“LTTE”), a Sri Lankan group classified by the U.S. Government as a terrorist organization. Defendants are individuals and a Sri Lanka based non-governmental organization that maintains offices in the U.S., the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (“TRO”). All of the defendants allegedly provided financial support to LTTE. The plaintiffs filed suit in U.S. District Court in New Jersey claiming among other things violations of the Alien Tort Statute based on violations of international law.

Personal jurisdiction over TRO was first claimed via service in the U.S. on one of the individual defendants, who was a director of the organization. The Court rejected this contention, concluding that personal service upon a director of a corporation could suffice only to obtain jurisdiction over that director, not the corporation. Turning to the question whether TRO’s activities in New Jersey could support general personal jurisdiction, the Court first decided that it was required to consider TRO’s activities over a “reasonable period” including before the complaint was filed. Applying the test stated in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Daimler AG decision, however, the Court concluded that general personal jurisdiction did not exist because TRO’s activities in New Jersey were not so “continuous and systematic” as to render the organization “at home” in the forum state. As a final alternative, the Court considered specific personal jurisdiction, which would attach if TRO “purposefully directed” its activities towards New Jersey and the plaintiffs’ injuries “arise out of and relate to” those activities. Although the Court found that the first part of the test was satisfied, it concluded that the second part was not. At a minimum, a plaintiff must show that its injuries “would not have arisen” absent the contacts alleged to be the basis for specific personal jurisdiction, and the Court found that the activities alleged—including fundraising and donations--could not be so linked to the bombings that gave rise to the suit. The Court thus concluded that TRO could not be held to answer for the claims made in the complaint.

[Editor’s note: The Krishanti case is also addressed elsewhere in this report in connection with the Alien Tort Statute and the doctrine of forum non conveniens.]

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