The World in U.S. Courts: Winter 2015 - Personal Jurisdiction | October.30.2014
Plaintiff sustained severe injuries from participating in a “zip-line” activity in Costa Rica on August 23, 2012. Plaintiff alleged that the zip-line activity was arranged by and purchased through Defendants Costa Rican Internet Services (“CRIS”) and Costa Rican Vacations (“CRV”). Defendant CRIS moved to dismiss the action for lack of personal jurisdiction or, in the alternative, on the basis of forum non conveniens. CRIS is a treasury management company that processes credit cards through a payment link on the internet. It is incorporated in Delaware and, while it maintains a mailing address in Florida, it does not otherwise maintain a physical location in the United States and maintains its operations in Costa Rica. Plaintiff argued that jurisdiction was proper because CRIS is an “alter ego” and ostensible agent of other CRV entities, with which it should be deemed to share U.S. contacts for purposes of establishing personal jurisdiction over CRIS.
The Court found that Plaintiff had not made a prima facie case that CRIS was the alter ego of other companies. It noted that there had been no showing that CRV controlled CRIS to such a degree that CRIS was a mere instrumentality of CRV and, even if the entities had common owners, there was no evidence that one controlled the other. Further, even if there were a unity of interest, Plaintiff had not made a showing that inequity would result unless the Court disregarded the corporate form. The Court similarly found that Plaintiff had not made a showing of ostensible agency for purposes of using any CRV entity’s contacts with California for the jurisdictional analysis. There was no parent-subsidiary relationship between CRV and CRIS and Plaintiff failed to provide evidence that either entity performed tasks that the other would have to complete itself. Without the other entities’ contacts to rely upon, the case for personal jurisdiction over CRIS was inadequate. The Plaintiff had did not show that actions by CRIS caused harm that CRIS knew would likely be suffered in California, the Court concluding that merely providing a payment link would foreseeably cause a personal injury to someone from California on vacation in Costa Rica.