Another Court Rejects Threadbare Allegations of So-Called Vicarious Personal Jurisdiction

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The District of Arizona recently dismissed Winters v. Grand Caribbean Cruises, Inc., No. 20-0168, 2021 WL 511217 (D. Ariz. Feb. 11, 2021), for lack of personal jurisdiction, finding that the plaintiffs had failed to establish that the caller’s contact with Arizona could be imputed to Grand Caribbean.

The plaintiffs alleged that Grand Caribbean violated the TCPA by using a prerecorded voice to initiate calls to numbers on the Do-Not-Call Registry.  Grand Caribbean moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, among other things.

The court addressed Grand Caribbean’s personal jurisdiction argument by first noting that, because Grand Caribbean is a Florida company, it is not subject to the court’s general personal jurisdiction.  The court then turned to whether it had specific jurisdiction over Grand Caribbean.  The plaintiffs argued that Grand Caribbean was subject to specific personal jurisdiction because Grand Caribbean engaged in “direct contact” with Arizona residents, or alternatively, because the callers’ contacts with Arizona should be imputed to Grand Caribbean.

Grand Caribbean submitted declarations to support its argument that it should not be subject to jurisdiction based on the “direct contact” theory, because it did not place or make any telephone calls to plaintiffs.  The court agreed and turned to whether personal jurisdiction could be imputed based on an agency relationship with the caller.

The court also agreed that the plaintiffs had not shown that so-called imputed or vicarious jurisdiction existed here.  For one, the complaint failed to distinguish between Grand Caribbean and its agents, referring to them as a single entity throughout the complaint.  More significant was the plaintiffs’ failure to allege any facts showing that Grand Caribbean had the right to substantially control the means or manner of the caller’s activities, which is a “fundamental tenet of an agency relationship.”  The fact that the callers identified themselves as representatives of Grand Caribbean was, the court found, not material.

The court’s decision is consistent with others that have dismissed TCPA claims due to inadequate allegations about supposed vicarious jurisdiction, which we covered here and here.  These decisions emphasize that TCPA defendants should continue to scrutinize a complaint for allegations of jurisdiction and agency, and should raise defects in jurisdiction when appropriate.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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