Advising an out-of-state defendant whether it is subject to personal jurisdiction is often a judgment call. There is no bright line test when minimum contacts are involved.
The 2-1 decision today by the North Carolina Court of Appeals in Rossetto USA, Inc. v. Greensky Financial, LLC, in which two Georgia LLCs challenged personal jurisdiction, illustrates that pretty clearly. The Court actually split twice on the jurisdiction question, reaching different conclusions on whether there was jurisdiction over the two defendants.
The Georgia companies were Greensky Financial, LLC and Furniture Retailers, LLC. The trial judge found that it had jurisdiction over both of them. The Court of Appeals majority found that it had jurisdiction over Greensky, but not over Furniture Retailers. The dissent found that there was no jurisdiction over Greensky, but that there was jurisdiction over Furniture Retailers.
The facts underlying these conflicting jurisdictional conclusions were fairly routine. Greensky was a financing company, which had funded a company called EclecticGlobal’s purchases of furniture from the Plaintiff, a North Carolina company. Greensky had made frequent payments on Eclectic’s behalf to the Plaintiff and had frequently communicated to Plaintiff’s representatives in North Carolina. That was enough to find jurisdiction for the majority, but not enough for the dissent.
Furniture Retailers had taken over the business of Eclectic. It had accepted one shipment of furniture sent by Plaintiff to Eclectic and tried to sell that furniture. It had also made one telephone call to Plaintiff’s North Carolina office. Those were insufficient contacts to the majority, but sufficient for the dissent.
I wish I could tell you where to go from here.
Clint Pinyan and John Buford of Brooks Pierce represent Greensky and Furniture Retailers.