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January 20, 2000


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sweet, Senior District Judge.


Defendants Indiana Black Expo (the "Expo") and Charles Williams ("Williams") have each moved, pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, for summary judgment dismissing the complaint of plaintiff pro se J. Morris Anderson ("Anderson") for lack of personal jurisdiction over the named defendants. Alternatively, Expo has challenged venue in this jurisdiction, and requests either dismissal or transfer to the Southern District of Indiana as a result. For the reasons set forth below, these motions shall be granted to the extent that they request dismissal due to the absence of in personam jurisdiction over either Williams or the Expo.

The Parties

Anderson is a Pennsylvania resident and the owner of the Miss Black America Beauty Pageant (the "Pageant"), the principal place of business of which is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Expo is an Indiana not-for-profit corporation, with its principal place of business located in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Williams is an Indiana resident, and at all times relevant to the instant action was President of the Expo.

Facts and Prior Proceedings

The facts set forth below are taken from the parties' Rule 56.1 statements, affidavits, and exhibits, and are not in dispute except where otherwise indicated.

Anderson is the founder and Executive Producer of the Pageant, and has produced the Pageant for a not-insignificant number of years. In 1991, Anderson filed suit against boxer Mike Tyson ("Tyson"), Williams, and the Expo in the wake of well-publicized accusations against Tyson for the sexual assault of various Pageant participants. The Pageant that year had been held in Indianapolis, Indiana. In that action (the "First Pennsylvania Action"), which was filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Anderson alleged various injuries arising out of the negative publicity associated with Tyson's behavior.

According to Anderson, repeated efforts were made to convince him to settle the First Pennsylvania Action. Discussions to that end took place in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Washington, D.C., with Don King ("King") taking an especially active role in pushing settlement. In an October 19, 1991 meeting in Washington, D.C., the terms of a settlement agreement were finally agreed upon. Though Williams was not present in Washington for that initial meeting, during a meeting with lawyers the following day Williams participated telephonically, confirming his acceptance of the details of the agreement. In his papers, Anderson has pressed that both King and Don King Enterprises ("DKE"), as well as non-party Thadeus E. Watley ("Watley"), functioned as both the Expo's and Williams' agent throughout settlement negotiations.

However, neither Expo nor Williams signed any formal agreement in Washington, D.C. Instead, approximately a week thereafter Anderson traveled with Watley to New York City to meet with Williams and King at King's residence. There, after some initial hesitation concerning the wisdom of signing any agreement without first consulting the Expo's own counsel, Williams committed the Expo to the agreement to which it had already devoted itself in principle.

The terms of the written agreement (the "agreement") between Anderson and the Expo, dated October 30, 1991, are as follows:

Indiana Black Expo, Inc. ("IBE"), and J. Morris Anderson Production Company, the producer of the Miss Black America ("MBA") pageant, for good and valuable consideration, the receipt and adequacy of which is hereby acknowledged, agree:
(1) The MBA pageant shall hereafter be an event of the IBE; and
(2) IBE shall provide the site, set and lights for the production of the MBA pageant.
This agreement shall apply for the 1992 IBE and MBA pageant. If J. Morris Anderson Production Company delivers a television audience of a minimum of 40% ADI, then J. Morris Anderson Production Company shall have an option to extend this agreement for the following year. Upon the same condition, J. Morris Anderson Production Company shall have the same option through the year 1997.

The agreement, which was signed by Anderson and by Williams on the Expo's behalf, contained an addendum that "[t]he IBE has the option to sell two (2) commercial spots MBA pageant national TV special & retain the profit."

Though the record reveals no memorialized contract between King and Anderson to complement the terms of the agreement between Anderson and the Expo, according to Anderson King allegedly made Anderson a variety of connected promises concerning his future promotion of the Pageant — including, inter alia, a promise to provide financial and promotional assistance to the Pageant, and to tie the Pageant in with other "pay-per-view" events promoted by King. The First Pennsylvania Action was ultimately dismissed with prejudice, though it is unclear from the parties' submissions whether this was due to a formal settlement among the parties.

While the Expo hosted the Pageant as promised in 1992, in 1993 it refused to host the Pageant, explaining that the Pageant had failed to comply with the agreement's television market share provision. The Expo notified Anderson of this refusal in June of 1993, shortly before taping was scheduled to begin in Indianapolis. As a result of this refusal to host the 1993 Pageant, Anderson was required to radically alter the production of the Pageant.

In 1994, Anderson filed suit once again in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, this time seeking recovery from Tyson, King, DKE, and Williams for breach of contract, misrepresentation, and assault. Discovery commenced in that action, as did motion practice.

In an opinion issued June 1, 1994, the Honorable Clarence C. Newcomer found that personal jurisdiction could not be exercised over either Williams or the Expo, explaining that "plaintiff is unable to prove that the defendants' ties to the state are sufficiently direct," and that their "indirect contacts with the state were not that which would make them anticipate being subject to a suit in Pennsylvania." Anderson v. Tyson, No. CIV. A. 94-0528, 1994 WL 237365, at *2 (E.D.Pa. Jun. 1, 1994).

In an another opinion, issued November 4, 1994, Judge Newcomer dismissed Anderson's claims against King and DKE, ruling in part that any oral contract between King or DKE and Anderson would be barred by New York's Statute of Frauds, and that Anderson could not recover for misrepresentation merely by characterizing an otherwise infirm breach of contract claim as a claim for fraud. See Anderson v. Tyson, Civ. A. No. 94-0528, 1994 WL 630207, at *3 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 4, 1994). Judge Newcomer also held that Anderson's claim for assault would be dismissed for lack of standing, and because Anderson had failed to allege either King's or DKE's participation in the assault. See id. at *4. It was further observed that Tyson, who had never been served, was not a proper party to the action. See id. at *1. Judge Newcomer's rulings were subsequently affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Anderson's complaint in this action, which essentially seeks recovery against the Expo and Williams for the Expo's failure to satisfy its obligations to the Pageant under the terms of their 1991 agreement, was filed on May 28, 1999. The complaint alleges fifteen causes of action, the first and fourteenth sounding in contract and dependant upon the exercise of diversity jurisdiction, and the remaining causes of action ...

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