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Stein Fibers, Ltd. v. Bondex Telas Sin Tejar

February 10, 2009

STEIN FIBERS, LTD., PLAINTIFF,
v.
BONDEX TELAS SIN TEJAR, C.A. AND MIGUEL PLITMAN, DEFENDANTS.



MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

On February 22, 2008, Plaintiff Stein Fibers, Ltd. ("Plaintiff" or "Stein Fibers") commenced this action seeking to recover $421,650.38, plus interest and fees, resulting from Defendants' alleged breach of contract and conversion of Plaintiff's property. See Compl. (Dkt. No. 1). Presently before the Court is Defendants Bondex Telas Sin Tejar, C.A. ("Bondex") and Miguel Plitman's ("Plitman") Motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(6) on the grounds that (1) the court has no personal jurisdiction over them; (2) the causes of action are time-barred under the applicable statute of limitations; and (3) the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted in regards to the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth causes of action. Mot. (Dkt. No. 7). Defendants' Motion also requests dismissal on the grounds of forum non conveniens and in deference to a prior pending action in Venezuela.Id.

In its response to Defendants' Motion, Plaintiff requests that the Court, in lieu of dismissal, transfer the case to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. See Pl.'s Mem. in Opp'n at 12 (Dkt. No. 13, Attach. 2). On December 15, 2008, the Court issued an Order directing the parties to provide the Court with supplemental briefing addressing the issue of transfer.

Dkt. No. 16. Both parties submitted their supplemental briefs in timely fashion.

For the reasons discussed below, this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over the Defendants. As the Plaintiffs have failed to show that Florida would have jurisdiction, transfer is not appropriate. Therefore, this action is dismissed.

I. BACKGROUND

Stein Fibers is a New York corporation headquartered in Albany County. Compl. ¶ 1. Since its inception in 1976, Stein Fibers has been a supplier of polyester staple fiber with a worldwide customer base. Pl.'s Mem. in Opp'n at 4. Stein Fibers operates three satellite offices across the United States, only one of which is relevant to this case: Fort Lauderdale, Florida. See id. Bondex is a foreign corporation having its principal place of business in the City of Guatire, Venezuela. Id.; Defs.' Mem. in Supp. at 4 (Dkt. No. 7, Attach. 2). Bondex manufactures mattresses and bedding products made from polyester fiber. Pl.'s Mem. in Opp'n at 4.

Stein Fibers and Bondex had maintained a business relationship as seller and buyer since approximately 1997. Pl.'s Mem. in Opp'n at 4. It appears from the record that Bondex ordered synthetic fibers from Stein Fibers' satellite office in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. See Defs.' Mem. in Supp. at 5; Stein Aff. ¶ 7 (Dkt. No. 13); Tomlinson Aff. ¶ 8 (Dkt. No. 13). Stein Fibers would then arrange for delivery to Bondex in Venezuela. Tomlinson Aff. ¶ 8. Plaintiff alleges that Bondex and its principals have come to the United States "on many occasions" in furtherance of this business relationship, including a meeting in January 2001 between Defendant Plitman and Ellen Tomlinson, Stein Fibers' sales representative and manager for the Fort Lauderdale office. Id. ¶¶ 1, 7.

Stein Fibers now alleges that it sold and delivered to Bondex numerous shipments of synthetic fibers; that Bondex accepted those shipments; that Bondex made use of the synthetic fibers contained in those shipments; but that Bondex failed to pay for the materials. See Compl. ¶¶ 6-10.

Defendants move, inter alia, to dismiss this action pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2) on the ground that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over the Defendants. Bondex denies that it ever transacted business in New York, claiming that it has no offices, no employees, and no nexus with the forum. See Defs.' Mem. in Supp. at 2-3, 6. Defendant Plitman also denies that he has any nexus with New York, claiming that he has never visited New York for any business purpose. See id. at 6.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Personal Jurisdiction

"On a Rule 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of showing that the court has jurisdiction over the defendant." Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Robertson-Ceco Corp., 84 F.3d 560, 566 (2d Cir. 1996) (citing Robinson v. Overseas Military Sales Corp., 21 F.3d 502, 507 (2d Cir. 1994)). Prior to discovery, a plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing that jurisdiction exists and can make this showing through his own affidavits, pleadings and supporting materials. See Hollenbeck v. Comeq, Inc., 2007 WL 2484299, *2 (N.D.N.Y. Aug. 28, 2007) (Kahn, D.J.) (citations omitted). All pleadings and affidavits are construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and all doubts are resolved in the plaintiff's favor. Cutco Indus., Inc. v. Naughton, 806 F.2d 361, 365 (2d Cir. 1986). In addition, "'[t]he amenability of a foreign corporation to suit in a federal court in a diversity action is determined in accordance with the law of the state where the court sits.'" Ball v. Metallurgie Hoboken-Overpelt, S.A., 902 F.2d 194, 198 (2d Cir. 1990) (quoting Arrowsmith v. United Press Int'l, 320 F.2d 219, 223 (2d Cir. 1963)).

Plaintiff has not cited a specific section of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules ("CPLR") for purposes of establishing this Court's jurisdiction over the Defendants. Plaintiff has clearly not alleged facts sufficient to support a prima facie showing that Defendants are engaged in such a continuous course of doing business in New York as to render the Defendants present in the state pursuant to the "general jurisdiction" provision of CPLR § 301. See, e.g., Ball, 902 F.2d at 198. Accordingly, CPLR § 302(a)-- the New York "long-arm statute"-- will govern the Court's determination of whether the Court has personal jurisdiction over the Defendants. The long-arm statute gives a New York court jurisdiction over a non-domiciliary defendant as to any claim "arising from the acts enumerated" in the statute. CPLR § 302(a). The pertinent provisions of the statute, CPLR § 302(a)(1)-(3), will be analyzed in turn.*fn1

1. CPLR § 302(a)(1)

The New York long-arm statute gives a court jurisdiction over a non-domiciliary who "transacts any business within the state or contracts anywhere to supply goods or services in the state." CPLR ยง 302(a)(1). "A defendant transacts business in New York when he 'purposefully avails' himself of the privilege of conducting business there, thus invoking the benefits and protections of New York law." ...


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