Jones Seeks a Way Out
TO: Phillip Torres
FROM: Don Philbrook
RE: Arlen Jones Construction Case
DATE: January 21, 2012
I represent Arlen Jones, a neighbor of mine who is in the excavation business. He has just been served with process in a federal court suit down in Boston, arising out of some work he did on a house over in Alton. I have attached the original complaint in the action and the third-party complaint against Jones. He is surprised and puzzled by the suit, since he thought the job went fine and the owner was happy. He is also concerned about defending an action down in Boston. Arlen is a local guy with a small business; he is hardly in a position to pay big city legal fees. (I’m not even sure he’ll be able to manage mine . . . I’ll probably have to put in a pool so he can pay me off by doing the excavation!)
Naturally, Jones would rather litigate up here than down in Boston, or, better still, get out of this suit entirely. It seems to me that we may have several grounds for dismissal of this action by motion. First, it seems dubious to me that Jones should be subject to personal jurisdiction in Massachusetts on this claim. He negotiated with the general contractor, Ronan Construction Company, here in New Hampshire. He did the work in New Hampshire. The job was a small one at that, only a few days’ work for something like $3,000. Whatever damages the owner suffered were suffered here. Thus, this claim does not arise out of any “minimum contacts” Jones has with Massachusetts. Nor is he subject to general in personam jurisdiction there; he lives next door to me here in Littleton, and though he works in Massachusetts once in a while, he does not do business there regularly.
Jones wasn’t even served with process in the suit in Massachusetts; Ronan had the summons and complaint served on Jones while he was working on a job down in Dover. Now, I’m just an old country lawyer, and you young fellas may know more about these things than I do, but it seems dubious to me that Jones could be served with process here in New Hampshire, and dragged down to defend a federal court case in Massachusetts, if he lacks minimum contacts with that state. Please do a little research on this issue. Don’t go overboard on it—we’re not talking million dollar damages here, and Jones can’t afford to pay for overkill—but give it a few hours to see if we may have grounds for filing a Rule 12(b) motion to dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction and draft an appropriate motion for my signature if there is reasonable support for it.