Case Caption: St. Croix, Ltd., et al. v. Shell Oil Co, et al.Case Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2011-0057Date: 01/22/2014Author: Cabret, Maria M. Citation: Summary:

In an action by owners and operators of numerous apartments in three complexes seeking to recover compensatory, consequential, and punitive damages allegedly caused by faulty polybutylene plumbing in their complexes, in a proposed class action, dismissal of the action against two of the corporate defendants based on lack of personal jurisdiction is affirmed. The Superior Court may exercise personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant only where the plaintiff has satisfied the requirements of the long-arm statute, 5 V.I.C. § 4903, and the exercise of personal jurisdiction satisfies the requirements of due process. Because these defendants challenged the Superior Court's exercise of personal jurisdiction by pre-answer motion, it was the plaintiffs' burden to show that the court had personal jurisdiction. Because the Superior Court allowed jurisdictional discovery but did not hold an evidentiary hearing, plaintiffs were only required to establish a prima facie case for jurisdiction through evidence supporting their factual allegations. Nonetheless, nothing in any evidence plaintiffs submitted shows that these two defendants engaged in any activity at all in the Territory, let alone transacted any business in this territory as required for personal jurisdiction under 5 V.I.C. § 4903(a)(1). Similarly, under § 4903(a)(4), plaintiffs failed to show that these defendants regularly transacted or solicited business in the Virgin Islands, engaged in any other persistent course of conduct in the territory, or derived substantial revenue from goods or services consumed in the Virgin Islands. General assertions that these two defendants and other companies engaged in a nationwide campaign to create a market for polybutylene piping does not change the fact that plaintiffs failed to submit any evidence that either defendant engaged in business activities in the Territory as required by § 4903. Even if plaintiffs could proceed on a theory that these defendants were co-conspirators of another company that was subject to jurisdiction here, an issue not decided in this appeal, the general rule that a plaintiff must make a prima facie showing of the pertinent jurisdictional facts applies to any theory of conspiracy-based jurisdiction, and here there was no evidence that these two defendants knew or should have known that another company's activities would cause injury in the Virgin Islands. Consequently, plaintiffs failed to establish a prima facie case in support of the Superior Court's assertion of personal jurisdiction over these two defendants, it was not error to grant their motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Arguments concerning alleged failures to comply with discovery obligations relate to rulings that were not designated in the plaintiffs' notice of appeal as required V.I.S.CT.R. 4(c), and will not be addressed. The judgment appealed from is affirmed.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion