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Universal Leather, LLC v. Koro Ar, S.A.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

December 8, 2014

UNIVERSAL LEATHER, LLC, Plaintiff - Appellant,
v.
KORO AR, S.A., Defendant - Appellee

Argued October 29, 2014

Page 554

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 555

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, at Greensboro. (1:12-cv-00604-WO-JLW). William L. Osteen, Jr., Chief District Judge.

ARGUED:

Norman B. Smith, SMITH, JAMES, ROWLETT & COHEN, LLP, Greensboro, North Carolina, for Appellant.

Christopher Grafflin Browning, Jr., WILLIAMS MULLEN, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

Garrick A. Sevilla, C. Elizabeth Hall, WILLIAMS MULLEN, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee.

Before MOTZ, KING, and KEENAN, Circuit Judges. Judge Keenan wrote the opinion, in which Judge Motz and Judge King joined.

OPINION

Page 556

BARBARA MILANO KEENAN, Circuit Judge:

In this appeal, we consider whether the district court erred in dismissing a civil action brought against a foreign corporation on the ground that the plaintiff failed to satisfy its prima facie burden of showing that the defendant " purposefully availed" itself of the privilege of conducting business in the forum state. Upon our review, we conclude that the plaintiff met its initial burden regarding that required element of personal jurisdiction, by submitting affidavits stating that the defendant contacted the plaintiff in the forum state, conducted repeated in-person solicitations and meetings concerning the parties' business relationship there, and engaged in numerous business transactions over a two-year period. Accordingly, we vacate the district court's judgment and remand this action for the court to complete its jurisdictional analysis.

I.

Koro AR, S.A. (Koro) is a leather company in Argentina that purchases raw cow hides and tanning chemicals, and pays various Argentine tanneries to produce finished leather products. Between 2009 and 2011, Koro sold finished leather goods to Universal Leather, LLC (Universal), a leather wholesaler located in North Carolina. However, the parties' relationship eventually deteriorated and, in September 2011, Universal filed a complaint against Koro in North Carolina state court, alleging breaches of contract based on late deliveries, nonpayment of certain shipping costs, impermissible price increases, and defective products.

After removing the civil action to federal district court, Koro filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. In support of its motion, Koro submitted a declaration from a company representative stating that Universal purchased about $2.85 million in leather goods from Koro by executing various purchase orders over a two-year period, but that those transactions were facilitated by another Argentine corporation that primarily communicated and bargained with Universal. In addition, the Koro declarant stated that Koro did not have any offices, property, or business operations in the United States, that Koro had never ...


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