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Informaxion Solutions, Inc. v. Vantus Group

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

June 17, 2015

Informaxion Solutions, Inc., Plaintiff,
v.
Vantus Group, Vantus Technology Corporation, and Vantus Manufacturing Corporation, Defendants

Page 995

          For Informaxion Solutions Inc, Plaintiff: Laura Johnson Evans, Mary Barnwell Ramsay, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Smith Moore Leatherwood, Charleston, SC.

         For Vantus Group, Vantus Technology Corporation, Vantus Manufacturing Corporation, Defendants: Lana Hancock Sims, IV, LEAD ATTORNEY, Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, Greenville, SC.

Page 996

         ORDER

         PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY, United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Vantus Group, Vantus Technology Corporation, and Vantus Manufacturing Corporation's (collectively " Defendants" ) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint or, in the Alternative, Transfer Venue (ECF No. 5) (" Motion" ). For the reasons set forth herein, the Court denies Defendants' Motion without prejudice and with leave to refile.

         BACKGROUND

         On December 11, 2014, Plaintiff filed this action in the Berkeley County Court of Common Pleas against Vantus Group, Vantus Technology Corporation (" VTC" ), and Vantus Manufacturing Corporation (" VMCS" ).[1] Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that on or about April 9, 2014, the Parties executed a Professional Services Agreement (" Agreement" ) regarding the provision of certain information technology consulting services. The Agreement was accompanied by a Statement of Work (" SOW" ) to be performed. The Complaint also alleges that " Plaintiff provided Defendant with semi-monthly invoices as required by the Agreement, which included hourly charges for the detailed work necessary to fulfill the Agreement and SOW, as well as hard costs incurred (such as travel and meeting-related expenses)." (Pl.'s Compl. 2, ¶ 8, ECF No. 1-1, at 4). According to Plaintiff, Defendants have failed to remit payment for a single invoice, despite Plaintiff's performance of its obligations under both the Agreement and the SOW. Plaintiff further contends that it attempted to discuss the negotiation and payment of the outstanding invoices but that this effort proved fruitless.

         Plaintiff thereafter filed suit in state court, asserting causes of action for breach of contract, violation of the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act, S.C. Code Ann. § 39-5-10-20(a) et seq., and unjust enrichment. Defendants subsequently removed the present action to this Court on January 21, 2015, maintaining that jurisdiction was proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. On January 28, 2015, Defendants filed the instant Motion seeking to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to section 15-5-150 of the South Carolina Code of Laws and Rules 12(b)(2), (5), and (6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In the alternative, Defendants move to transfer this action to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) (2006). Plaintiff filed a Response on February 17, 2015, and Defendants filed a Reply on February 26, 2015.

         DISCUSSION

         As a court of limited jurisdiction, Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 128 L.Ed.2d 391 (1994), this Court must remain mindful of the fact that " [t]he validity of an order of a federal court depends upon that court's having jurisdiction over both the subject matter and the parties," Ins. Corp. of Ir. v. Compagnie des Bauxites

Page 997

de Guinee, 456 U.S. 694, 701, 102 S.Ct. 2099, 72 L.Ed.2d 492 (1982) (citing Stoll v. Gottlieb, 305 U.S. 165, 171-72, 59 S.Ct. 134, 83 L.Ed. 104 (1938); Thompson v. Whitman, 85 U.S. (18 Wall.) 457, 465, 21 L.Ed. 897 (1873)). With this guiding principle in mind, the Court has carefully considered the present Motion and the arguments of counsel. However, after thoroughly reviewing the record in this case, the Court concludes that it lacks sufficient information at this juncture to confirm that either jurisdictional prerequisite has been satisfied. See United States v. Poole, 531 F.3d 263, 274 (4th Cir. 2008) (" A court is to presume . . . that a case lies outside its limited jurisdiction unless and until jurisdiction has been shown to be proper." ). Accordingly, for the reasons outlined below, the Court denies Defendants' Motion without prejudice and with leave to refile following the completion of limited discovery.

         Based on a review of Defendants' Motion, it appears that a critical issue before the Court is the propriety of exercising personal jurisdiction over Defendants. " [T]o validly assert personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant, two conditions must be satisfied." Christian Sci. Bd. of Dirs. of the First Church of Christ, Scientist v. Nolan, 259 F.3d 209, 215 (4th Cir. 2001). First, the exercise of jurisdiction must be authorized by the long-arm statute of the forum state, and second, the exercise of personal jurisdiction must not " overstep the bounds" of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. Anita's N.M. Style Mexican Food, Inc. v. Anita's Mexican Foods Corp., 201 F.3d 314, 317 (4th Cir. 2000). South Carolina's long-arm statute has been construed to be coextensive with, and reach the outer limits allowed by, the Due Process Clause. E.g.,ESAB Grp., Inc. v. Zurich Ins. PLC, 685 F.3d 376, 391 (4th Cir. 2012). Therefore, the dual jurisdictional requirements collapse into the due process analysis. See id. Accordingly, the scope of the inquiry is whether a defendant has " certain minimum contacts" with the forum, such that " maintenance of the suit does not offend 'traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'" Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945) (citations omitted). The analytical framework for determining whether minimum contacts exist differs according to which species of personal jurisdiction--general or specific--is alleged. See generallyESAB Grp., Inc. v. Centricut, Inc., 126 F.3d 617, 623-24 (4th Cir. 1997). Here, Plaintiff concedes that Defendants are not subject to general jurisdiction. ...


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