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Neal v. Cigniti Technologies, Inc.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division

August 9, 2018

Mindy N. Neal, Plaintiff,
v.
Cigniti Technologies, Inc., Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          PAIGE J. GOSSETT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         The plaintiff, Mindy N. Neal, filed this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. against the defendant, her former employer. Her Complaint asserts causes of action under Title VII based on discrimination due to race, national origin, and gender; retaliation; and hostile work environment. This matter is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.) for a Report and Recommendation on the defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction or improper venue or, in the alternative, to transfer. (ECF No. 8.) Neal filed a response in opposition (ECF No. 11), and the defendant replied (ECF No. 12). Having reviewed the parties' submissions and the applicable law, the court finds that the defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction should be granted.

         ISSUE PRESENTED

         The defendant's motion raises the question whether, in a Title VII case, a court has specific personal jurisdiction over a defendant who has no connection to the forum state other than remotely employing a person who happens to reside there and communicating with her by email and telephone. On this record, the court concludes that it does not.

         DISCUSSION

         The plaintiff has the burden of proof when a defendant challenges personal jurisdiction. See In re Celotex Corp., 124 F.3d 619, 628 (4th Cir. 1997). When the court addresses the issue on the pleadings without a hearing, “the burden on the plaintiff is simply to make a prima facie showing of a jurisdictional basis in order to survive the jurisdictional challenge.” Combs v. Bakker, 886 F.2d 673, 675 (4th Cir. 1989). In deciding such a motion, “the court must construe all relevant pleading allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, assume credibility, and draw the most favorable inferences for the existence of jurisdiction.” Id. at 676.[1]

         Two conditions must be satisfied to validly assert personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant. Christian Sci. Bd. of Dirs. of the First Church of Christ 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 Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Anita's New Mexico Style Mexican Food, Inc. v. Anita's Mexican Foods Corp., 201 F.3d 314, 317 (4th Cir. 2000). South Carolina's long-arm statute provides:

(A) A court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a person who acts directly or by an agent as to a cause of action arising from the person's:
(1) transacting any business in this State;
(2) contracting to supply services or things in the State;
(3) commission of a tortious act in whole or in part in this State;
(4) causing tortious injury or death in this State by an act or omission outside this state if he regularly does or solicits business, or engages in any other persistent course of conduct, or derives substantial revenue from goods used or consumed or services rendered in this State;
(5) having an interest in, using, or possessing real property in this State;
(6) contracting to insure any person, property, or risk located within this State at the ...

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