United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division
JUSTIN K. PRINCE, Plaintiff,
JESSIE LEE WARD, et. al, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Benson United States District Judge
the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of
personal jurisdiction or in the alternative, to transfer
venue. [Dkt. 10]. The motion has been fully briefed and a
hearing was held on January 23, 2018. At the hearing,
Plaintiff was represented by Mark James and Mitchell
Stephens. Defendant was represented by Jared Anderson. Based
on the parties' written and oral arguments and on the
relevant facts and the law, the Court enters the following
Justin Prince is a resident of Utah who works as a
distributor for Modere, a mulit-level marketing company
headquartered in Springville, Utah. He operates his business
from Utah and many of his downline distributors are also
located in the state. Defendant is a resident of Maryland and
a former distributor for Modere. She has traveled to Utah
occasionally as part of her relationship with Modere.
filed this action alleging Defendant defamed him by posting
false accusations about him in an online social media chat
room. Specifically, the Amended Complaint asserts that
Defendant accused Plaintiff of, among other things,
inappropriate sexual conduct with women not his wife and
being addicted to opiods. [Dkt. 4]. Plaintiff further alleges
that Defendant directed a private investigator, acting as her
agent, to send an email to Modere executives containing
accusations that Plaintiff engaged in intimate acts with a
named Modere business associate alleged to have a
sexually-transmitted disease. Id. Plaintiff contends
that Defendant claimed to have tapped Modere's telephone
system and attempted to entice the company to pay $40, 000 in
cash in exchange for additional information about Plaintiff.
Plaintiff maintains all of Defendant's allegations are
false and that Defendant's motivation was to
“ruin” his reputation; cause him to be terminated
by Modere; and destroy his business and family. Id.
The Amended Complaint alleges that Plaintiff told others she
wants Defendant “destroyed, ” and that she would
“love nothing more than to see him lose his house, his
wife, and even his life.” Id.
claims he has suffered permanent damage to his reputation and
business and he asserts four causes of action in the Amended
Complaint: (1) defamation/slander/libel; (2) intentional
infliction of emotional distress; (3) tortious interference
with business relations; and (4) conspiracy. Defendant moves
to dismiss this action based on lack of personal
jurisdiction. In the alternative, she seeks a change of venue
to the District of Maryland.
obtain personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant in
a diversity action, a plaintiff must show that: (1)
jurisdiction is legitimate under the laws of the forum state;
and (2) the exercise of jurisdiction does not offend the Due
Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Soma Medical
Int'l v. Standard Chartered Bank, 196 F.3d 1292,
1295 (10th Cir. 1999).
Jurisdiction Under State Law
law expressly states that its long arm statute must be
interpreted broadly “so as to assert jurisdiction over
nonresident defendants to the fullest extent permitted by the
Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United
States Constitution.” Utah Code § 78B-3-201;
see also Starways, Inc. v. Curry, 980 F.2d 204, 206
(Utah 1999) (“We have held that the Utah long-arm
statute ‘must be extended to the fullest extent allowed
by due process of law.”) (quoting Synergetics v.
Marathon Ranching Co., 701 F.2d 1106, 1110 (Utah 1985)).
Because the Utah long-arm statute confers the maximum
jurisdiction permissible consistent with the Due Process
Clause, the Court proceeds to determine whether the exercise
of personal jurisdiction over Defendant meets federal due
Due Process Analysis
Due Process Clause protects an individual's liberty
interest in not being subject to the binding judgments of a
forum with which he has established no meaningful
‘contacts, ties, or relations.'” Burger
King, 471 U.S. at 471-72 (quoting International Shoe
Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 319 (1945)).
Accordingly, a “court may exercise personal
jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant only so long as
there exist ‘minimum contacts' between the
defendant and the forum state.” World Wide
Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 291 (1980)
(quoting International Shoe, 326 U.S. at 316).
Minimum contacts sufficient to assert specific personal
jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant exist where
“the defendant has ‘purposefully directed'
his activities at residents of the forum, and the litigation
results from alleged injuries that arise out of or are
related to those activities.” Burger King, 471
U.S. at 472.
defendant may be found to have “purposefully
directed” his activities in the forum state where a
plaintiff has alleged “(a) an intentional action . . .
that was (b) expressly aimed at the forum state . . . with
(c) knowledge that the brunt of the injury would be felt in
the forum state.” Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S.
783 (1984); Dudnikov v. Chalk & Vermilion Fine Arts,
Inc., 514 F.3d 1063 (2008). The Tenth Circuit Court of
Appeals explained that “actions that are performed for
the very purpose of having their consequences felt ...