A Texas law firm sued an Ohio firm, alleging the breach of an agreement about a substantial fee. The Fifth Circuit affirmed dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction, crisply summarizing key Circuit precedent for commercial tort and contract claims. (To the right is 600Camp’s standard personal-jurisdiction graphic, the classic comic book hero Plastic Man).
- Tort: “Walden and Sangha largely resolve this issue. Danziger alleges in support of its fraud and unjust enrichment claims (1) that Morgan Verkamp failed to disclose its representation of Epp when responding to an unsolicited email from Danziger about the Epp case and (2) that Morgan Verkamp continued not to disclose its representation of Epp while the two firms worked together on other cases. Danziger alleges in support of its tortious interference with prospective contractual relations claim that Morgan Verkamp emailed Epp (who is not alleged to have been in Texas) to convince him not to formalize his relationship with Danziger. Thus, although Morgan Verkamp’s allegedly tortious conduct may have affected Danziger in Texas, none of this conduct occurred in Texas.”
- Contract: “Danziger alleges in support of its breach of contract claim that: (1) Epp reached out to Danziger about a potential qui tam matter; (2) Danziger arranged two conference calls between itself, Morgan Verkamp, and Epp; (3) Danziger and Morgan Verkamp agreed telephonically to split any fees they received from their work on the Epp matter; (4) the parties exchanged several emails with each other and Epp regarding their potential representation of Epp; and (5) Morgan Verkamp ultimately represented Epp in a Pennsylvania lawsuit but refused to split the fees that it received from the case. Thus, unlike Electrosource, this case does not nvolve ‘wide reaching contacts and contemplated future consequences within the forum state.’ And unlike Central Freight, ‘[t]he plaintiff’s Texas location’ was not
‘strategically advantageous to the defendant …, suggesting that the defendant had purposefully availed itself of doing business in Texas.’ Rather, as in Trois, ‘[t]he only alleged Texas contacts related to contract formation or breach are [the defendant’s] conference calls negotiating the agreement while [the plaintiff] was in Texas.’ … And like Holt Oil, the defendant’s ‘communications to Texas rested on nothing but “he mere fortuity that [the plaintiff] happens to be a resident of the forum.”‘ As we held in Moncrief Oil, ‘mere fortuity that one company
happens to be a Texas resident … is not enough to confer jurisdiction.’”
Danziger & De Llano, LLP v. Morgan Verkamp, LLC, No. 21-20186 (Jan. 27, 2022) (citations omitted, emphasis in original).
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