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Posted: February 3, 2017

No Personal Jurisdiction Found Over Defendant Based on Actions of His Agents

On January 26, 2017, the First Department issued a decision in Coast to Coast Energy, Inc. v. Gasarch, 2017 NY Slip Op. 00532, finding that a plaintiff failed to show that there was personal jurisdiction over a defendant based on the actions of the defendant’s agents, explaining:

Pursuant to CPLR 302(a)(1) a New York court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nondomiciliary if the nondomiciliary has purposefully transacted business within the state and there is a substantial relationship between the transaction and the claim asserted. . . .

To establish that a defendant acted through an agent, a plaintiff must convince the court that the New York actors engaged in purposeful activities in this State in relation to the transaction for the benefit of and with the knowledge and consent of the defendant and that the defendant exercised some control over the New York actors. To make a prima facie showing of control, a plaintiff’s allegations must sufficiently detail the defendant’s conduct so as to persuade a court that the defendant was a primary actor in the specific matter in question; control cannot be shown based merely upon a defendant’s title or position within the corporation, or upon conclusory allegations that the defendant controls the corporation.

The dissent contends that the third amended complaint satisfies these principles by virtue of plaintiff’s allegations that Wampler was in daily communication with PSNY concerning the subject oil exploration partnerships and drilling operations, that Wampler instructed Gasarch concerning distributions and routinely directed him to transfer funds, and that Gasarch acted for the benefit of and with the knowledge and consent of Wampler, who exercised some control. However, Wampler’s status as a principal of PSNY does not in and of itself confer jurisdiction. Plaintiffs failed to allege facts demonstrating that Wampler controlled Gasarch and PSNY’s activities sufficient to support New York jurisdiction, and plaintiff’s vague, conclusory and unsubstantiated allegations do not suffice to establish long arm jurisdiction.

The allegations that Gasarch only accessed PSNY’s New York bank accounts at Wampler’s direction were previously asserted upon information and belief in the second amended complaint, and plaintiffs offered no new facts or explanation for the change in the third amended complaint. Although plaintiffs added an allegation that according to bank records, Wampler would routinely direct Gasarch to withdraw investor funds from PSNY, they provided no details regarding any such bank records or how they might reflect Wampler’s involvement, and did not attach the bank records as an exhibit to their complaint.

The allegation that Wampler was in daily communication with PSNY concerning the oil exploration partnerships and drilling operations is conclusory, and plaintiff failed to proffer any specific facts to demonstrate how or when Wampler participated in preparing the Private Placement Memoranda for the investments. Similarly, the allegation that Gasarch acted for benefit of and with knowledge and consent of Wampler, who exercised some control contains no detail as to what statements were made, when they were made, what contract they were made in regards to, and whether or not the alleged misrepresentations were relied upon in such a way that would imply liability.

(Internal quotations and citations omitted) (emphasis added).

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