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Current Developments in the Commercial Divisions of the
New York State Courts
Posted: May 25, 2015

No Personal Jurisdiction Over Out-of-State Partner of Law Firm with New York Offices

On April 29, 2015, Justice Singh of the New York County Commercial Division issued a decision in Runberg, Inc. v. McDermott, Will & Emery LLP, 2015 NY Slip Op. 30739(U), dismissing claims against a out-of-state partner of a law firm with New York offices, explaining:

Under CPLR 301 a defendant is subject to jurisdiction in New York if the defendant is engaged in such a continuous and systematic course of doing business here as to warrant a finding of its presence in this jurisdiction. [The plaintiff] alleges that [the law firm] is indisputably subject to jurisdiction in New York due to [the law firm’s] permanent New York office with numerous attorneys and [the law firm’s] significant regular presence in New York. [The plaintiff] then alleges that because general jurisdiction is appropriate over [the law firm], general jurisdiction is appropriate over [the out-of-state partner] because he is a partner at [the law firm]. Defendants correctly argue that the fact that [the out-of-state partner] is a partner at [the law firm] is insufficient to establish jurisdiction under CPLR 301.

New York partnership law imposes liability on a partner of a foreign limited liability partnership only for acts in New York performed by that individual partner. Each partner, employee or agent of a foreign limited liability partnership who performs professional services in this state on behalf of such foreign limited liability partnership shall be personally and fully liable and accountable for any negligent or wrongful act or misconduct committed by him or her or by any person under his or her direct supervision and control while rendering such professional services in this state.

[The out-of-state partner] did not communicate with [the plaintiff] while [the plaintiff] was in New York. [The out-of-state partner] also did not solicit [the plaintiff’s] business in New York. Instead, [the out-of-state partner] provided legal services from Washington D.C. in connection with a patent application submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Virginia on behalf of a client whose principal place of business was located in Pennsylvania or New Jersey. [The out-of-state partner] did not perform any of the alleged negligent acts in New York, as would be required by New York partnership law in order to establish liability over [him].

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

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