Defendant’s Membership in New Jersey-Based Cooperative Does Not Confer General Jurisdiction

Mische v. Bracey’s Supermarket, 420 N.J. Super. 487 (App. Div. 2011).  The requirements for personal jurisdiction over a defendant are fairly well-settled, but sometimes challenging to apply.  Judge Skillman’s opinion in this case addresses whether a defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction in New Jersey in a slip and fall case, where the incident occurred in defendant’s Pennsylvania store, and where the sole contact that the defendant had with New Jersey was defendant’s membership in a New Jersey-based buying cooperative.

The panel concluded that there was no specific jurisdiction because plaintiff’s claim bore no relationship to defendant’s New Jersey contact, and no general jurisdiction because mere membership in a cooperative based in New Jersey was not sufficient to open the door to New Jersey courts for any suit on any basis.  Judge Skillman found that this case was governed by precedents holding that making purchases within a state does not confer general jurisdiction.

The Appellate Division “assume[d] that if a dispute arose concerning the cooperative licensing agreement …, the New Jersey courts could exercise jurisdiction over such a dispute because it would arise directly out of defendant’s contacts with [New Jersey].”  But the slip and fall in defendant’s Pennsylvania store “was totally unrelated to the happenstance that defendant purchases products and services from a New Jersey-based cooperative in which it is a member rather than New Jersey vendors in which it has no interest.”