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Smith Duggan Prevails in Important Case Involving In Personam Jurisdiction

U.S. District Court Judge Barbara J. Rothstein of the Western District of Washington recently issued an excellent decision on in personam jurisdiction, which may well serve as a nationwide precedent. Smith Duggan partner Rodney E. Gould represented the prevailing party, Orbridge, a tour operator, in overcoming defendants’ motion to dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction over the defendants.

The defendants failed to convince Judge Rothstein to dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction. Defendants claimed they were only minimally in the state of Washington, had no meaningful contacts in that state, and suggested that Orbridge bring suit in East Africa. Federal Judge Rothstein denied the motion. The decision is well written, finding specific personal jurisdiction existed in Washington predicated in major part upon one visit by Safari Legacy’s owner in which he asked for and received an advance for future trips of $25,000.  

The case also presents facts affecting the travel industry that are germane to the pandemic. Orbridge, with headquarters in the state of Washington, brought suit against Safari Legacy (an African ground handler) and its owner, Pratik Patel, for damages predicated upon Safari Legacy’s failure to refund deposits for trips canceled due to COVID-19. Orbridge also sought to prevent the defendants from breaching a contract with Orbridge which precluded Safari Legacy from attempting to solicit clients for whom Safari Legacy handled the ground arrangements on behalf of Orbridge.  

Orbridge can now proceed with its lawsuit against the defendants. Plaintiff prepaid Defendants some $193,000 for the canceled tours and, as such, is entitled to recover that amount per the terms of the Agreement.

In addition, Orbridge claims defendants improperly solicited some of its clients through the use of confidential client contact information that was obtained from Orbridge. These issues are still being litigated.

A copy of Judge Rothstein’s opinion is available here.