District Judge Shira Scheindlin
Pennsylvanian Cates is president of Maryland’s Tran Source Logistics. Under their 2009 agreement, Tran provided transportation services to MEE. In 2011, MEE learned that Tran did not pay $368,000 to Federal Express, Argix and UPS. Its lawsuit asserting contract breach and related claims also sought to pierce Tran’s corporate veil on grounds Cates was its alter ego, and his New York contacts were attributable to him regardless of whether he appeared as Tran’s representative. The court lacked jurisdiction over Cates. No party was a New York citizen, and the “center of gravity” of their agreement—lacking a New York forum selection or choice of law clause and not contemplating performance in New York—was not New York. Given the contract’s “center of gravity” was not New York, contacts Cates may have had in New York did not constitute “purposeful availment” needed for long-arm jurisdiction. Also, because New York was not the site of any injury, jurisdiction over Cates was improper. In transferring venue the court noted that the District of Maryland already holds jurisdiction over Tran and Cates with respect to a nearly identical case involving another Tran client.