Bi-Lo Foods, Inc. v. Alpine Bank – Case Brief Summary (Montana)

In Bi-Lo Foods, Inc. v. Alpine Bank (1998), 287 Mont. 367, 955 P.2d154, the Montana Supreme Court set forth the following test for determining whether a Montana court can exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant:

First, we must determine if personal jurisdiction exists either by way of the defendant being "found" within the state, or by way of the long-arm statutes. Second we must determine whether exercising jurisdiction comports with the defendant's due process rights. If, after determining personal jurisdiction does not exist under the first step of the analysis, further analysis under the second step is unnecessary.

Bird v. Hiller (1995) 270 Mont. 467, 892 P.2d 931 (citing Edsall Const. Co., Inc. v. Robinson (1991), 246 Mont. 378, 804 P.2d 1039. Personaljurisdiction in Montana is controlled by Rule 4B, M.R.Civ.P., which provides in pertinent part:

(1) Subject to jurisdiction. All persons found within the state of Montana are subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of this state. Inaddition, any person is subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of this state as to any claim for relief arising from the doing personally, through an employee, or through an agent, of any of the following acts:

(a) the transaction of any business within this state;

(b) the commission of any act which results in accrual within this state of a tort action;

(c) the ownership, use or possession of any property, or of any interest therein, situated within this state;

(d)contracting to insure any person, property or risk located within this state at the time of contracting;

(e) entering into a contract for services to be rendered or for materials to be furnished in this state by such person; or

(f) acting as director, manager, trustee, or other officer of any corporation organized under the laws of, or having its principal place of business within this state, or as personal representative of any estate within this state.

Rule 4B(1),M.R.Civ.P. incorporates the principles of both general and specific jurisdiction. General jurisdiction is found within the first sentence of Rule 4B(1) and pertains to whether a party can be "found" within Montana. Bird, 270 Mont. at 471, 892P.2d at 933 citing Simmons Oil Corp. v. Holly Corp. (1990) 244 Mont. 75, 83, 796 P.2d 189.

A party is "found within" the state if he or she is physically present in the state or if his or her contacts with the state are so pervasive that he or she may be deemed to be physically present there. A nonresident defendant that maintains "substantial" or "continuous and systematic" contacts with the forum state is found within the state and may be subject to that state's jurisdiction even if the cause of action is unrelated to the defendant's activities within the forum.

Lurie v. 8182 Maryland Associates(1997), 282 Mont. 455, 458, 938 P.2d 676, 678 (quoting Simmons Oil, 244 Mont. at 83,796 P.2d at 194). The concept of specific long arm jurisdiction is addressed in the remainder of Rule 4B(1). Under this concept, specific long-arm jurisdiction may be established, even though a defendant maintains minimum contacts with the forum, as long as the plaintiff's cause of action arises from any of the activities enumerated in Rule 4B(1), and the exercise of jurisdiction does not offend due process. Bird, 270 Mont. at 471, 892 P.2d at 933 (citing Simmons Oil, 244 Mont. at 83-84, 796 P.2d at 194).

1. Whether personal jurisdiction exists over the Defendants based upon the general personal jurisdiction provisions of the first sentence of Rule 4B(1), M.R.Civ.P.