Poultrygeist Distribution Suit Plucked Out of N.Y.
MANHATTAN (CN) - A producer ousted from the German distribution of its spoof-horror flick "Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead" cannot sue in New York, the 2nd Circuit ruled.
Troma Entertainment, whose other spoof titles include "Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV," claimed that it had alleged an in-state injury because the unlicensed foreign distribution of its films lost it money in New York where it is based.
The allegations stem from Troma's efforts in 2009 to license the distribution rights to "Poultrygeist" and "Citizen Toxie" to a German distributer.
Troma tapped Lance Robbins to head the negotiations but it found out later that Robbins was allegedly conspiring with another individual, King Brett Lauter, to distribute the film themselves.
The pair allegedly bought German-language DVD copies of Troma's films from Amazon and delivered those DVDs to Intravest Beteiligungs GMBH, telling that outfit they owned the rights. Troma said Robbins and Lauter then pocketed the proceeds of the Intravest agreement.
In a 2011 federal complaint, Troma said it discovered it had been cheated when it learned that Intravest had been broadcasting "Poultrygeist" and "Citizen Toxie" in Germany on Silverline AG's Movie Channels.
Robbins and Lauter moved pro se to dismiss, and a federal judge in Brooklyn agreed, finding that New York State's long-arm statute did not permit it to exercise personal jurisdiction over the defendants in the Eastern District of New York.
With no allegation that Robbins and Lauter injured Troma in New York, and with Troma unwilling to transfer its claims to the more hospitable Central District of California, the court dismissed Troma's complaint for lack of jurisdiction and improper venue.
The 2nd Circuit affirmed Friday, noting that "the only issue before us is whether the district court erred in determining that it lacked personal jurisdiction over Robbins and Lauter under New York State's long-arm statute."
"Nowhere in Troma's complaint can one find an allegation suggesting that Robbins and Lauter's tortious conduct harmed Troma in a way that cannot be 'circumscribed' to a particular locality," Judge Robert Sack wrote for a three-judge panel.
Jurisdictional analysis faces a "gravitational influence" from the place where a plaintiff's business "is lost or threatened," according to the ruling.
"Whether that place is California - where Robbins and Lauter allegedly hatched their scheme - or Germany - where they put it into effect - we need not say," Sacck wrote. "It is not New York."
Sack added that Troma failed to establish a nonspeculative "and direct New York-based injury that goes beyond economic losses suffered in the state, as required by the provision of New York State's long-arm statute."
After describing Troma's claims, Sack noted: "none of these actions is alleged to have taken place in New York," Sack wrote simply.