A builder has hired an electrician to
wire an office building that is under construction. Their contract requires the
builder to pay the electrician $45,000 within 30 days of the work’s completion.
The electrician is a citizen of State A, the builder is a citizen of State B,
and the construction work takes place in State C.
The office building features a meeting
room with a state-of-the-art teleconferencing system, including a giant video
screen and other specialized equipment. The builder has hired an audiovisual engineer
to supervise the system’s installation. The engineer is a citizen of State C. The
electrician’s contract with the builder requires the electrician to assist the
engineer with wiring and installing the system.
The electrician completes his work,
including his role in installing the teleconferencing system. Three days later,
there is a fire in the office building, which causes $1,000,000 in damage. The
fire department determines that the fire began in the teleconferencing system,
most likely due to an electrical fault. Upon learning this, the builder
notifies the electrician that he will not pay the electrician, citing a
contract provision excusing payment in case of defective workmanship.
A week later, the builder attends a
trade convention in State B, where he has several conversations with other
builders about the fire. During these conversations, he says that the
electrician and the engineer are “incompetent” and “dangerous,” and he warns
the other builders not to hire them. The electrician and the engineer later
learn of these remarks from others who attended the convention.
The electrician sues the builder in the
U.S. District Court for the District of State B. The complaint alleges breach
of contract based on the builder’s refusal to pay the electrician, and it seeks
$45,000 in damages. The complaint also seeks $50,000 in damages for defamation,
based on the builder’s remarks at the convention. Assume that venue is proper
in the District of State B.
The builder counterclaims against the
electrician for $1,000,000, alleging that the electrician’s negligence caused
the fire. The builder then files a motion to transfer the case to the United
States District Court for the District of State C, arguing that venue there is
superior to venue in the District of State B. The long-arm statute of State C
confers jurisdiction to the extent permitted by the Due Process Clause of the U.S.
Constitution. The electrician opposes the builder’s motion.
While the motion to
transfer is pending, the engineer seeks to join the suit in order to assert a defamation
claim against the builder, also based on the builder’s remarks at the
convention. The engineer seeks damages of $85,000.
- Can the electrician properly combine the contract claim and the defamation claim in a single lawsuit? Explain, addressing both joinder and subject-matter jurisdiction.
- Should the court grant the builder’s motion to transfer the case? Explain.
- Can the engineer join the electrician’s lawsuit against the builder? Explain, disregarding any issues of venue or transfer.