Boston Partners Kenneth B. Walton and Patricia B. Gary recently obtained a favorable decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Cappello v. Restaurant Depot, LLC. Anthony Cappello, a New Hampshire resident, consumed a take-out salad from a counter-serve deli in New Jersey. Within days of returning to New Hampshire he was diagnosed with a life-threatening E. coli infection that required surgery, including removal of his colon.

Cappello sued our client — the wholesale food service company that sold the romaine lettuce to the deli — as well as the deli, the romaine lettuce distributor, and the grower of the lettuce. He later voluntarily dismissed his claims against all defendants except two, including our client. Both remaining defendants moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and the New Hampshire federal district court granted the motions. Cappello appealed to the First Circuit, arguing that he had established the minimum contacts required by the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution for specific jurisdiction in New Hampshire.

The First Circuit ruled that the plaintiff’s symptoms and treatment caused injury in New Hampshire, but concluded that the plaintiff failed to satisfy the “relatedness” element of due process. The First Circuit agreed with our analysis that, since our client distributes restaurant supplies and produce to members-only businesses, does not operate any warehouses in New Hampshire, and advertises to members only in New Hampshire, the plaintiff’s salad-derived E. coli infection from retail consumption of a salad outside of the forum state did not arise out of or relate to our client’s contacts with New Hampshire. The First Circuit concluded that “the denial of personal jurisdiction in New Hampshire best serves the interests of ‘interstate federalism,'” and affirmed dismissal of the case.