MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Legal Newsline) – A talent agency was exonerated recently by the Supreme Court of Alabama regarding incidents allegedly leading to a teenager’s injuries on the grounds that the multi-national company did not fall under the state’s jurisdiction.
International Creative Management Partners LLC, doing business as ICM Partners, was originally named as one of several defendants in a personal injury case involving Jordan Taylor Pardue, a teenage boy who sustained severe physical injuries while attending an entertainment event at Soul Kitchen Music Hall in Mobile. The case was filed on Jordan’s behalf by his mother, Terrie Pardue.
ICM Partners petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus asking that Mobile Circuit Court be made to vacate an order denying the company’s motion to dismiss the case against it.
The agency, which represents creative and technical talent in the entertainment and media sector, is incorporated in the state of Delaware and operates primarily in California and New York. ICM emphasized in its petition the fact that the company has no legal attachments to or affiliation with any particular site or address in Alabama.
At the circuit court level in Mobile, the case originally gained traction when the boy’s mother filed a suit implicating ICM as responsible for Jordan Pardue’s injuries.
After arguments for the writ were heard, the justices elected to grant the defendant’s petition on Feb. 2. They issued a writ of mandamus forcing the circuit court to vacate its previous ruling on the basis that the circuit court lacked personal jurisdiction over the case.
Why exactly did the Circuit Court initially conclude that it did indeed have jurisdiction over ICM? Court records indicate that the ruling may have been rooted in the fact that four of ICM’s clients had also performed in the state of Alabama.
On that basis, the circuit court denied ICM’s motion to dismiss, asserting that the court itself held both general and specific jurisdiction over the agency.
In the opinion, however, a majority of state Supreme Court justices concurred that nothing proved ICM's contacts with Alabama to be “continuous and systematic” enough to warrant the company’s being designated as based in the state. Significantly, even the Pardue family members themselves acknowledged that, according to court records.
“ICM's rare provision of booking services to its clients who perform in Alabama is not sufficient” to assert general jurisdiction, the ruling says.
According to the court, the business arrangement between the parties had nothing to do with the boy’s injuries. ICM received a commission for booking entertainment, but it did not, the court noted, actively condone violence as the original complaint may have implied.
Even more telling was the fact that ICM’s involvement appeared peripheral at best. Its New York City-based talent agent Nick Storch — who represented a “death-metal” band named Cannibal Corpse performing on the night of young Jordan’s injuries on June 27, 2014 — averred that no ICM employee ever set foot in Alabama.
The plaintiffs had asserted that “the crowd became violent and Jordan ... was thrown to the ground, suffering a spinal cord injury," according to the opinion. ICM received a small commission for booking the band in the amount of $250, but that was where its involvement ended, company representatives stated in their petition.
“Other than arranging the booking, ICM had no involvement with the details of Cannibal Corpse's performance at Soul Kitchen Music Hall,” the court ruled. Elucidating further, it noted that ICM had no link to Alabama prior to the Red Mountain Entertainment gig, which was a one-time appearance.
“Rather … ICM simply facilitated the performance agreement,” they concluded.
Secondly, the Supreme Court averred, the Pardue family’s claims of the defendant’s liability were unfounded. ICM, the court countered, had no control over the entertainment venue of Soul Kitchen Music Hall; at best, it opined, ICM’s link to the litigation was “very minor.”
“The Pardues' claims allege negligence, wantonness, and inciting imminent violence,” the decision says. “The Pardues' claims arise out of injuries Jordan incurred at Soul Kitchen Music Hall during the Cannibal Corpse concert.”
The Pardues argued that ICM should have known about the possibility of their son being injured before the fact. But “even assuming reasonable foreseeability,” the family failed to establish a reasonable connection between the businesses or the performance venue to the injured parties, the court ruled.
Finally, the court found that the notion of state jurisdiction over ICM was unfounded; that it “does not comport with fair play and substantial justice.”
Therefore, the court stated, ICM adequately proved a legal right to its requested writ of mandamus. The court issued the writ and granted the petition, thereby directing the Mobile Circuit Court to vacate its previous order denying ICM’s motion for dismissal and to enter a new order dismissing ICM.