Rock stabilization company Janod Inc.'s lawsuit over its portrayal on a reality television show came crumbling down yesterday, with a ruling from a Washington federal judge dismissing the case for lack of jurisdiction.
Janod was featured on the National Geographic Channel show "Rock Stars," which chronicled its work trying to stop rock slides. In November, Janod sued National Geographic and the production company behind the show, Echo Entertainment, Inc., claiming they were denied the right to remove "negative" content from the show as agreed to in the contract.
The company settled with National Geographic a few weeks after filing the lawsuit, but pursued claims against Echo. In an opinion (PDF) yesterday, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan found that Janod failed to show that the case had enough ties to Washington to keep the case in a local court.
Janod claimed that Echo refused to make changes that Janod requested after watching advance copies of the show. Janod's complaints included that Echo used "overly dramatic narration" to create the impression that Janod was behind schedule and magnified "minor mishaps" to seem more critical than they actually were.
Janod, according to court filings, was incorporated in Vermont and is based in New York. Echo is based in California. Janod had argued that the case did have ties to Washington because Echo had a contract with National Geographic, which is based in Washington. Echo accused Janod of trying to "bootstrap jurisdiction."
Sullivan found that there wasn't jurisdiction because Janod's claims had to do with its contract with Echo, and not Echo's contract with National Geographic. The contract between Janod and Echo, Sullivan wrote, was "concluded between two non-residents of the District, anticipating no performance in the District, and having no substantial connection to the District."
Sullivan also denied a request by Echo – as an alternative to dismissal – to transfer the case to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Lead counsel for Janod could not immediately be reached this morning for comment. The company is being represented by Saul Ewing's Henry Platt and Jeffrey Patton and Richard Wallace of Spilman Thomas & Battle in North Carolina and West Virginia. A lead attorney for Echo, Patrick Kearney of Selzer Gurvitch Rabin Wertheimer Polott & Obecny in Bethesda, Md., said that "setting aside the merits…the case just didn't belong here."
"By suing Nat Geo and dismissing them, it didn't make it any more of a personal jurisdiction case," he said.