Valerie Rountree et al v. Ching Feng Blinds et al
Order, Set Deadlines
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF ALASKA
VALERIE ROUNTREE, individually
and as Personal Representative of
the ESTATE OF APRIL LYNNE COX;
MORGAN SCHEDIWY, a minor
through her natural mother and
guardian VALERIE ROUNTREE; and
CHING FENG BLINDS INDUSTRY CO.,)
LTD., and WINDOW COVERING
MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION, )
ORDER FROM CHAMBERS
[Re: Order to Show Cause at Doc. 87]
I. MATTER PRESENTED
At docket 87, the court ordered plaintiffs to show cause why their claims against
defendant Ching Feng Blinds Industry Co., Ltd. (“Ching Feng”) should not be dismissed
for lack of personal jurisdiction over the defendant. At docket 91, plaintiffs filed a
response to the order. At docket 94, Ching Feng filed a reply to plaintiffs’ response. At
docket 97, plaintiffs filed a response to Ching Feng’s reply. Oral argument has not been
requested and would not assist the court.
The burden is on plaintiffs to demonstrate jurisdiction over Ching Feng exists.1
They argue both general and specific jurisdiction exists.
A. General Jurisdiction
General jurisdiction exists if Ching Feng maintains “continuous and systematic
general business contacts”2 that “‘approximate [its] physical presence’ in [Alaska].”3
This standard is “exacting” because a finding that general jurisdiction exists means
Ching Feng could be haled into court in this state to answer for any of its activities
around the world.4
Ching Feng’s contacts with Alaska fall well short of that standard. Plaintiffs
concede there is no evidence Ching Feng is registered to do business in Alaska, or has
any offices, employees, or agents in Alaska.5 They allege “a very significant number” of
Ching Feng’s blinds “made their way to Alaska” via the “stream of commerce,”6 but the
court finds that kind of contact is insufficient to approximate Ching Feng’s physical
presence in this state.7
B. Specific Jurisdiction
Specific jurisdiction exists if 1) Ching Feng purposefully directed its activities at
Alaska; 2) plaintiffs’ claims arise out of or relate to Ching Feng’s activities; and
Dole Food Co., Inc. v. Watts, 303 F.3d 1104, 1108 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Sher v.
Johnson, 911 F.2d 1357, 1361 (9th Cir. 1990)).
Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 416 (1984) (citing
Perkins v. Banguet Consol. Mining Co., 342 U.S. 437 (1952)).
Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 801 (9th Cir. 2004) (quoting
Bancroft & Masters, Inc. v. Augusta Nat’l, Inc., 223 F.3d 1082, 1086 (9th Cir. 2000)).
Id. (citing Brand v. Menlove Dodge, 796 F.2d 1070, 1073 (9th Cir. 1986)).
Doc. 97, p. 3 (responding to Ching Feng’s representations at doc. 94, p. 4).
Doc. 91, pp. 2-3.
See Dever v. Hentzen Coatings, Inc., 380 F.3d 1070, 1075 (8th Cir. 2004).
3) exercising jurisdiction over Ching Feng would be reasonable.8 Plaintiffs bear the
burden of establishing the first two prongs.9 If they meet their burden, Ching Feng must
“‘present a compelling case’ that the exercise of jurisdiction would not be reasonable.”10
Plaintiffs request limited discovery to help them establish the first prong and, for
two reasons, the court agrees that is the proper course. First, plaintiffs cannot satisfy
the first prong on the existing record because it does not contain the necessary
information: whether the blinds in question were manufactured by Ching Feng and, if
they were, to what extent Ching Feng was aware they would be sold in Alaska. The
absence of this information is not plaintiffs’ fault because they tried to obtain it from
Ching Feng but were rebuffed.11
The second reason is that it would not be futile to conduct discovery on the first
prong because Ching Feng has not met its burden under the third prong to show that
exercising jurisdiction would be unreasonable. The court must balance seven factors
when deciding whether exercising jurisdiction over Ching Feng would be reasonable:
(1) the extent of [Ching Feng’s] purposeful interjection into [Alaska];
(2) the burden on [Ching Feng] of defending in [Alaska]; (3) the
extent of conflict with the sovereignty of [Ching Feng’s] state,
[Taiwan]; (4) [Alaska’s] interest in adjudicating the dispute; (5) the
most efficient judicial resolution of the controversy; (6) the
importance of [the Alaskan forum] to [plaintiffs’] interest in
convenient and effective relief; and (7) the existence of an
Schwarzenegger, 374 F.3d at 802 (quoting Lake v. Lake, 817 F.2d 1416, 1421 (9th Cir.
Id. (citing Sher, 911 F.2d at 1361).
Id. (quoting Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 476-78 (1985)).
See Doc. 61 (Ching Feng’s motion for a protective order).
Harris Rutsky & Co. Ins. Servs., Inc. v. Bell & Clements, Ltd., 328 F.3d 1122, 1132 (9th
Cir. 2003) (citing Roth v. Garcia Marquez, 942 F.2d 617, 623 (9th Cir. 1991) and quoting CoreVent Corp. v. Nobel Indus. AB, 11 F.3d 1482, 1487-88 (9th Cir. 1993)).
If Ching Feng purposefully interjected itself into Alaska at all, its interjection was
limited to the sale of its blinds in this state by independent retailers. That is a relatively
insignificant interjection and so the first factor favors Ching Feng.
The second factor favors Ching Feng because defending itself in Alaska would
require it to travel from its home in Taiwan and overcome a language barrier.
The third factor’s significance depends on the presence or absence of Ching
Feng’s contacts with the United States.13 If Ching Feng has contacts with this country,
sovereignty concerns would favor it to a lesser degree, but if it does not, those concerns
would favor it to a greater degree.14 Ching Feng points out that “plaintiffs have not
contended that [it] has any ... agents [in the United States].”15 However, the
responsibility for showing Ching Feng has no agents in this country lies with Ching Feng
as part of its burden to demonstrate that exercising jurisdiction would be unreasonable.
It would have been easy enough for Ching Feng to make that showing, and its failure to
do so means this factor favors Ching Feng less than it otherwise would.
Alaska’s interest in this case is strong because, as far as the record shows, it
was the locus of the sale of the product and the harm at issue in this case and plaintiffs’
residence when the harm occurred. It is true, as Ching Feng points out, that plaintiffs
moved Outside in December of 2005.16 But that does little, if anything, to diminish
Alaska’s interest in adjudicating this dispute. Alaska does not forget its residents the
moment they leave the state, especially when they were harmed here. Moreover,
Core-Vent, 11 F.3d at 1489.
Id. (citing Sinatra v. Nat’l Enquirer, Inc., 854 F.2d 1191, 1200 (9th Cir. 1988)).
Doc. 94, p. 15 (emphasis added).
Id., ex. B, p. 6.
Alaska has a continuing interest in the safety of products sold here, and that is an issue
this case presents.
The fifth factor accounts for the location of witnesses and evidence, but it is “‘no
longer weighed heavily given the modern advances in communication and
transportation.’”17 Witnesses likely are located in Alaska, site of the underlying events;
Virginia, plaintiffs’ current residence; and Taiwan, Ching Feng’s home. Evidence likely
is located in Alaska and Taiwan. Given the far-flung locations of witnesses and
evidence, none of the most obvious potential forums – Alaska, Virginia, Taiwan – would
be especially efficient. Thus, this factor favors neither Ching Feng nor plaintiffs.
Courts do not lend the sixth factor “paramount importance” because the benefit
of a plaintiff’s chosen forum to the plaintiff is usually obvious.18 Still, this factor retains
significant, if not paramount, importance here because proceeding against Ching Feng
in another forum likely would severely compromise plaintiffs’ interest in convenient and
effective relief. One problem common to any other forum would be the fact that Ching
Feng’s co-defendant, the Window Covering Manufacturers Association, remains a party
to the lawsuit in this forum. Another problem is the substantial logistical hurdles
presented by proceeding in Taiwan, the most logical alternative forum in which to sue
Ching Feng. Both problems are antithetical to plaintiffs’ interest in convenient and
effective relief. This factor therefore favors plaintiffs.
Although Ching Feng bears the burden of showing the other factors favor it,
plaintiffs must establish the seventh one favors them.19 They have not even attempted
Harris Rutsky & Co., 328 F.3d at 1133 (citing Caruth v. Int’l Psychoanalytical Ass’n, 59
F.3d 126, 129 (9th Cir. 1995) and quoting Panavision Int’l v. Toeppen, 141 F.3d 1316, 1323 (9th
Id. (quoting Roth, 942 F.2d at 624).
Id. at 1133-34 (citing Core-Vent, 11 F.3d at 1490).
to “prov[e] the unavailability of an alternative forum,”20 and so this factor favors Ching
All told, four factors (the first, second, third, and seventh) favor Ching Feng; two
(the fourth and sixth) favor plaintiffs; and one (the fifth) favors neither Ching Feng nor
plaintiffs. That is hardly a rout for Ching Feng. And even though it could have tipped
the third factor strongly in its favor by demonstrating an absence of its contacts with the
United States, it did not make that relatively simple showing. That failure of proof and
the overall close balance of factors do not amount to a “compelling” case that exercising
jurisdiction over Ching Feng would be unreasonable.
Because the record must be supplemented and additional discovery would not
be futile, plaintiffs may seek production of the information discussed above. Discovery
shall be conducted so as to be completed not later than September 1, 2006. Upon
completion of discovery, plaintiffs shall file a renewed response to the order to show
cause at docket 87 and Ching Feng may file a renewed reply within ten (10) days of
plaintiffs’ filing. The court trusts that the parties will resolve their earlier discovery
disagreements, but they may seek judicial intervention if that becomes necessary.
DATED at Anchorage, Alaska, this 30th day of June 2006.
JOHN W. SEDWICK
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
Id. at 1134.
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