Moseley et al v. Suzuki Motor Corporation et al
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER. The Court hereby ORDERS: The claims asserted against SMAI are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. The Motion to Dismiss 9 is GRANTED. The above-entitled action DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. The Court will issue a separate judgme nt in accordance with Fed. R. Civ. P. 58. The Clerk of the Court is directed to close this case. Signed by Judge David C. Nye. (caused to be mailed to non Registered Participants at the addresses listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF) by (st)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF IDAHO
JON L. MOSELEY, personal
representative of the Estate of Jon
Moseley, deceased, JON L. MOSELEY,
TONDALAYA MOSELEY, and MINOR
Case No. 1:17-cv-00230-DCN
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND
SUZUKI MOTOR OF AMERICA, INC.
and SUZUKI MOTOR
This matter comes before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants
Suzuki Motor of America, Inc. (“SMAI”) and Suzuki Motor Corporation (“SMC”). Dkt.
9. After the Motion was fully briefed, the Court held oral arguments and took the Motion
under advisement. After fully considering the arguments presented by the parties, for the
reasons outlined below, the Court finds good cause to GRANT the Motion and dismiss
This wrongful death case centers on a crash involving a 2008 Suzuki GSX-R750.
Defendant SMC (a Japanese corporation) designed and manufactured the motorcycle in
Japan. American Suzuki Motor Corporation (“ASMC”)—a now defunct corporation—
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER – PAGE 1
distributed the motorcycle to an independent dealer in Utah on May 28, 2008. Emily
Phelps purchased the motorcycle from this independent dealer in Utah on June 9, 2008.
The chain of ownership is not clear, but at some point Aleah Montalvan became the
owner of the motorcycle.
Montalvan permitted Decedent, Jon Moseley, to drive the motorcycle on or about
May 31, 2015, in Twin Falls, Idaho. While Decedent was riding the motorcycle in the
parking lot of a Target store in Twin Falls the front brakes failed. Decedent attempted to
stop the motorcycle, but was unsuccessful. The motorcycle then hit a curb near the front
of the store. The impact propelled the Decedent into the side of the Target building. An
ambulance transferred the Decedent to the St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in
Boise, Idaho, where the Decedent subsequently died. The cause of death was blunt force
trauma due to the motorcycle accident.
Prior to the crash, on or about November 18, 2013, Defendants had issued an
“Important Safety Recall” involving the break system used in the motorcycle at issue in
this case. Plaintiffs maintain that neither Decedent nor “any prior owners” of the
motorcycle were notified of the recall.
Plaintiffs are relatives of Decedent. They brought suit against Defendants on May
26, 2017. They assert three causes of action: (1) negligence, (2) wrongful death and loss
of familial relationship, and (3) strict products liability. Plaintiffs seek both compensatory
and punitive damages.
On November 14, 2017, Defendants filed the instant Motion to Dismiss. In their
response brief, Plaintiffs agreed to voluntarily dismiss SMAI from this suit. After the
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER – PAGE 2
dismissal of SMAI, only two arguments for dismissal remain in this case. The only
remaining Defendant, SMC, argues the Court should dismiss this case because (1) the
service of process was insufficient and (2) it is not subject to the Court’s personal
jurisdiction. The Court first addresses the issues of personal jurisdiction, as that issue is
dispositive in this case.
III. LEGAL STANDARD
“Federal courts apply state law to determine the bounds of their jurisdiction over a
party.” Williams v. Yamaha Motor Co., 851 F.3d 1015, 1020 (9th Cir. 2017) (citing Fed.
R. Civ. P. 4(k)(1)(A)). “In order for an Idaho court to exert jurisdiction over an out-ofstate defendant, two criteria must be met; the act giving rise to the cause of action must
fall within the scope of [Idaho’s] long-arm statute and the constitutional standards of due
process must be met.” Saint Alphonsus Reg’l Med. Ctr. v. State of Wash., 852 P.2d 491,
494 (Idaho 1992). Idaho Code § 5-514 confers personal jurisdiction over any “cause of
action arising from . . . [t]he commission of a tortious act within [Idaho].” See Idaho
Code § 5-514(b). Under this standard, the tortious act “need not take place in Idaho; all
that is required is that the injury is alleged to have occurred in Idaho.” Nat’l Union Fire
Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh v. Aerohawk Aviation, Inc., 259 F. Supp. 2d 1096, 1102 (D. Idaho
2003). “Because Idaho’s long-arm statute, codified in Idaho Code § 5-514, allows a
broader application of personal jurisdiction than the Due Process Clause, the Court need
look only to the Due Process Clause to determine personal jurisdiction.” Cornelius v.
DeLuca, 709 F. Supp. 2d 1003, 1010 (D. Idaho 2010).
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER – PAGE 3
“The Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment constrains a State’s
authority to bind a nonresident defendant to a judgment of its courts.” Walden v. Fiore,
__ U.S. __, 134 S.Ct. 1115, 1121 (2014). A nonresident defendant must have “certain
minimum contacts with [the forum] such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend
‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.’” Int’l Shoe Co. v. Washington,
326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463 (1940)). Since
the Supreme Court’s “seminal decision in International Shoe, [its] decisions have
recognized two types of personal jurisdiction: ‘general’ (sometimes called ‘all-purpose’)
jurisdiction and ‘specific’ (sometimes called ‘case-linked’) jurisdiction.” Bristol-Myers
Squibb Co. v. Superior Court, __ U.S. __, 137 S. Ct. 1773, 1779–80 (2017). “For an
individual, the paradigm forum for the exercise of general jurisdiction is the individual’s
domicile; for a corporation, it is an equivalent place, one in which the corporation is
fairly regarded as at home.” Id., (quoting Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v.
Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 924 (2011)). “A court with general jurisdiction may hear any claim
against that defendant, even if all the incidents underlying the claim occurred in a
different State.” Id. “Specific jurisdiction is very different. In order for a state court to
exercise specific jurisdiction, ‘the suit’ must ‘aris[e] out of or relat[e] to the defendant’s
contacts with the forum.” Id. (quoting Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746, 760
(2014)). “In other words, there must be ‘an affiliation between the forum and the
underlying controversy, principally, [an] activity or an occurrence that takes place in the
forum State and is therefore subject to the State’s regulation.’ For this reason, ‘specific
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER – PAGE 4
jurisdiction is confined to adjudication of issues deriving from, or connected with, the
very controversy that establishes jurisdiction.’” Id. (quoting Goodyear, 564 U.S. at 919).
Plaintiffs do not argue that the Court has general jurisdiction over SMC.
Therefore, the Court focuses solely on specific jurisdiction. “There are three requirements
for a court to exercise specific jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant: (1) the
defendant must either ‘purposefully direct his activities’ toward the forum or
‘purposefully avail[ ] himself of the privileges of conducting activities in the forum’; (2)
‘the claim must be one which arises out of or relates to the defendant’s forum-related
activities’; and (3) ‘the exercise of jurisdiction must comport with fair play and
substantial justice, i.e. it must be reasonable.’” Axiom Foods, Inc. v. Acerchem Int’l, Inc.,
874 F.3d 1064, 1068 (9th Cir. 2017) (quoting Dole Food Co., Inc. v. Watts, 303 F.3d
1104, 1111 (9th Cir. 2002)). “The plaintiff bears the burden of satisfying the first two
prongs of the test.” Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 802 (9th
Cir. 2004). “[T]he burden then shifts to the defendant to ‘present a compelling case’ that
the exercise of jurisdiction would not be reasonable.’” Id. (quoting Burger King Corp. v
Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 476–78 (1985)).
In cases like this, involving products liability, the Supreme Court “has stated that a
defendant’s placing goods into the stream of commerce ‘with the expectation that they
will be purchased by consumers within the forum State’ may indicate purposeful
availment.” J. McIntyre Mach., Ltd. v. Nicastro, 564 U.S. 873, 881–82 (2011) (quoting
World–Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 298 (1980) (finding that
expectation lacking)). However, the Supreme Court has also clarified that a “defendant’s
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transmission of goods permits the exercise of jurisdiction only where the defendant can
be said to have targeted the forum; as a general rule, it is not enough that the defendant
might have predicted that its goods will reach the forum State.” Id.
Finally, “[w]here, as here, the motion is based on written materials rather than an
evidentiary hearing, ‘the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of jurisdictional
facts.’” Schwarzenegger, 374 F.3d at 800. The Court must take as true “uncontroverted
allegations in the complaint” and must resolve in the plaintiff’s favor any “[c]onflicts
between [the] parties over statements contained in affidavits.” Id.
In arguing for a finding of specific jurisdiction, Plaintiffs first generally explain
SMC’s global and North American presence:
SMC sells its products around the world and thousands of its products get
funneled to the United States every year. In 2016, SMC sold about 276
million dollars worth of product to North America alone. SMC designs its
corporate structure to sell to the United States market and intends for its
products to end up in American consumer’s hands.
Dkt. 13, at 9 (citations omitted). These facts are inconsequential as they have no bearing
on whether SMC specifically targeted Idaho. Plaintiffs next argue that “SMC has
purposefully availed itself to the State of Idaho and established minimum contacts
through its former and current subsidiaries” (ASMC and SMAI)1. Id. These subsidiaries
“direct the sale of [SMC’s] products in the United States[,]” “contract with local
The subsidiary that distributed the motorcycle at issue in this case was ASMC. In 2013, ASMC
filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Later, SMC created SMAI to replace ASMC.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER – PAGE 6
distributors in 49 states, and direct the sale of its products in those states.” Id. at 10–11.
“Idaho is one of those states.” Id. at 11.
“It is well established that, as a general rule, where a parent and a subsidiary are
separate and distinct corporate entities, the presence of one . . . in a forum state may not
be attributed to the other[.]” Axiom Foods, 874 F.3d at 1071 (quoting Holland Am. Line
Inc. v. Wartsila N. Am., Inc., 485 F.3d 450, 459 (9th Cir. 2007). Plaintiffs seem to argue
that SMC and its subsidiaries are quite close. They point out that “SMAI [wa]s founded
by SMC, [is] directly managed by SMC, and is the exclusive method by which SMC
distributes its products to the United States.” Dkt. 13, at 10. However, Plaintiffs have not
“spelled out an alter ego theory of liability allowing [the Court] to attribute the activities
of the parent entity to the subsidiary.” Axiom Foods, 874 F.3d at 1071 n.5 (“[A] plaintiff
must make out a prima facie case (1) that there is such unity of interest and ownership
that the separate personalities of the two entities no longer exist and (2) that failure to
disregard their separate identities would result in fraud or injustice.” (citation omitted)).
Thus, even assuming SMAI or ASMC might have purposefully availed themselves of the
privileges of conducting activities in the State of Idaho, the Court cannot attribute those
acts to SMC. Moreover, absent from the record are any concrete facts tying either
subsidiary directly to Idaho specifically. The Court finds it notable that the motorcycle at
issue in this case was purchased in Utah, not in Idaho, and Plaintiffs have failed to
explain how the motorcycle even ended up in Idaho.
Finally, binding case law compels the conclusion that this Court lacks personal
jurisdiction over SMC. J. McIntyre Machinery, a 2011 products-liability case, is
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER – PAGE 7
particularly instructive. In that case, the Supreme Court reversed a New Jersey court’s
determination that it had personal jurisdiction over the defendant. 564 U.S. 873. The
plaintiff injured his hand in New Jersey with a machine manufactured by the defendant in
England, where the defendant was incorporated and operated. Id. at 878. The defendantmanufacturer had sold its machines to an independent distributor who agreed to sell the
machines in the United States. Id. The defendant also attended a few conventions in the
United States with its distributor, but none of those conferences took place in New Jersey.
Id. Thus, only the distributor, but not the manufacturer, purposefully availed itself of the
benefits of doing business in New Jersey. The fact the manufacturer had placed the
machine in the stream of commerce with the knowledge that the distributor might sell it
in New Jersey was insufficient to establish purposeful availment or minimum contacts in
The instant case is not identical to J. McIntyre Machinery; unlike in J. McIntyre
Machinery, the product distributor in this case was a subsidiary of SMC. However, this
fact alone does not require a different outcome than J. McIntyre Machinery because, as
noted above, Plaintiffs have failed to articulate the requisite alter-ego theory and have
failed to demonstrate the subsidiary-distributor has the requisite contacts with Idaho.
For all of these reasons, the Court concludes it does not have specific personal
jurisdiction over SMC for the purposes of this case. Because this Court does not have
personal jurisdiction over SMC, dismissal with prejudice is appropriate.
The Court notes that Defendants have requested attorney fees within their briefs in
support of the Motion to Dismiss. Local Rule 7.1(b)(1) provides that “[e]ach motion,
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER – PAGE 8
other than a routine or uncontested matter, must be accompanied by a separate brief, not
to exceed twenty (20) pages, containing all of the reasons and points and authorities
relied upon by the moving party.” Defendants have failed to file a separate brief in
support of their request and the request is neither uncontested nor routine. Thus,
Defendants’ have violated Rule 7.1(b). See Thompson v. Root Rents, Inc., No. CV-05245-S-BLW, 2005 WL 2138680, at *1 (D. Idaho Aug. 31, 2005). Accordingly, the Court
will not consider the request for attorneys’ fees at this time, but will entertain a future
motion that complies with the Local Rules.
The Court hereby ORDERS:
1. The claims asserted against SMAI are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
2. The Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 9) is GRANTED. The above-entitled action
DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
3. The Court will issue a separate judgment in accordance with Fed. R. Civ. P. 58.
4. The Clerk of the Court is directed to close this case.
DATED: January 24, 2018
David C. Nye
U.S. District Court Judge
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER – PAGE 9
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