One Resource Group Corporation v. Crawford
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING 38 MOTION for Certificate of Appealability re Defendant's Motion to Certify Issue for Interlocutory Appeal filed by Cody A Crawford. Signed by Judge Damon R Leichty on 11/18/20. (kjp)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
FORT WAYNE DIVISION
ONE RESOURCE GROUP
CAUSE NO. 1:19-CV-445 DRL-SLC
CODY A. CRAWFORD,
OPINION & ORDER
Cody Crawford seeks to certify the court’s personal jurisdiction finding for interlocutory
appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). Because the issue of personal jurisdiction does not involve a
question of law as contemplated by 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), the court now denies Mr. Crawford’s motion.
This dispute between Mr. Crawford and One Resource Group Corporation (ORG) arose after
Mr. Crawford, acting as ORG’s insurance agent, didn’t repay ORG a commission payment on an
insurance policy that was later rescinded (see ECF 33). When left unpaid, ORG sued Mr. Crawford in
state court to recover the commission. Mr. Crawford removed the case based on diversity jurisdiction.
After ORG filed its amended complaint, Mr. Crawford filed a motion to dismiss the amended
complaint based on the lack of personal jurisdiction.
The court denied Mr. Crawford’s motion to dismiss “because he purposefully availed himself
of the privilege of soliciting ORG’s services and conducting business activities on an ongoing basis
within Indiana, because the alleged injury arises from his Indiana-related activity, and because the
exercise of jurisdiction comports with traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice” (ECF
33). Mr. Crawford filed this motion for a certificate of appealability.
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Under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b), “when a district judge, in making in a civil action an order not
otherwise appealable under this section, shall be of the opinion that such order involves a controlling
question of law as to which there is substantial ground for difference of opinion and that an immediate
appeal from the order may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation, he shall so
state in writing in such order.” The “importance of the careful application of the statutory test” of §
1292(b) cannot be understated. See Ahrenholz v. Bd. Of Trustees of Univ. of Ill., 219 F.3d 674, 675 (7th Cir.
2000). The moving party must present “a question of law, it must be controlling, it must be
contestable, and its resolution must promise to speed up the litigation.” Id. The party’s petition must
be filed within a reasonable time after the order the party seeks to appeal is issued. Id. at 675-76 (citing
Richardson Electronics, Ltd. v. Panache Broadcasting of Pennsylvania, Inc., 202 F.3d 957, 958 (7th Cir. 2000)).
A district court “may not and should not” certify its order unless all the required criteria are satisfied.
Id. at 676. This is not to say that if all the criteria are satisfied the district court must certify its order.
Congress has “confer[red] on district courts first line discretion to allow interlocutory appeals.” Swint
v. Chambers County Comm’n, 514 U.S. 35, 47 (1995).
Mr. Crawford hasn’t met the requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b)—particularly because he
hasn’t presented a “question of law” under § 1292(b). See Ahrenholz, 219 F.3d at 675. A “‘question of
law’ as used in § 1292(b) has reference to a question of the meaning of a statutory or constitutional
provision, regulation, or common law doctrine.” Id. at 676. A “question of law” in this context does
not refer to questions related to the meaning of a contract or whether the opponent of a summary
judgment motion raised a genuine issue of material fact, as examples. Id. “[Congress] used question of
law in much the same way a lay person might, as referring to a ‘pure’ question of law rather than
merely to an issue that might be free from a factual contest.” Id. at 676-677. “The idea was that if a
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case turned on a pure question of law, something the court of appeals could decide quickly and cleanly
without having to study the record, the court should be enabled to do so without having to wait till
the end of the case.” Id. at 677. Put simply, a “question of law” under § 1292(b) means “an abstract
legal issue.” Id.
The question that Mr. Crawford seeks to certify for interlocutory appeal is “whether this court
has specific personal jurisdiction over Crawford” (ECF 38 at 2). Mr. Crawford does not frame the
question as an abstract one related to the constitutional requirements for specific personal jurisdiction.
Instead, Mr. Crawford offers the question as one of legal application—whether this court has specific
personal jurisdiction over him—which is not a question of law under § 1292(b). See Ahrenholz, 219
F.3d at 676-77. See also Demkovich v. St. Andrew the Apostle Parish, Calumet City, 973 F.3d 718, 721-22
(7th Cir. 2020) (A “broad legal question, not limited to the factual details of the particular case” about
the scope of the ministerial exception under Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act was
suitable for interlocutory appeal under § 1292(b)).
Mr. Crawford cites Advanced Tactical Ordnance Sys., LLC v. Real Action Paintball, Inc., 751 F.3d
796, 799-800 (7th Cir. 2014), to contend that this circuit has treated specific personal jurisdiction as
“an essential threshold question most appropriate for determination at the outset of a case.” Although
personal jurisdiction is an essential threshold question in any case, that does not make it a “question
of law” as contemplated by § 1292(b). In Advanced Tactical, this circuit reviewed an interlocutory appeal
under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(1), a different provision that allows the circuit to hear appeals from orders
related to injunctions and does not require that the order involve a “question of law.” Id. at 799.
Although the circuit is “entitled to entertain a threshold non-merits question, such as personal
jurisdiction, at the outset of a case,” id. at 800, that does not transform questions of legal application
regarding personal jurisdiction into questions of law under § 1292(b) nor does it require this court to
certify those questions for interlocutory appeal. Advanced Tactical isn’t on point.
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Mr. Crawford cites to other cases for the proposition that personal jurisdiction is a question
of law, such as Klump v. Duffus, 71 F.3d 1368 (7th Cir. 1995) and LinkAmerica Corp. v. Cox, 857 N.E.2d
961 (Ind. 2006). Both cases refer to personal jurisdiction as a “question of law,” but only in the context
of decision. Neither case looked at the question in the context of § 1292(b). Neither case described
the personal jurisdiction issue here as “an abstract legal issue.” See Ahrenholz, 219 F.3d at 677. Whether
this court has specific personal jurisdiction over Mr. Crawford is not an abstract legal issue but one
that involves a review of facts from the record.
Mr. Crawford argues that the circuit should hear this issue because it does not require “an
extensive dive into a lengthy record” but instead involves “only two affidavits comprised of a few
pages” (ECF 40 at 2). However, when the circuit wrote that “if a case turned on a pure question of
law, something the court of appeals could decide quickly and cleanly without having to study the
record,” Ahrenholz, 219 F.3d at 677, it was not saying that non-abstract legal issues with only a short
record to review are also “questions of law” under § 1292(b). This is a fact-bound question, not a
“question of law” under § 1292(b).
Mr. Crawford insists that this question is “contestable” under § 1292(b) because there is a
difference of opinion as to whether the court had specific personal jurisdiction over him. Curious then
that Mr. Crawford didn’t file a motion to reconsider to present that error. Still, this argument doesn’t
get him any further because he is not seeking review of a “question of law.” See, e.g., Ahrenholz, 219
F.3d at 676 (“Often there is room for a difference of opinion” over the denial of summary judgment,
but that does not “make denials of summary judgment routinely appealable” under § 1292(b)).
Mr. Crawford nonetheless argues that there is a substantial difference of opinion as to this
issue based on this district’s previous decision in Jayco, Inc. v. Nat’l Indoor RV Ctrs. LLC, No. 3:17-cv458 RLM-MGG, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 157391 (N.D. Ind. Sept. 26, 2017). Even if the court were to
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review the fact-specific question of personal jurisdiction again, Jayco would not seem the winning ticket
for Mr. Crawford. 1
In Jayco, the court lacked specific personal jurisdiction over three out-of-state defendants
because the relevant conduct that gave rise to the plaintiff’s trademark, unfair competition, and breach
of contract claims occurred in Texas, not Indiana. Id. at 13-15. The dealership agreements at issue
there were executed in Texas. Id. at 13. The acts that caused the harm all took place in Texas; and,
though the plaintiff resided in Indiana, that fact alone wasn’t enough to authorize jurisdiction over the
defendants. Id. at 15-16. The conduct that the plaintiff in Jayco sought to proscribe was all occurring
in Texas. Id. In short, the contract’s formation, its future consequences, and its course of dealing were
Here, the relevant conduct didn’t happen elsewhere. Consistent with standards governing
contractual relations found in Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 473 (1985), including
underlying negotiations (Mr. Crawford’s solicitation of services in Indiana akin to Daniel J. Hartwig
Assoc., Inc. v. Kanner, 913 F.2d 1213, 1216 (7th Cir. 1990)), the contract’s contemplated future
consequences (including the unreimbursed commission to be paid in Indiana), and the course of
dealing related to the parties’ contract that resulted in a continuing relationship that directed business
into Indiana, this case-linked conduct supported specific personal jurisdiction. Thus, the alleged injury
in this case arises from Indiana-related activity where the activity in Jayco wasn’t.
Because this court may not certify an issue for interlocutory appeal under § 1292(b) unless all
the required criteria are satisfied, this court must deny Mr. Crawford’s motion because the first
statutory requirement, that the issue present a “question of law,” is not satisfied. For this reason, it
This presiding judge has some working knowledge of Jayco as he was at the time counsel for the defendants
in that case.
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makes no difference whether this question is controlling or contestable, or whether its resolution
would speed up the litigation. Any discussion as to whether the question is controlling or contestable
would involve analysis regarding how a particular application of the facts would be controlling or how
the parties contest the way in which the facts apply to the law in this case. This only reaffirms that
“whether this court has specific personal jurisdiction over Crawford” is not a question of law under §
1292(b). Accordingly, the court DENIES Mr. Crawford’s motion for a certificate of appealability
s/ Damon R. Leichty
Judge, United States District Court
November 18, 2020
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