Meunier v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc.
ORDER AND REASONS granting 35 Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction. Plaintiff's claims against MMDI are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Signed by Judge Carl Barbier on 11/16/20. (cg)
Case 2:19-cv-12141-CJB-JVM Document 52 Filed 11/16/20 Page 1 of 9
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
JUSTIN P. MEUNIER
HOME DEPOT U.S.A., INC.
SECTION: “J” (1)
ORDER & REASONS
Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction (Rec.
Doc. 35) filed by Defendant MMDI, Inc. (“MMDI”). The motion is opposed by Plaintiff
Justin P. Meunier (Rec. Doc. 37), to which MMDI replied (Rec. Doc. 40). Having
considered the motion and legal memoranda, the record, and the applicable law, the
Court finds that the motion should be GRANTED.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
This litigation arises from injuries allegedly sustained by Plaintiff due to a
defective trailer manufactured by MMDI. On April 19, 2019, Plaintiff went to a Home
Depot U.S.A., Inc. (“Home Depot”) store in Chalmette, Louisiana, to rent excavating
equipment. After discussing his intent with an employee of Home Depot, Plaintiff was
told to hook up one of Home Depot’s trailers holding the excavating equipment to his
SUV. Plaintiff struggled to get the first trailer positioned on his trailer hitch and
moved to a second trailer with the same excavating equipment. Plaintiff first
attempted to crank the handle on the second trailer to determine if the trailer had
the same apparent defect as the first, but the handle came loose and struck Plaintiff
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in his nose. After visiting the doctor, Plaintiff learned he had suffered a depressed
fracture of the nasal bone and a concussion. Days after the incident, a Home Depot
employee observed that the roll pin that holds the handle in place was broken, and
he replaced the defective pin.
The trailer at issue was manufactured by MMDI in North Carolina and sold to
Compact Power Equipment, Inc. (“Compact Power”), another North Carolina
company, in 2014.1 The trailer was then delivered by MMDI to Compact Power’s
facility in South Carolina.2 Subsequently, Compact Power was acquired by Home
Depot in 2017.3
Plaintiff named MMDI as a defendant in his Second Supplemental and
Amended Complaint. Before answering Plaintiff’s complaint, MMDI filed the instant
motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims for lack of personal jurisdiction. The motion is
before the Court on the briefs and without oral argument.
Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits dismissal of a suit
for lack of personal jurisdiction. In a motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction, the plaintiff must establish a prima facie showing of jurisdiction. Luv N’
care, Ltd. v. Insta-Mix, Inc., 438 F.3d 465, 469 (5th Cir. 2006). The court must accept
the plaintiff’s uncontroverted allegations as true and resolve any conflicts of fact in
favor of finding jurisdiction. Id.
(Rec. Doc. 40-1).
Id. at 4-5.
3 (Rec. Doc. 35-8).
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To determine whether a federal court sitting in diversity has jurisdiction over
the defendant, the court looks first to the long-arm statute of the forum state to
determine whether the forum may exert personal jurisdiction. Pervasive Software
Inc. v. Lexware GmbH & Co. KG, 688 F.3d 214, 220 (5th Cir. 2012). Next, the court
must ensure that exercising jurisdiction would not violate the Due Process Clause of
the Fourteenth Amendment. Id. Because Louisiana’s long-arm statute confers
jurisdiction up to the limits of the Constitution, “the two inquiries fold into one.” Luv
N’ care, 438 F.3d at 469.
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees that no
federal court may assume personal jurisdiction of a non-resident defendant unless
the defendant has certain “minimum contacts with [the forum state] 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). The
Supreme Court has recognized two types of personal jurisdiction: specific and general.
Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court, 137 S. Ct. 1773, 1779-80 (2017).
Specific jurisdiction is limited to “adjudication of issues deriving from, or
connected with, the very controversy that establishes jurisdiction.” Goodyear Dunlop
Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011). To establish specific
jurisdiction, a plaintiff must show that “(1) there are sufficient (i.e., not ‘random
fortuitous or attenuated’) pre-litigation connections between the non-resident
defendant and the forum; (2) the connection has been purposefully established by the
defendant; and (3) the plaintiff’s cause of action arises out of or is related to the
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defendant’s forum contacts.” Pervasive Software, 688 F.3d at 221. The burden then
shifts to the defendant to show that the exercise of jurisdiction would be unfair or
unreasonable. Id. at 221-22.
THE FIFTH CIRCUIT’S STREAM OF COMMERCE JURISPRUDENCE
Under the Fifth Circuit’s stream-of-commerce approach, the minimum
contacts requirement is satisfied if a court “‘finds that the defendant delivered the
product into the stream of commerce with the expectation that it would be purchased
by or used by consumers in the forum state.’” Ainsworth v. Moffett Eng’g, Ltd., 716
F.3d 174, 177 (5th Cir. 2013) (quoting Bearry v. Beech Aircraft Corp., 818 F.2d 370,
374 (5th Cir. 1987)). “[M]ere foreseeability or awareness is a constitutionally
sufficient basis for personal jurisdiction if the defendant’s product made its way into
the forum state while still in the stream of commerce.” Id. (quoting Luv N’ care, 438
F.3d at 470). However, “[t]he defendant's contacts must be more than ‘random,
fortuitous, or attenuated, or of the unilateral activity of another party or third
person.’” Id. (citation omitted); see Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 475
In Ainsworth, the Fifth Circuit held that the Supreme Court’s split decision in
J. McIntyre Machinery v. Nicastro, 564 U.S. 873 (2011), did not overrule its
longstanding stream-of-commerce standards. 716 F.3d at 178; see also Boat Serv. of
Galveston, Inc. v. NRE Power Sys., Inc., 429 F. Supp. 3d 261, 268-69 (E.D. La. 2019)
(analyzing Nicastro and Ainsworth). Accordingly, “foreseeability” remains the key
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factor in determining whether a state may properly exercise personal jurisdiction
over a foreign defendant when applying the stream-of-commerce approach. A plaintiff
may establish foreseeability by showing either that (1) the quantity of the defendant’s
sales and marketing in the forum state is high enough that the defendant can
reasonably anticipate a court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction in that state, or (2)
the defendant has actual knowledge or an expectation that its injury-causing product
is being sold in the forum state. See World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444
U.S. 286, 297-98 (1980) (“[T]he forum state does not exceed its powers under the Due
Process Clause if it asserts personal jurisdiction over a corporation that delivers its
products with the expectation that they will be purchased by consumers in the forum
state.”); In re DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., Pinnacle Hip Implant Liability Litig., 888
F.3d 753, 779 (5th Cir. 2018) (“[P]laintiffs need only show that [the defendant]
delivered the product that injured them into the stream of commerce with the
expectation that it would be purchased by or used by consumers in the forum state.”).
PLAINTIFF FAILS TO MAKE
JURISDICTION OVER MMDI
PRIMA FACIE CASE
Because Plaintiff makes no references to MMDI’s sales figures4 or specific
marketing data related to Louisiana, he must show that MMDI had actual knowledge
or an expectation that the allegedly defective trailer would be used in Louisiana. To
support this claim, Plaintiff provides specific data on the number of Home Depot
stores in Louisiana and the number of Louisiana Home Depot locations renting
Bean Dredging Corp. v. Dredge Technology Corp., 744 F.2d 1081, 1085 (5th Cir. 1984), therefore is
unhelpful to Plaintiff’s argument because foreseeability in that case turned on the defendantmanufacturer’s placing thousands of its product into the stream of commerce.
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MMDI trailers like the one that is the subject of this litigation. Home Depot has
twenty-eight locations in Louisiana, and eighteen of those locations have tool rental
departments.5 Based on these facts, Plaintiff argues that MMDI had an expectation
that the trailers would be used at the tool rental departments in Home Depot’s
However, MMDI sold the trailer to Compact Power, not Home Depot. Plaintiff
provides no evidence of MMDI’s actual or constructive knowledge that Compact
Power would, in turn, provide the trailer to Home Depot. Cf. Ruston Gas Turbines,
Inc. v. Donaldson Co., 9 F.3d 415, 420 (5th Cir. 1993) (reversing dismissal for lack of
personal jurisdiction where defendant “not only could have foreseen that the products
might end up in Texas, [but actually] knew as a fact that the products were going to
be delivered to a specific user in Houston, Texas”). Nevertheless, Plaintiff argues that
MMDI had an expectation that the trailer could be used at any Home Depot with a
rental department because Home Depot acquired Compact Power in 2017,
approximately two years before the incident being litigated here, and therefore could
have foreseen that the trailer would make its way to Louisiana based on the number
of Home Depots with rental departments in Louisiana.6 Plaintiff offers no allegations
or evidence on the relationship between Home Depot and Compact Power before the
A key principle of specific jurisdiction is that “[t]he unilateral activity of those
who claim some relationship with a nonresident defendant cannot satisfy the
See (Rec. Doc. 37-1).
(See Rec. Doc. 35-8).
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requirement of contact with the forum State.” Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253
(1958). In Stewart v. Marathon Petroleum Co. LP, the court found that the
manufacturer of a trailer was not subject to Louisiana’s personal jurisdiction when
another defendant purchased the trailer and transported it into Louisiana. 326 F.
Supp. 3d 284, 290 (E.D. La. 2018). The manufacturer designed and manufactured the
allegedly defective trailer in Minnesota and then sold it to a Florida shipping
company, who delivered the trailer to Florida. Id. at 291. The shipping company
directed the plaintiff to drive the trailer from Louisiana to Michigan, and the incident
causing the plaintiff’s injuries occurred in Ohio. Id. at 291-92. The court reasoned
that “[o]nce a product has reached the end of the stream and is purchased, a
consumer's unilateral decision to take the product to a distant state, without more, is
insufficient to confer personal jurisdiction over the manufacturer or distributor.” Id.
at 290 (quoting Seiferth v. Helicopteros Atuneros, Inc., 472 F.3d 266, 273 (5th Cir.
2006)). The court found that the trailer had reached the end of the stream when the
manufacturer sold the trailer to the shipping company. Id. Additionally, the court
found that none of the manufacturer’s contacts with Louisiana gave rise to the
dispute. Id. at 291. The facts in Stewart are nearly identical to the facts in this case.
When MMDI sold its trailer to Compact Power, the stream of commerce effectively
ended absent any knowledge or expectation by MMDI that the trailer would be resold
or used in Louisiana. The Court may not exercise jurisdiction over MMDI based on
the actions of Compact Power after the trailer left the stream of commerce.
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Plaintiff argues that MMDI appears to have made additional sales to Home
Depot after it acquired Compact Power based on the relative condition of some of the
trailers present at Home Depot’s Chalmette, Louisiana location.7 Accepting these
allegations as true, Plaintiff’s injuries do not arise out of these subsequent contacts
with Louisiana. Plaintiff’s injuries arose from MMDI’s sale and delivery of a shipment
of trailers,8 including the one that injured Plaintiff, to Compact Power in South
Carolina. Therefore, any contacts with Louisiana after the sale of the subject trailer
would not justify the Court’s exercise of jurisdiction over MMDI because Plaintiff’s
injuries do not arise from those contacts. Accordingly, Plaintiff has failed to establish
that MMDI had minimum contacts with Louisiana from which his injuries arose.
Because Plaintiff fails to make a prima facie case for jurisdiction, the Court need not
evaluate whether the exercise of jurisdiction over MMDI would comport with
traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. See, e.g., Eddy v. Printers
House (P) Ltd., 627 F. App'x 323, 328 (5th Cir. 2015) (per curiam) (“[W]e need not . . .
address whether the ‘fair play and substantial justice’ requirement has been satisfied,
as the determination that [the defendant] lacked ‘minimum contacts’ with [the forum
state] alone is sufficient to conclude that the district court could not exercise personal
(See Rec. Doc. 37-2).
MMDI has offered evidence that the trailer at issue here was a part of the sale of sixty trailers to
Compact Power. (Rec. Doc. 40-1, at 1). This quantity is insufficient to establish an expectation that the
trailers would be sold or used in Louisiana. Cf. Ainsworth, 716 F.3d at 179 (holding reasonable
expectation established by sale of 13,073 forklifts); Bean Dredging, 744 F.2d at 1085 (holding
expectation established by sale of thousands of steel castings).
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Finally, the Court must consider Plaintiff’s request in the alternative for
additional time to conduct jurisdictional discovery. Plaintiff, as the party seeking
discovery, has the burden of showing that additional discovery is necessary. Davila
v. United States, 713 F.3d 248, 264 (5th Cir. 2013). Plaintiff must make a preliminary
showing of jurisdiction by raising specific factual allegations that suggest that
jurisdiction likely exists. Fielding v. Hubert Burda Media, Inc., 415 F.3d 419, 429 (5th
Cir. 2005). “[A] party is not entitled to jurisdictional discovery if the record shows
that the requested discovery is not likely to produce the facts needed to withstand a
Rule 12(b)(1) motion.” Freeman v. United States, 556 F.3d 326, 342 (5th Cir. 2009).
Plaintiff fails to allege any additional facts likely to be revealed by discovery
that would support the Court’s exercise of jurisdiction over MMDI. Therefore,
Plaintiff’s request for jurisdictional discovery must be denied.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that MMDI’s Motion to Dismiss for Lack of
Personal Jurisdiction (Rec. Doc. 35) is GRANTED, and Plaintiff’s claims against
MMDI are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
New Orleans, Louisiana, this 16th day of November, 2020.
CARL J. BARBIER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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