Ronnie Johnson, et al v. Fintec Crushing & Screening, Ltd. et al
OPINION and ORDER Granting 8 , 12 Motions to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction. Signed by District Judge Judith E. Levy. (SBur)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Ronnie Johnson and Tuesday SmithJohnson,
Case No. 17-cv-10117
Judith E. Levy
United States District Judge
Mag. Judge Stephanie Dawkins
Sandvik Inc., et al.,
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING MOTIONS TO DISMISS
FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION [8, 12]
This is a case arising from defendants’ alleged negligence in
manufacturing and maintaining a rock crushing machine, resulting in
severe injuries to plaintiffs.
(Dkt. 1 at 6-7.)
Before the Court are
defendants Sandvik AB, Sandvik Mining and Construction USA, LLC,
and Sandvik Mining and Construction’s motions to dismiss for lack of
personal jurisdiction. (Dkts. 8, 12.)
Plaintiffs Ronnie Johnson and Tuesday Smith-Johnson filed a
complaint on January 13, 2017, alleging claims of negligence, breach of
warranty, and loss of consortium against defendants Fintec Crushing
and Screening, Ltd., Sandvik Group, Sandvik Mining and Construction,
Sandvik AB, Sandvik Mining and Construction USA, LLC, and Sandvik
Inc. (Dkt. 1.)
These claims arise from an incident that occurred on or
about January 17, 2014, when plaintiff Ronnie Johnson, an employee
for Adamo Demolition, was at work in Hamtramck, Michigan. (Id. at
4.) Johnson alleges that while at work, an object unexpectedly flew out
of a Fintec crushing unit (“Crusher”) striking him in the head and face.
(Id. at 4.)
Johnson sustained severe injuries, some of which are
permanent. (Id. at 11.) He alleges that these injuries and the resulting
loss of wages and earning capacity are a direct result of the negligence
and breaches of warranty of defendants. (Id. at 12.)
Sandvik, Inc. filed an answer to the complaint acknowledging this
Court’s jurisdiction, and denying the plaintiff’s allegations (Dkt. 11 at
1.) After the Court entered an order to show cause as to defendants
Fintech Crushing and Screening and Sandvik Group, plaintiffs filed a
response acknowledging that these companies “are not proper valid
legal entities,” and requested that they be dismissed. (Dkt. 20 at 2.)
The remaining defendants, Sandvik Mining and Construction, Sandvik
Mining and Construction USA, LLC, (“SMC, USA”) and Sandvik AB,
have filed motions to dismiss, alleging that the court lacks personal
jurisdiction over them, and that plaintiffs have failed to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted. (Dkt. 8, Dkt. 12.)
Personal jurisdiction over a defendant exists when “the defendant
is amenable to service of process under the [forum] state’s long-arm
statute and if the exercise of personal jurisdiction would not deny the
defendant due process.” Bird v. Parsons, 289 F.3d 865, 871 (6th Cir.
Michigan’s long-arm statute for corporations, Mich. Comp. Laws §
600.715, gives “the maximum scope of personal jurisdiction permitted
by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Corp. v. Fedders Corp., 643 F.2d 1229, 1236 (6th Cir. 1981). “Under
Michigan’s long-arm statute, the state’s jurisdictions extends to the
limits imposed by federal constitutional due process requirements, and
thus, the two questions become one.”
Mich. Coal. of Radioactive
Material Users v. Griepentrog, 954 F.2d 1174, 1176 (6th Cir. 1992). The
exercise of jurisdiction comports with due process when “defendant’s
conduct and connection with the forum state are such that he should
reasonably anticipate being haled into court [in the forum state].” Id. at
1176 (citing World–Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286,
The Sixth Circuit uses a three-part test to determine if the
exercise of personal jurisdiction comports with due process:
First, the defendant must purposefully avail himself of the
privilege of acting in the forum state or causing a
consequence in the forum state. Second, the cause of action
must arise from the defendant's activities there. Finally, the
acts of the defendant or consequences caused by the
defendant must have a substantial enough connection with
the forum state to make the exercise of jurisdiction over the
Beydoun v. Wataniya Rests. Holding, Q.S.C., 768 F.3d 499 (6th Cir.
401 F.2d 374, 381 (6th Cir.1968)).
It is the plaintiff’s burden to establish jurisdiction over defendant.
Welsh v. Gibbs, 631 F.2d 436, 438 (6th Cir. 1980).
If the court
determines the issue solely on the basis of written materials, the
plaintiff is required only to make a prima facie case that jurisdiction
exists. Id. at 438.
In applying the above test, the court must consider
the pleadings and affidavits in the light most favorable to plaintiffs. Id.
Personal jurisdiction may be either general or specific. A court
has general jurisdiction over a defendant, and can hear “any and all
claims against [it],” when the corporation’s affiliations with the forum
state are so extensive “as to render [it] essentially at home in the forum
state.” Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915,
On the other hand, specific jurisdiction hinges on the
existence of a connection between the forum state and an “activity or
occurrence that takes place in the forum state and is therefore subject
to the State’s regulation.” Id. Here, plaintiffs do not assert that this
Court has general jurisdiction, but argue that the Court has specific
jurisdiction over defendants Sandvik AB, Sandvik Mining and
Construction, and Sandvik Mining and Construction USA, LLC. (Dkt.
15 at 5, Dkt. 16 at 5.)
General jurisdiction over a defendant exists when that defendant’s
“affiliations with the State are so ‘continuous and systematic’ as to
render [it] essentially at home in the forum State.” Daimler A.G. v.
Bauman, ___ U.S. _____, 134 S. Ct. 746, 761 (2014). “The paradigm allpurpose forms for general jurisdiction are a corporation’s place of
incorporation and principal place of business.”
Id. at 749 (citing
Goodyear, 564 U.S. at 924). Defendants assert that neither Sandvik AB
nor SMC, USA are incorporated or have their principal place of
business in Michigan.
(Dkt. 8 at 8.)
Plaintiffs provide no evidence
otherwise, and do not argue general jurisdiction exists for any
defendant. General jurisdiction is therefore not established.
Plaintiffs argue that specific personal jurisdiction exists based on
Michigan’s long-arm statute covering limited personal jurisdiction for
corporations. MICH. COMP. LAWS § 600.715. Plaintiffs claim that that
“there is no doubt” that defendants have purposefully availed
themselves of the privilege of conducting business in Michigan. (Dkt.
15 at 7.)
Plaintiffs assert that the Crusher at issue was designed,
manufactured, and distributed as a collaborative venture between
Fintech and Sandvik AB. (Dkt. 16 at 2.)
Relying on evidence from Google searches and an affidavit filed by
Mr. Fred Custer, plaintiffs’ attorney, plaintiffs seek to draw a
connection between Sandvik, Inc., which has acknowledge this court’s
jurisdiction, and the other Defendants. Sandvik AB is believed to be
the parent company of the Sandvik Group, which includes Fintech and
Sandvik Mining and Construction. (Dkt. 16 at 2.) Sandvik Mining and
Construction is also believed to be part of Sandvik AB. (Id.) Further,
Plaintiffs argue that Sandvik Mining and Construction USA, LLC is
registered to do business in Michigan, and does in fact conduct business
in the state of Michigan. (Id.) Plaintiffs also allege Sandvik AB is
subject to personal jurisdiction because Fintech is part of Sandvik AB,
and Fintech sold the Crusher in Michigan. (Id.) Sandvik AB is also
alleged to be the parent company of Sandvik Mining and Construction,
USA. (Id. at 8.) Plaintiffs characterize this network of relationships as
a “corporate web and/or corporate quagmire” that involves all named
Defendants. (Dkt. 15 at 3.)
Defendants argue that plaintiffs have not met the burden of
showing that defendants’ contacts in Michigan give rise to specific
(Dkt. 12 at 9.)
First, defendants note that “Sandvik
Mining and Construction” is a nonexistent entity.
(Dkt. 8 at 3.)
Plaintiffs assert that, based on their internet research, Sandvik Mining
and Construction is a division of the Sandvik Group. (Dkt. 16 at 11.)
Plaintiffs include an exhibit that contains screenshots of websites and
Google searches, which indicates that Sandvik is involved in the mining
and construction business, but does not provide evidence that there is a
corporation named “Sandvik Mining and Construction” that operates in
Michigan, or elsewhere. (Dkt. 16-1 at 9.) Because there is no evidence
that it exists, “Sandvik Mining and Construction” cannot, by definition,
meet the necessary requirements for personal jurisdiction.
The other two defendants have limited contact with the state of
Michigan. Sandvik AB is not registered to do business in Michigan,
conducts no sales in Michigan, and has no employees or offices in
Michigan. (Dkt. 12 at 10.) SMC, USA is registered to do business in
Michigan, and conducts limited sales in Michigan, but has no offices,
employees, real estate, telephone number, or mailing address in
Michigan, and does not directly target the Michigan market through
(Dkt. 8 at 8.)
Further, defendants assert that none of
these entities designed, manufactured, tested, assembled, distributed,
marketed, sold, or performed maintenance on the Crusher. (Dkt. 8 at 3,
Dkt. 12 at 3.)
Defendants’ activities in Michigan do not meet Southern
Machine’s three-part test for personal jurisdiction. The first prong asks
whether the defendant has “purposefully availed himself of the privilege
of acting in the forum state.” 401 F.2d at 381. SMC, USA has done so,
by registering to conduct business in Michigan, although the sales
activities it conducts are limited, and it does not advertise in Michigan.
(Dkt. 8 at 8.) Sandvik AB is not registered to do business in Michigan,
and has no presence in Michigan whatsoever.
12 at 10.)
Therefore, defendant Sandvik AB has not purposefully availed itself of
the privilege of doing business in Michigan.
The second part of the Southern Machine test requires that the
cause of action arise from the defendant’s activities in the forum state.
401 F.2d at 381.
“It is not enough that there be some connection
between the in-state activity and the cause of action—that connection
must be substantial.” Cmty. Tr. Bancorp, Inc. v. Cmty. Tr. Fin. Corp.,
692 F.3d 469, 472-73 (6th Cir. 2012).
Sandvik AB has no business
contacts with Michigan, and as such could not give rise to the cause of
action here. And although SMC, USA does have contacts with the state
of Michigan, none of these contacts are substantial enough to meet this
prong of the Southern Machine test.
The fact that SMC, USA is
registered to do business in Michigan has no direct connection to
plaintiffs’ claims of negligence and breach of warranty.
provide no evidence of a substantial connection between SMC, USA’s
contacts in Michigan and the cause of action here. Further, defendants
note that SMC, USA did not design, manufacture, test, assemble,
distribute, market, sell, or perform any maintenance on the Crusher at
issue here. (Dkt. 8 at 14.) The connection between SMC, USA’s activity
in Michigan and the cause of action here therefore cannot be considered
The final prong of the Southern Machine test asks whether the
exercise of jurisdiction over the defendant would not be reasonable.
This requirement exists because “minimum requirements inherent in
the concept of ‘fair play and substantial justice’ may defeat the
reasonableness of jurisdiction even if the defendant has purposefully
engaged in forum activities.” Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S.
461, 477-78 (1985). The Sixth Circuit offers a set of factors for courts to
consider in determining whether the exercise of jurisdiction is
reasonable: (1) the burden on the defendant; (2) the interest of the
forum state; (3) the plaintiff’s interest in obtaining relief; and (4) other
states’ interests in securing the most efficient resolution of the policy.
Air Prod. & Controls, Inc. v. Safetech Int’l, Inc., 503 F.3d 544, 554-55
(6th Cir. 2007).
The burden on Sandvik AB, a Swedish corporation, would be
considerable here, and Michigan has no interest in requiring Sandvik
AB to litigate this matter when Sandvik AB has not engaged in
purposeful contact with Michigan or its citizens.
has no interest in requiring SMC, USA to litigate this matter when
SMC, USA’s contacts with Michigan are so limited, and none of them
gave rise to the claims at issue.
For the reasons set forth above, Southern Machine’s three-part
test for specific jurisdiction is not met here, as to either Sandvik AB or
There is no basis for the Court to exercise personal
jurisdiction over defendants in this case.
C. Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim
Defendants Sandvik AB and SMC, USA both argue that plaintiffs
fail to state a claim because neither corporation manufactured, sold, or
maintained the Crusher. Because the Court has granted the motion to
dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim is moot.
For the reasons set forth above, the motions to dismiss for lack of
personal jurisdiction are GRANTED. (Dkts. 8, 12.)
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: August 1, 2017
Ann Arbor, Michigan
s/Judith E. Levy
JUDITH E. LEVY
United States District Judge
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
The undersigned certifies that the foregoing document was served
upon counsel of record and any unrepresented parties via the Court’s
ECF System to their respective email or First Class U.S. mail addresses
disclosed on the Notice of Electronic Filing on August 1, 2017.
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