Tarver et al v. Ford Motor Company et al
ORDER denying #62 Motion for Reconsideration. Signed by Honorable Timothy D. DeGiusti on 8/16/2017. (mb)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF OKLAHOMA
HARRY AND/OR TAMMY TARVER,
Individually and as personal representatives
Of the ESTATE OF TRAVIS SCOTT
FORD MOTOR COMPANY, a
Case No. CIV-16-548-D
Defendant Ford Motor Company (Ford) moves the Court to reconsider its
December 5, 2016 Order denying Ford’s Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal
Jurisdiction [Doc. No. 62]. Relying on the recent Supreme Court decision in BristolMyers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of Cal., San Francisco Cnty., 137 S.Ct. 1773
(2017), Ford contends there has been an intervening change in controlling law that
requires the Court to vacate the denial of its Motion. Plaintiffs have filed their
response in opposition [Doc. No. 63], and Ford has replied [Doc. No. 64]. The matter
is fully briefed and at issue.
Plaintiffs’ son, Travis, owned a 2002 Ford F-150 pickup truck. On November
10, 2014, while driving on Oklahoma State Highway 270, he came upon an 18wheeler truck stopped in the highway. Travis attempted to go around the truck and
lost control of his vehicle. Travis’ truck began to roll over, during which the seat
broke from the floor and the seatbelt was torn, causing Travis to be ejected from the
vehicle; Travis died from his injuries. Plaintiffs filed suit against Ford2 alleging the
truck was defective at the time it was manufactured by Ford and unreasonably
dangerous to any person who might have been affected by it, including Travis.
Ford moved to dismiss Plaintiffs’ suit on jurisdictional grounds, arguing that
it was not “at home” in Oklahoma and the suit did not arise from Ford’s contacts
with the state. Plaintiffs contended Ford’s business activities leading up to the
accident and placing the truck in the “stream of commerce” rendered it subject to
personal jurisdiction. In denying Ford’s Motion, the Court found that it did not have
The above facts were taken from the Court’s Order denying Ford’s Motion to
Dismiss [Doc. No. 51] and viewed in Plaintiffs’ favor. Dudnikov v. Chalk &
Vermilion Fine Arts, Inc., 514 F.3d 1063, 1070 (10th Cir. 2008).
Plaintiffs also sued TRW Vehicle Safety Systems, Inc., the manufacturer and
designer of the seatbelt system, alleging the seatbelt system was defective and TRW
was jointly responsible with Ford for placing the alleged defective seatbelt system
in the stream of commerce. The Court granted TRW’s motion to dismiss on the
grounds that the Court lacked general jurisdiction over TRW and the company did
not have sufficient minimum contacts as to support specific personal jurisdiction.
general jurisdiction since Ford did not have “continuous and systematic contacts” in
Oklahoma, and outside of their allegations that Ford did significant business in the
state, Plaintiffs failed to allege any facts that would suggest that Ford had such
continuous contact to render it “at home” in this forum. See Order, Dec. 5, 2016 at
7-8 [Doc. No. 51].
However, the Court found it could exercise specific personal jurisdiction over
Ford because (1) Ford had sufficient “minimum contacts” with Oklahoma such that
it should have reasonably anticipated being haled into court there for Travis’ death,
and (2) the exercise of personal jurisdiction would not offend traditional notions of
fair play and substantial justice. In sum, the Court found that Ford purposefully
availed itself of the privilege of doing business in Oklahoma in that it designed,
manufactured, marketed, and sold products specifically built for interstate travel,
which included Oklahoma. Since Ford placed the product at issue in the “stream of
commerce,” and Plaintiffs’ claim arose out of the vehicle’s use in Oklahoma, the
Court found the exercise of personal jurisdiction was reasonable. See id. at 9-15.
In Bristol-Myers, out-of-state plaintiffs joined California plaintiffs in state
court litigation based on injuries purportedly caused by the Bristol-Myers
prescription drug Plavix. Over 600 plaintiffs brought suit in California; however,
only eighty-six of those plaintiffs were actually California residents. Bristol-Myers
was not a citizen of California. The nonresidents did not allege that they purchased
the harmful product in question in California, nor did they allege that they suffered
any injury in California. The California Supreme Court ultimately concluded that
general jurisdiction was lacking. However, it determined that California courts had
specific jurisdiction over the claims of the nonresident plaintiffs. The California
Supreme Court reasoned that Bristol-Myers’ extensive contacts with the state and
the similarity to the claims of the California residents supported its decision.
The Supreme Court reversed. It held that the exercise of specific jurisdiction
over the non-California plaintiffs’ claims violated the Due Process Clause. 137 S.
Ct. at 1783-84. The Court, relying on Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v.
Brown, 564 U.S. 915 (2011), stated “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.” Id. at 1780
(quoting Goodyear, 564 U.S. at 919) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court
elaborated that when no such connection exists, “specific jurisdiction is lacking
regardless of the extent of a defendant’s unconnected activities in the state.” Id. at
1781. The existence of forum activities unrelated to the cause of action – including
the operation of research laboratories not connected to Plavix, employment of sales
representatives, and the maintenance of a state-government advocacy office–did not
affect the analysis. Id. Moreover, Bristol-Myers did not develop, manufacture, label,
package, or work on the regulatory approval or marketing strategy for Plavix in
California. Id. at 1778. The Court then explained that “[t]he mere fact that other
plaintiffs were prescribed, obtained, and ingested Plavix in California does not allow
the State to assert specific jurisdiction over the nonresidents’ claims ... [w]hat is
needed is a connection between the forum and the specific claims at issue.” Id. at
1778, 1781. The Court specifically noted, however, that “the plaintiffs who are
residents of a particular State-for example, the 92 plaintiffs from Texas and the 71
from Ohio-could probably sue together in their home States.” Id. at 1783.
STANDARD OF DECISION
Technically, “[a] motion for reconsideration [is] not recognized by the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure.” Computerized Thermal Imaging, Inc. v. Bloomberg, L.P.,
312 F.3d 1292, 1296 n. 3 (10th Cir. 2002). The Court construes such motions as filed
pursuant to Rule 59(e)(motions to alter or amend a judgment) or Rule 60(b)(relief
from a final judgment, order, or proceeding), depending on the asserted justification
for, and timing of, the motion. Id.; compare Servants of Paraclete v. John Does IXVI, 204 F.3d 1005, 1012 (10th Cir. 2000) (“Grounds warranting a motion to
reconsider [under Rule 59(e)] include (1) an intervening change in the controlling
law, (2) new evidence previously unavailable, and (3) the need to correct clear error
or prevent manifest injustice.”), with Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) (justifying relief for
reasons such as “mistake, inadvertence, surprise . . . excusable neglect . . . newly
discovered evidence . . . [or] fraud”). A motion to reconsider is thus appropriate
where the court has misapprehended the facts, a party’s position, or the controlling
law. Servants of Paraclete, 204 F.3d at 1012. It should not be used to revisit issues
already addressed or advance arguments that could have been raised earlier. Id.
Ford’s Motion relies on Rule 59(e), which allows for reconsideration upon an
intervening change in controlling law. It contends that the Court’s Order must be
rescinded because the Bristol-Myers decision reinforces its stated objections to
personal jurisdiction in this case. Although the Court of course recognizes the
Bristol-Myers decision as controlling precedent, it finds Ford’s Motion should
nonetheless be denied for two reasons.
First, Ford’s Motion was denied in substantial part pursuant to the “stream of
commerce” theory articulated in Asahi Metal Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Superior Ct. of Cal.,
Solano County, 480 U.S. 102 (1987). The Court’s decision in Bristol-Meyers makes
no mention of the “stream of commerce” doctrine. Rather, the Court made its
decision through a “straightforward application” of “settled principles of personal
jurisdiction.” Bristol-Myers, 137 S. Ct. at at 1783.3 To this end, Ford’s Motion
In addition, the Court’s decision in Bristol-Meyers “concern[ed] the due process
limits on the exercise of personal jurisdiction by a State,” and “le[ft] open the
question of whether the Fifth Amendment imposes the same restrictions on ... a
federal court.” Id. at 1784.
revisits issues already addressed by the Court, which is a prohibited use of a motion
for reconsideration. Under the same “settled principles of personal jurisdiction,” the
Court found Plaintiffs had met their burden of proving specific personal jurisdiction
existed and denied Ford’s motion to dismiss. Accordingly, Ford’s instant Motion is
denied on this ground.
Moreover, the facts of the present case and Bristol-Myers are distinguishable.
The Bristol-Myers Court’s analysis focused on due process considerations as they
applied to the nonresident plaintiffs suing in California. The Court specifically noted
the nonresidents (1) did not claim to have suffered harm in California and (2) their
claims did not allege harm to California residents. Id. at 1782. However, the Court
held the non-resident plaintiffs could perhaps sue in their respective home states. Id.
at 1783. Here, Plaintiffs, who are Oklahoma residents, suffered injury in Oklahoma
and brought their lawsuit in Oklahoma. Coupled with the application of the “stream
of commerce” doctrine, this Court found that the exercise of personal jurisdiction
would be appropriate and reasonable. On this issue, Bristol-Myers buttresses the
Court’s finding that specific personal jurisdiction exists in the present case.
Accordingly, Defendant’s Motion to Reconsider Based on Intervening
Change in Controlling Law [Doc. No. 62] is DENIED as set forth herein.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 16th day of August 2017.
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