Estate of Kekona v. Alaska Airlines Inc et al

Filing 28

ORDER granting Huntleigh USA Corporation's 20 Motion to Dismiss; and denying Plaintiff's request for jurisdictional discovery (Dkt. No. 23 at 23). Huntleigh USA Corporation, a Missouri corporation is terminated. Signed by U.S. District Judge John C Coughenour. (TH)

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THE HONORABLE JOHN C. COUGHENOUR 1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 7 8 9 Estate of BERNICE KEKONA by its personal representative, Darlene Bloyed, 10 CASE NO. C18-0116-JCC ORDER Plaintiff, 11 v. 12 ALASKA AIRLINES, INC., an Alaska Corporation; ALASKA AIR GROUP, INC., a Delaware Corporation; and HUNTLEIGH USA CORPORATION, a Missouri Corporation, 13 14 15 Defendants. 16 17 This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Huntleigh USA’s (“Huntleigh”) motion 18 19 to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction (Dkt. No. 20). Having thoroughly considered the 20 parties’ briefing and the relevant record, the Court GRANTS Huntleigh’s motion for the reasons 21 explained herein. 22 I. 23 BACKGROUND This is a wrongful death and survival action brought by the Estate of Bernice Kekona. 24 (See generally, Dkt. No. 1-2.) The Court has described the facts of this case in a previous order 25 and will not repeat them here. (See Dkt. No. 22 at 1–3.) Mrs. Kekona was a citizen of 26 Washington State. (Dkt. No. 23 at 2.) Defendant Huntleigh is a Missouri corporation with its ORDER C18-0116-JCC PAGE - 1 1 principal place of business in Texas. (Dkt. No. 21 at 1.) Plaintiff alleges Huntleigh failed to 2 provide a required gate-to-gate escort while Ms. Kekona was transferring between Alaska 3 Airlines flights at Portland International Airport and, as a result of that failure, Ms. Kekona 4 suffered fatal injuries. (Dkt. No. 1-2 at 4‒15, 17‒20.) 5 Huntleigh moves to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). (Dkt. 6 No. 20 at 1.) 7 II. DISCUSSION 8 A. Standard of Review 9 Claims against a defendant may be dismissed when a court lacks personal jurisdiction. 10 Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2). When a defendant seeks dismissal on these grounds, the plaintiff must 11 prove jurisdiction is appropriate. Picot v. Weston, 780 F.3d 1206, 1211 (9th Cir. 2015). To 12 determine whether it has jurisdiction over a defendant, a federal court applies the law of the state 13 in which it sits, as long as that law is consistent with federal due process. Diamler AG v. 14 Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746, 753 (2014). Washington grants courts the maximum jurisdictional reach 15 permitted by due process. Easter v. Am. W. Fin., 381 F.3d 948, 960 (9th Cir. 2004). Thus, the 16 only question remaining for a Washington district court is whether the Court’s exercise of 17 jurisdiction comports with the limitations imposed by due process. Helicopteros Nacionales de 18 Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 413 (1984). A court may not exercise jurisdiction over a 19 defendant if that exercise of jurisdiction “offend[s] traditional notions of fair play and substantial 20 justice.” Int’l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945). Fair play and substantial justice 21 mandate that a defendant has minimum contacts with the forum state before it may be hailed into 22 a court in that forum. Id. The extent of those contacts can result in either general or specific 23 jurisdiction. Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011). If the 24 requirements for either are met, a court has jurisdiction over the parties. Helicopteros, 466 U.S. 25 at 413-14. 26 // ORDER C18-0116-JCC PAGE - 2 1 B. 2 General jurisdiction permits a court to consider claims against a person or a corporation 3 for any conduct, even that which occurred outside the forum state. Goodyear, 564 U.S. at 924; 4 Daimler, 134 S. Ct. at 754. A corporation’s mere presence within a state is not sufficient to 5 establish general jurisdiction. BNSF Ry. Co. v. Tyrrell, 137 S. Ct. 1549, 1559 (2017). Rather, the 6 corporation’s contacts with the state must be “so continuous and systematic as to render [it] 7 essentially at home.” Goodyear, 564 U.S. at 919. “For an individual, the paradigm forum for the 8 exercise of general jurisdiction is the individual’s domicile; for a corporation, it is an equivalent 9 place, one in which the corporation is fairly regarded as at home.” Id. “Th[at] inquiry ‘calls for 10 an appraisal of a corporation’s activities in their entirety.’” BNSF, 137 S. Ct. at 1559 (quoting 11 Daimler, 134 S. Ct. at 761). A corporation is undeniably “at home” in both the state where it is 12 incorporated and the state where it is headquartered. Daimler, 134 S. Ct. at 760. A corporation 13 may also be considered “at home” outside those states, but only in “exceptional case[s].” BNSF, 14 137 S. Ct. at 1558; see Perkins v. Benguet Consol. Mining Co., 342 U.S. 437, 445–49 (1952) (a 15 foreign corporation that temporarily relocated its operating headquarters was subject to the 16 general jurisdiction of the court located in that venue). However, “‘a corporation that operates in 17 many places can scarcely be deemed at home in all of them.’” BNSF, 137 S. Ct. at 1559 (quoting 18 Daimler, 134 S. Ct. at 761). 19 General Jurisdiction Defendant is a Missouri corporation with a principal place of business in Texas. (Dkt. 20 No. 21 at 1.) For purposes of general jurisdiction, Defendant is undeniably at home in those 21 states. Daimler, 134 S. Ct. at 760. Plaintiff suggests that Defendant’s business operations in 22 Washington—amounting to 10 percent of its workforce and 14 percent of its revenue—are so 23 great that it is “at home” in Washington as well. (Dkt. No. 23 at 7–8); (see Dkt. No. 21 at 2). The 24 Court disagrees. See BNSF, 137 S. Ct. at 1554, 1559 (United States District Court for the District 25 of Montana lacked general jurisdiction over a corporation with activities in multiple states, 26 including significant revenue and employees in Montana). Accordingly, the Court finds this ORDER C18-0116-JCC PAGE - 3 1 Court lacks general personal jurisdiction over Huntleigh. 2 C. Specific Jurisdiction 3 Specific jurisdiction permits a district court to exercise jurisdiction over a nonresident 4 defendant for conduct that “create[s] a substantial connection with the forum State.” Walden v. 5 Fiore, 134 S. Ct. 1115, 1121 (2014). To prove that specific jurisdiction exists in a tort-based 6 action, a plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) a defendant purposefully directed its activities at the 7 forum state, (2) the lawsuit arises out of or relates to the defendant’s forum-related activities, and 8 (3) the exercise of jurisdiction is reasonable. Picot, 780 F.3d at 1211. A defendant purposefully 9 directs its conduct toward a forum state when its actions are intended to have an effect within the 10 state. Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 803 (9th Cir. 2003). This occurs 11 if the defendant: “(1) commit[s] an intentional act, (2) expressly aimed at the forum state, (3) 12 causing harm that the defendant knows is likely to be suffered in the forum state.” Morrill v. 13 Scott Financial Co., 873 F.3d 1136, 1142 (9th Cir. 2017). 14 While Plaintiff alleged that Huntleigh committed an intentional act—negligently caring 15 for Ms. Kekona at the Portland International Airport—Plaintiff has not plausibly alleged that any 16 of Huntleigh’s actions in this matter were expressly aimed at Washington. See Schwarzenegger, 17 374 F.3d at 807. Plaintiff argues, for example, that as Alaska Airlines’ agent, Huntleigh was 18 bound by the contract Alaska Airlines entered into with Ms. Kekona in Washington. (Dkt. No. 19 23 at 18‒19.) But this is incorrect. While an agent’s actions within a forum state may subject a 20 foreign principal to that state’s jurisdiction, the inverse is not true. Wells Fargo & Co. v. Wells 21 Fargo Exp. Co., 556 F.2d 406, 420‒21 (9th Cir. 1977). Plaintiff also argues that Huntleigh 22 should have known its actions would effect “a resident of another forum.” (Dkt. No. 23 at 1.) But 23 a “mere foreseeable effect” in the forum state is insufficient to establish purposeful direction. 24 Pebble Beach Co. v. Caddy, 453 F.3d 1151, 1156 (9th Cir. 2006). Accordingly the Court finds 25 Plaintiff also lacks specific personal jurisdiction over Huntleigh. 26 // ORDER C18-0116-JCC PAGE - 4 1 D. Jurisdictional Discovery 2 In the absence of facts to establish jurisdiction, Plaintiff asks the Court delay its decision 3 on Huntleigh’s motion to dismiss and permit jurisdictional discovery. (Dkt. No. 23 at 23‒24.) 4 The Court declines to do so. Jurisdictional discovery is appropriate where “pertinent facts 5 bearing on the question of jurisdiction are controverted or whether a more satisfactory showing 6 of the facts is necessary.” Butcher’s Union Local No. 498, United Food and Commercial 7 Workers v. SDC Inv., Inc, 788 F.2d 535, 540 (9th Cir. 1986). Neither are present in this instance. 8 III. 9 10 11 CONCLUSION For the foregoing reasons, Huntleigh’s motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 20) is GRANTED and Plaintiff’s request for jurisdictional discovery (Dkt. No. 23 at 23) is DENIED. DATED this 11th day of April 2018. A 12 13 14 John C. Coughenour UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 ORDER C18-0116-JCC PAGE - 5

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