United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
E. JOHNSTON, CHIEF JUDGE.
before the Court is Defendant Textron Aviation, Inc.'s
(“Textron”) and Defendant McFarlane Aviation,
Inc.'s (“McFarlane”) motions to dismiss for
lack of personal jurisdiction.(ECF Nos. 6, 9.) For the reasons
discussed herein, the Court GRANTS the
motions. (ECF Nos. 6, 9.)
case arises out of the March 16, 2016 crash of a Cessna 172
aircraft at Yeager Airport in Charleston, West Virginia, in
which Plaintiff Arrin Farrar (“Arrin Farrar”), a
student pilot, was severely injured. (See ECF No. 1
at 13-14, ¶¶ 99-102.) The aircraft was manufactured
by Cessna Aircraft Company (“Cessna”), which
later merged with Textron and ceased to exist as a separate
corporate entity, and the aircraft's seat rails were
manufactured by McFarlane. (See ECF Nos. 20 at 1-2,
63-1 at 12 n.4.) Skylane Aviation, LLC
(“Skylane”) owned the aircraft and registered it
in West Virginia. (ECF No. 61-2 at 2.) Defendant Andrew
Swepston (“Swepston”) performed repetitive
maintenance and inspections on the aircraft. (See
ECF No. 1 at 24, ¶ 145.)
crash that injured Arrin Farrar occurred when the right-side
seat, in which the flight instructor was sitting slipped from
its intended position and caused the instructor to pull the
yoke of the plane backwards. (See Id. at 12-13,
¶¶ 90-97.) This caused the plane to pitch up and
crash. (See Id. ¶¶ 93-97.) As a result of
the crash, Arrin Farrar suffered from numerous fractures
throughout his face and extremities. (See Id. at
13-14, ¶¶ 100-101.)
March 20, 2018, Plaintiffs, Arrin Farrar and his spouse Erin
Farrar, filed the present action in this Court invoking the
Court's diversity jurisdiction as Plaintiffs are
residents of Maine, (ECF No. 1 at 2, ¶¶ 4-5),
Textron and McFarlane are Kansas corporations with their
principal places of business in Kansas, (id. at 2-3,
¶¶ 7, 9), and Swepston is a resident of Ohio.
(Id. at 3, ¶ 10.) Plaintiffs allege the
following five counts against Textron and McFarlane: strict
liability (Count I); negligence (Count II); breach of
warranties (Count III); fraud (Count IV); reckless,
outrageous, and willful and wanton conduct (Count V).
(See Id. at 14-24, ¶¶ 103-43.) Plaintiffs
further allege claims for negligence (Count VI) and breach of
express and implied warranties (Count VII) against Swepston.
(See Id. at 24-28, ¶¶ 144-63.)
9, 2018 and July 13, 2018 respectively, Textron and McFarlane
filed the present motions to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction. (ECF Nos. 6, 9.) Plaintiffs timely responded,
(ECF Nos. 23, 25), and Textron and McFarlane timely replied.
(ECF Nos. 30, 32.) On August 6, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a
motion to conduct jurisdictional discovery. (ECF No. 19.) The
Court granted Plaintiffs' motion on November 9, 2018 and
ordered that Textron's and McFarlane's motions to
dismiss be held in abeyance for a 60-day period of
jurisdictional discovery to end on January 21, 2019.
(See ECF No. 36 at 8.) That 60-day period was
extended to February 15, 2019.
filed their supplemental response on March 1, 2019.
(See ECF No. 61-2.) McFarlane and Textron filed
their supplemental replies on March 7, 2019 and March 8, 2019
respectively. (See ECF Nos. 62, 63-1.) As such,
Textron's and McFarlane's motions to dismiss are
fully briefed and ripe for adjudication.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), a court may dismiss
claims for lack of personal jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(2). “When a non-resident defendant files a motion
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure challenging the court's power to exercise
personal jurisdiction, ‘the jurisdictional question
thus raised is one for the judge, with the burden on the
plaintiff ultimately to prove the existence of a ground for
jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence.'”
Felman Prod. v. Bannai, 517 F.Supp.2d 824, 827-28
(S.D. W.Va. 2007) (quoting Combs v. Bakker, 886 F.2d
673, 676 (4th Cir. 1989)). However, “[w]here, as here,
the district court addresses the question of personal
jurisdiction on the basis of motion papers, supporting legal
memoranda, and the allegations in the complaint, the
plaintiff bears the burden of making a prima facie showing of
a sufficient jurisdictional basis to survive the
jurisdictional challenge.” Consulting Eng'rs
Corp. v. Geometric Ltd., 561 F.3d 273, 276 (4th Cir.
2009). “In considering whether the plaintiff has met
this burden, the district court must construe all relevant
pleading allegations in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff, assume credibility, and draw the most favorable
inferences for the existence of jurisdiction.”
Universal Leather, LLC v. Koro AR, S.A., 773 F.3d
553, 558 (4th Cir. 2014) (citation and quotation marks
federal court sitting in diversity, “has personal
jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant if (1) an
applicable state long-arm statute confers jurisdiction and
(2) the assertion of that jurisdiction is consistent with
constitutional due process.” Perdue Foods LLC v.
BRF S.A., 814 F.3d 185, 188 (4th Cir. 2016) (quoting
Nichols v. G.D. Searle & Co., 991 F.2d 1195,
1199 (4th Cir. 1993)). Here, because the West Virginia
long-arm statute “‘is coextensive with the full
reach of due process,' the Court need not conduct
‘the normal two-step formula.'” Knisely
v. Nat'l Better Living Ass'n, No. 3:14-cv-15,
2015 WL 1868819, at *8 (N.D. W.Va. Apr. 23, 2015) (quoting
In re Celotex Corp., 124 F.3d 619, 627 (4th Cir.
1997)). Thus, the Court's statutory inquiry merges with
the constitutional inquiry and the Court need only consider
whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction in the present
case would be consistent with the Due Process Clause. See
Id. (quoting In re Celotex Corp., 124 F.3d at
court's exercise of jurisdiction over a nonresident
defendant comports with due process if the defendant has
‘minimum contacts' with the forum, such that to
require the defendant to defend its interests in that state
‘does not offend traditional notions of fair play and
substantial justice.'” Carefirst of Md., Inc.
v. Carefirst Pregnancy Ctrs., Inc., 334 F.3d 390, 397
(4th Cir. 2003) (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v.
Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)). A defendant's
contacts may establish either general or specific
jurisdiction. See Perdue Foods, 814 F.3d at 189.
or all purpose, jurisdiction over a nonresident corporate
defendant exists if the defendant's contacts with the
forum state are so “continuous and systemic” as
to render the defendant “at home” in the forum
state. Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 139
(2014). Generally, a corporation is at home only where it is
incorporated and where it has its principal place of
business. See Id. at 137. While the Supreme Court
has not foreclosed the possibility that a corporation could
be at home in a state where it is neither incorporated nor
has its principal place of business, it has made it clear
that “[a] corporation that operates in many places can
scarcely be deemed at home in all of them.”
Id. at 139 n.20.
personal jurisdiction over a corporate defendant exists if
the suit “arises out of or relates to the
defendant's contacts with the forum” and defendant
has “‘purposefully established minimum contacts
in the forum State' such ‘that [it] should
reasonably anticipate being haled into court
there.'” Daimler, 571 U.S. at 127; see
also Perdue Foods, 814 F.3d at 189 (quoting
Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S.
462, 474 (1985)). The Fourth Circuit has directed its courts
to look at the following to determine whether specific
personal jurisdiction exists:
(1) the extent to which the defendant purposefully availed
itself of the privilege of conducting activities in the forum
state; (2) whether the plaintiff's claims arose out of
those activities; and (3) whether the exercise of personal
jurisdiction is constitutionally reasonable.
Universal Leather, 773 F.3d at 559. “The
‘touchstone' of the specific jurisdiction analysis
is whether the defendant ‘engaged in some activity
purposefully directed toward the forum state.'”
Sarver v. Johnson & Johnson, No. 2:14-cv-19968,
2016 WL 482994, at *3 ...