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Red Robin International, Inc. v. Lehigh Valley Restaurant Group, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

February 2, 2016




The matter before me is Defendants’ Motion To Dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint [#11], [1] filed December 10, 2015. The plaintiff filed a response [#17], and the defendants filed a reply [#20]. I deny the motion in part and grant it in part.


I have subject matter jurisdiction of this action under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question) and 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (diversity of citizenship). In their present motion, the defendants argue this court does not have personal jurisdiction over any of the defendants.


The defendants move to dismiss the claims of the plaintiff on the ground that the defendants do not have sufficient minimum contacts with Colorado to warrant the exercise of personal jurisdiction over them in this forum. The assumption of personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant involves a two-step inquiry. First, the defendant must be amenable to service of process under the forum state's long-arm statute. See Wenz v. Memery Crystal, 55 F.3d 1503, 1056-07(10th Cir. 1995); Dart International, Inc. v. Interactive Target Systems, Inc., 877 F.Supp. 541, 543 (D. Colo. 1995). Second, the exercise of jurisdiction must comport with due process. Wenz, 55 F.3d at 1507; Custom Vinyl Compounding Inc. v. Bushart & Associates, Inc., 810 F.Supp. 285, 287 (D. Colo. 1992). Because the Colorado long-arm statute extends personal jurisdiction within the state as far as the federal constitutional requirements of due process permit, Keefe v. Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum, P.C., 40 P.3d 1267, 1270 (Colo. 2002), the analysis collapses into a single inquiry as to whether the requirements of due process are satisfied.

Due process for jurisdictional purposes consists of two elements. First, the defendant must have sufficient "minimum contacts" with the forum state. International Shoe Co. v. State of Washington, Office of Unemployment Compensation & Placement, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945); Kuenzle v. HTM Sport-Und Freizeitgeräte AG, 102 F.3d 453, 455 (10th Cir. 1996). "Minimum contacts" may be analyzed in terms of specific jurisdiction or general jurisdiction. Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414 (1984); Trierweiler v. Croxton & Trench Holding Corp., 90 F.3d 1523, 1532 (10th Cir. 1996). Specific jurisdiction exists when the contacts of a defendant with the forum state arise from, or are directly related to, the cause of action of the plaintiff. Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472 (1985); Kuenzle, 102 F.3d at 455. General jurisdiction is proper when the defendant has other "continuous and systematic" contacts with the forum, even if those contacts are unrelated to the pending litigation. Helicopteros Nacionales de Columbia, 466 U.S. at 415; Trierweiler, 90 F.3d at 1533. In a commercial context, if the efforts of a defendant are purposefully directed toward residents of the forum state, courts “have consistently rejected the notion that an absence of physical contacts can defeat personal jurisdiction” in the forum state. Burger King, 471 U.S. at 476.

Second, if sufficient minimum contacts exist, I then must determine whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the non-resident defendant “would comport with ‘fair play and substantial justice.’” Burger King Corp., 471 U.S. at 476 (internal quotation omitted). Stated differently, I must determine whether assuming personal jurisdiction over the defendant is “‘reasonable’ in light of the circumstances surrounding the case.” OMI Holdings, Inc. v. Royal Insurance Co. of Canada, 149 F.3d 1086, 1091 (10th Cir. 1998). Factors relevant to that analysis include

(1) the burden on the defendant, (2) the forum state's interest in resolving the dispute, (3) the plaintiff's interest in receiving convenient and effective relief, (4) the interstate judicial system's interest in obtaining the most efficient resolution of controversies, and (5) the shared interest of the several states in furthering fundamental social policies.

Trujillo v. Williams, 465 F.3d 1210, 1221 (10th Cir. 2006) (quoting Pro Axess, Inc. v. Orlux Distribution, Inc., 428 F.3d 1270, 1279-80 (10th Cir. 2005)). “[T]he weaker the plaintiff's showing on minimum contacts, the less a defendant need show in terms of unreasonableness to defeat jurisdiction.” Id. (quoting Pro Axess, 428 F.3d at 1280).

I have discretion to resolve the motion on affidavits and other written material. Behagen v. Amateur Basketball Association, 744 F.2d 731, 733 (10th Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 471 U.S. 1010 (1985). The plaintiff has the burden to establish a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction. Id. I must accept the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true. Wenz, 55 F.3d at 1505; Behagen, 744 F.2d at 733. However, the plaintiff has “the duty to support jurisdictional allegations in a complaint by competent proof of the supporting facts if the jurisdictional allegations are challenged by an appropriate pleading." Pytlik v. Professional Resources, Ltd., 887 F.2d 1371, 1376 (10th Cir. 1989).


This lawsuit concerns a franchise agreement between the plaintiff, Red Robin International, Inc., and the defendant, Lehigh Valley Restaurant Group, Inc. (LVRG). Having reviewed the motion, response, and reply as well as the affidavits submitted by the parties, I find and conclude that there is no material dispute about any of the facts relevant to the motion.

Effective May 30, 1995, Red Robin, as franchisor, and LVRG, as franchisee, entered into a written franchise agreement concerning the establishment and operation of a Red Robin restaurant in Easton, Pennsylvania. When the franchise agreement became effective, Red Robin was a Nevada corporation headquartered in California. Red Robin alleges that each of the three individual defendants personally guaranteed in writing the obligations of LVRG under the franchise agreement. LVRG is a Pennsylvania corporation with its principal place ...

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