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Magill v. Ford Motor Co.

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

September 12, 2016

John Magill and Suzanna Magill, Plaintiffs
v.
Ford Motor Company; Mark Polunci; and Does 1 through 20, inclusive. Defendants

         Original Proceeding Pursuant to C.A.R. 21 City and County of Denver District Court Case No. 15CV32019 Honorable Michael J. Vallejos

          Attorneys for Plaintiffs: Hale Westfall, LLP Richard A. Westfall Peter J. Krumholz Denver, Colorado

          Attorneys for Defendants: Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell, LLP Edward C. Stewart Theresa R. Wardon Marissa S. Ronk Denver, Colorado Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP Jessica Ellsworth Sean Marotta Washington, D.C.

          Attorneys for Amicus Curiae The Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America: Kittredge LLC Daniel D. Domenico Denver, Colorado MRD Law Michael Francisco Denver, Colorado

          Attorneys for Amicus Curiae The Colorado Trial Lawyers Association: Ollanik Law, LLC Stuart Ollanik Boulder, Colorado Schoenwald & Thompson LLC Julia T. Thompson Denver, Colorado

          Attorneys for Amicus Curiae The Center for Auto Safety and The Attorneys Information Exchange Group: Ogborn Mihm, LLP Thomas Neville Denver, Colorado Anapol Weiss Larry E. Coben Scottsdale, Arizona

          RICE CHIEF JUSTICE

         ¶1 We issued a rule to show cause in this case to review the trial court's conclusion that defendant Ford Motor Company ("Ford") is subject to general personal jurisdiction in Colorado, despite the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Daimler A.G. v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746 (2014). We conclude that the record does not support a finding that Ford is "essentially at home" in Colorado, and therefore, Ford is not subject to general personal jurisdiction here. Because the trial court did not determine whether Ford was subject to specific jurisdiction, we do not reach that issue.

         ¶2 We also review the trial court's conclusion that venue was proper in Denver

         County because Ford has a registered agent there. We hold that maintaining a registered agent in the state does not convert a foreign corporation to a resident. Therefore, because none of the parties reside in Denver and the accident did not occur there, we conclude that venue is not appropriate in Denver County.

         ¶3 Accordingly, we make our rule to show cause absolute, and we remand with instructions for the trial court to transfer the case to an appropriate venue. A trial court in a proper venue must then determine whether Ford is subject to specific jurisdiction.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         ¶4 This case arises from a car accident that occurred on September 25, 2013, in Douglas County, Colorado. Plaintiff John Scott Magill was driving his 2007 Ford Fusion when it collided with a vehicle driven by defendant Mark Polunci. Magill suffered severe injuries in the collision, including a traumatic brain injury and spinal injuries. Magill and his wife, Suzanna Magill, filed a lawsuit in Denver District Court against Polunci, Ford, and other defendants to recover for his injuries. The Magills claim that their Fusion had defective seat and restraint systems that caused Mr. Magill's serious and permanent injuries. They contend that Ford, as the manufacturer of the Fusion, is liable for their injuries based on three causes of action: (1) strict liability, (2) negligence or negligence per se, and (3) loss of consortium. Ford filed a C.R.C.P. 12(b)(2) Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction or, in the Alternative, to Transfer Venue Pursuant to C.R.C.P. 98(e). Polunci also filed a motion to change venue.

         ¶5 The following undisputed facts are relevant to the jurisdiction and venue questions presented: The accident underlying this case occurred in Douglas County, Colorado. The Magills reside in Douglas County. Mr. Polunci resides in El Paso County. Ford is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Michigan. Ford has a registered agent in Denver County. Ford markets and sells cars throughout the country, including Colorado, through franchised dealerships. Ford does not manufacture cars in Colorado, but it maintains several offices and businesses in the state, including the Ford Motor Company Service School and an office for Ford Motor Credit Co., LLC.

         ¶6 The trial court denied both motions to change venue. It observed that "Ford is a foreign corporation whose registered agent is located in Denver County and . . . [was] served there." Consequently, it concluded that "venue is proper in Denver County under the provision of Rule 98(c)(1) that allows an action to be brought in the county in which at least one defendant resides."

         ¶7 Ford also moved to dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction. The company argued that it is not subject to general personal jurisdiction because it is not "at home" in Colorado. Ford argued that it was not subject to specific personal jurisdiction because the car accident did not arise out of its contacts with Colorado. The trial court concluded that the Magills "made a prima facie showing that Ford is at 'home' in Colorado" and that Ford's "continuous and systematic affiliations" with Colorado were sufficient to subject Ford to general personal jurisdiction in Colorado.

         ¶8 Ford's petition presents the following issues: (1) whether the trial court erred when it concluded that it had general personal jurisdiction over Ford and (2) whether the trial ...


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