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Green v. Fishbone Safety Solutions, Ltd.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

September 12, 2017

MICHAEL GREEN, on behalf of himself and all similarly situated persons, Plaintiff,
FISHBONE SAFETY SOLUTIONS, LTD., a Texas limited partnership, WILLIAM S. CAIN, BSC INTEREST, LLC, a Texas limited liability company, and NOBLE ENERGY, INC., a Delaware corporation, Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on Defendants William S. Cain's and BSC Interest, LLC's Motion to Dismiss [Docket No. 26], which is brought pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). The Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of an employment dispute. Docket No. 6 at 1-2, ¶ 1. According to the amended complaint, defendants Fishbone Safety Solutions, Ltd. (“Fishbone”), William S. Cain (“Cain”), BSC Interest, LLC (“BSC”), and Noble Energy, Inc. (“Noble”) violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) by failing to pay their employees statutorily mandated overtime. Id. Defendant Cain is the managing partner of BSC and the president of Fishbone. Docket No. 26-1 at 2-3, ¶¶ 3-4. BSC, in turn, is the general partner of Fishbone. Id. at 3, ¶ 4.

         Plaintiff alleges that he worked for defendants as a “Safety Advisor, inspecting and monitoring oil well sites for safety issues.” Docket No. 6 at 3, ¶ 10. Plaintiff states that he was regularly required to work over forty hours per week, but defendants refused to pay him overtime because he was classified as an independent contractor, rather than as an employee. Id. at 3-4, ¶¶ 11-12. Plaintiff argues that defendants misclassified him in order to avoid paying overtime premiums and to reduce other employment expenses. Id. at 4, ¶ 13.


         The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(2) is to determine whether the Court has personal jurisdiction. The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing personal jurisdiction over defendants. Rambo v. Am. S. Ins. Co., 839 F.2d 1415, 1417 (10th Cir. 1988). Where a district court considers a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and there has been no evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction to defeat the motion. AST Sports Sci., Inc. v. CLF Distribution Ltd., 514 F.3d 1054, 1056-57 (10th Cir. 2008) (citations omitted). The Court will accept the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true to the extent they are uncontroverted by affidavits submitted by defendants. Wenz v. Memery Crystal, 55 F.3d 1503, 1505 (10th Cir. 1995) (citations omitted). “If the parties present conflicting affidavits, all factual disputes must be resolved in the plaintiff's favor, and the plaintiff's prima facie showing is sufficient notwithstanding the contrary presentation by the moving party.” Id. (quotation omitted).

         III. ANALYSIS

         To assert personal jurisdiction over a defendant in a federal question case, the Court must determine: “(1) whether the applicable statute potentially confers jurisdiction by authorizing service of process on the defendant and (2) whether the exercise of jurisdiction comports with due process.” Peay v. BellSouth Med. Assistance Plan, 205 F.3d 1206, 1209 (10th Cir. 2000) (quotations omitted). Because the FLSA is silent as to service of process, the Court looks to the long-arm statute of the forum state. See Federated Rural Elec. Ins. Corp. v. Kootenai Elec. Co-op., 17 F.3d 1302, 1304-05 (10th Cir. 1994). The Colorado long arm statute, Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-1-124, has been construed to extend jurisdiction to the full extent of the Constitution, so the jurisdictional analysis here reduces to a single inquiry of whether jurisdiction offends due process. Pro Axess, Inc. v. Orlux Distrib., Inc., 428 F.3d 1270, 1276 (10th Cir. 2005); Classic Auto Sales, Inc. v. Schocket, 832 P.2d 233, 235 (Colo. 1992); Archangel Diamond Corp. v. Lukoil, 123 P.3d 1187, 1193 (Colo. 2005).

         “Personal jurisdiction comports with due process where a defendant has minimum contacts with the forum state and where those contacts are such that jurisdiction does not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'” Interstate Restoration, LLC v. Wilson Assocs., No. 13-cv-03423-REB-MJW, 2014 WL 1395466, at *2 (D. Colo. Apr. 8, 2014) (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Wash., 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)). Minimum contacts may be established under the doctrines of general jurisdiction or specific jurisdiction. Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 918 (2011). Where general jurisdiction is asserted over a non-resident defendant who has not consented to suit in the forum, minimum contacts exist if the plaintiff demonstrates that the defendant's “affiliations with the State are so ‘continuous and systematic' as to render them essentially at home in the forum State.” Id. at 919. Specific jurisdiction, in contrast, is present only if the lawsuit “aris[es] out of or relat[es] to the defendant's contacts with the forum.” Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, San Francisco Cty., 137 S.Ct. 1773, 1780 (2017). Plaintiff does not assert general jurisdiction; thus, the Court will analyze defendants BSC's and Cain's contacts with Colorado as they relate to specific jurisdiction.

         The specific jurisdiction analysis is two-fold. First, the Court must determine whether defendant has such minimum contacts with Colorado that defendant “should reasonably anticipate being haled into court” here. World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297 (1980). Within this inquiry, the Court must determine whether there is an “affiliation between the forum and the underlying controversy, principally, [an] activity or an occurrence that takes place in the forum State.” Bristol-Myers, 137 S.Ct. at 1781. Second, if defendants' actions create sufficient minimum contacts, the Court must consider whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction over defendants offends “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.”[1] Asahi Metal Indus. Co. v. Superior Court of Cal., 480 U.S. 102, 113 (1987) (internal quotations omitted). This latter inquiry requires a determination of whether the Court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over defendants is “reasonable” in light of the circumstances of the case. Id.

         A. Joint Employer

         Before considering each defendant's contacts with Colorado, the Court considers plaintiff's argument that the Court has personal jurisdiction over defendants BSC and Cain because plaintiff has adequately alleged that each defendant acted as a joint employer within the meaning of FLSA.[2] Docket No. 41 at 2-4. Plaintiff argues that, because BSC and Cain are joint employers, they are subject to jurisdiction where the employee works. Id. In support of his argument, plaintiff cites Powers v. Emcon Assocs., Inc., No. 14-cv-03006-KMT, 2016 WL 1111708 (D. Colo. Mar. 22, 2016), where the court found it had personal jurisdiction over out-of-state defendants because plaintiffs had properly pled joint employer liability under the FLSA. Id. at *6. The Powers court, however, did not discuss the difference between statutory liability and personal jurisdiction or explain how the definition of “employer” under the FLSA could expand the scope of personal jurisdiction. Id.

         Ordinarily, personal jurisdiction is a constitutional question that does not turn on the particulars of statutory liability. See Creech v. P.J. Wichita, L.L.C., 2017 WL 914810, at *3-4 (D. Kan. Mar. 8, 2017) (“[P]ersonal jurisdiction derives from a constitutional inquiry of due process, liability theories arise from federal or state statutes.”). While some courts have relied upon statutory liability to answer questions concerning personal jurisdiction, they “have largely done so without analysis.” Id. at *3 (discussing examples). Those cases that have squarely considered the question rejected the notion that statutory liability is relevant to personal jurisdiction. See, e.g., Cent. States, Se. & Sw. Areas Pension Fund v. Reimer Express World Corp., 230 F.3d 934, 944 (7th Cir. 2000) (“[A] state or federal statute cannot transmogrify insufficient minimum contacts into a basis for personal jurisdiction by making these contacts elements of a cause of action, since this would violate due process.”); In re Enter. Rent-A-Car Wage & Hour Employment Practices Litig., 735 F.Supp.2d 277, 328 (W.D. Pa. 2010) (collecting cases divided over whether statutory liability is relevant to personal jurisdiction and concluding that the two inquiries are distinct). While the Tenth Circuit has not addressed the issue, the Court finds that defendants BSC and Cain's alleged status as joint employers is irrelevant to the ...

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