United States District Court, D. Colorado
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS AND
MOTION TO INTERVENE
S. KRIEGER CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER comes before the Court pursuant to Microwerk,
LLC's Motion to Intervene (# 28), to
which no party has responded; and Third Party Defendant
Michael De Caro's Motion to Dismiss (#
29) the claims against him, Third Party Plaintiff
Keven Petersen's response (# 35), and
Mr. De Caro's reply (# 37).
relevant here, according to Mr. Petersen's Third-Party
Complaint (# 27), Mr. Petersen was
previously involved with the Plaintiff 915 Labs, LLC
(“915”), a business engaged in the use of
microwave technology to pasteurize and sterilize prepared
foods. Mr. Petersen eventually grew dissatisfied with the
direction that 915 was taking. In late 2016, Mr. Petersen
made contact with Mr. De Caro, a contractor performing sales
work for 915, and the two men executed a mutual
non-disclosure agreement in furtherance of discussions about
forming a new, competing business called Modern Advantage
Technology, LLC (“MAT”). As part of those
discussions, Mr. De Caro created a shared file on his
computer, containing “marketing materials” that
Mr. De Caro had used as part of his work with 915. Mr.
Petersen and Mr. De Caro jointly formed MAT in mid-2017, and
Mr. De Caro was tasked with assembling its information
technology infrastructure, such as web domains and e-mail
servers. Disagreements between the two men quickly ensued and
Mr. De Caro exited MAT in acrimonious circumstances. As part
of his departure, Mr. De Caro “seized control” of
MAT's web domain and e-mail infrastructure, and refused
to return it. Moreover, Mr. De Caro, in an effort to sabotage
Mr. Petersen and MAT, reached out to 915 and “provided
false information” to it, accusing Mr. Petersen of
misusing 915's confidential information. (This prompted
915 to bring the primary claims in this action, alleging that
Mr. Petersen misappropriated 915's trade secrets and
breached various contractual agreements he had with 915.) Mr.
Petersen contends that, to the extent that 915's
confidential information was improperly disclosed, it was
disclosed by Mr. De Caro, not by himself.
on these facts, as to Mr. De Caro, Mr. Petersen asserts a
single third-party claim for conversion under an unspecified
jurisdiction's common law, arguing that Mr. De Caro
“exercised ownership over Mr. Petersen's and
[MAT's] domain, email servers, and email accounts”
with the intent of depriving them of the use of these items.
Caro now moves to dismiss (# 29) Mr.
Petersen's claim against him for lack of personal
jurisdiction. Mr. De Caro notes that he is a citizen of the
State of Washington and has no particular contacts with the
State of Colorado.
MAT (also known as Microwerk) moves to intervene (#
28) in order to assert its own third-party claims
against Mr. De Caro and 915. Specifically, it contends that
Mr. De Caro misappropriated MAT's own trade secret
information and conveyed it to 915, who, in turn, improperly
used the information to interfere with MAT's contracts
and prospective relations with MAT's own partners and
customers. No party has opposed MAT's request to
Personal jurisdiction over Mr. De Caro
party asserting claims against a defendant bears the burden
of proving that the Court has personal jurisdiction over that
defendant. AST Sports Science, Inc. v. CLF Distribution
Ltd., 514 F.3d 1054, 1056 (10th Cir.2008). At the
preliminary stages of a lawsuit, the Court may elect to
conclusively resolve issues of personal jurisdiction by
conducting an evidentiary hearing on the matter;
alternatively, it my defer full consideration of the
jurisdictional question until later in the case, and require
only a prima facie showing, via affidavit or other
evidence, of facts that, if true, would support the exercise
of personal jurisdiction over the defendant. At this stage,
the Court resolves any factual disputes in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. Id.
Colorado's expansive Long-Arm Statute, the jurisdictional
inquiry has only two prongs: (i) an evaluation of whether the
defendant has sufficient “minimum contacts” with
the forum state, such that he “should reasonably
anticipate being haled into court there”; and (ii)
whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the
defendant would offend traditional notions of fair play and
substantial justice. Id., citing World -Wide
Volkswagon Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297 (1980)
and Asahi Metal Indus. Co. v. Superior Court, 480
U.S. 102, 113 (1987). The “minimum contacts”
inquiry, in turn, also has two strands: “general”
and “specific” jurisdiction. The Supreme Court
has recently clarified and narrowed the minimum contacts
inquiry: “general” personal jurisdiction exists
only in the state of an individual's domicile.
Bristol-Meyers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court, 137
S.Ct. 1773, 1779-80 (2017). Otherwise, the Court considers
whether it has “specific” jurisdiction over the
defendant by examining the nature and extent of the
defendant's contacts with the forum jurisdiction, but the
Court considers only those contacts that arise out of or
relate to the claims asserted against the defendant.
Court reflexively rejects Mr. Petersen's argument that
Mr. De Caro is subject to general jurisdiction in Colorado;
it is undisputed that Mr. De Caro is domiciled in Washington.
the only question for the Court is whether Mr. De Caro's
contacts with Colorado, as those contacts relate to Mr.
Petersen's conversion claim, are significant. To
perform that inquiry, the Court first delineates the contours
of Mr. ...