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Fischer v. BMW of North America, LLC

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 25, 2019




         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft's Amended Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) [Docket No. 46]. The Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         On or about January 14, 2016, plaintiff was changing the front tire of a 2003 BMW when the tire jack and/or jacking point failed, causing the vehicle to drop and pin plaintiff's finger between the asphalt and a lug wrench. Docket No. 1 at 3, ¶¶ 9, 12-13. As a result of the incident, plaintiff suffered permanent injuries, including the amputation of a portion of his middle finger. Id., ¶ 13.

         Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on January 16, 2018 asserting claims for strict product liability, negligence, and breach of warranty against various entities involved in the manufacture and distribution of the jack and jacking point involved in the incident. Docket No. 1. On July 6, 2018, defendant Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft, a German automobile manufacturer, moved to dismiss plaintiff's claims against it for lack of personal jurisdiction. Docket No. 46. Plaintiff filed a response to the motion on August 3, 2018. Docket No. 53. Defendant filed a reply on August 24, 2018. Docket No. 55.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD[2]

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(2) is to determine whether the Court has personal jurisdiction over a defendant. The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing personal jurisdiction. Rambo v. Am. S. Ins. Co., 839 F.2d 1415, 1417 (10th Cir. 1988). The plaintiff can satisfy its burden by making a prima facie showing. Dudnikov, 514 F.3d at 1070. The Court will accept the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true in determining whether plaintiff has made a prima facie showing that personal jurisdiction exists. AST Sports Sci., Inc. v. CLF Distribution Ltd., 514 F.3d 1054, 1057 (10th Cir. 2008). If the presence or absence of personal jurisdiction can be established by reference to the complaint, the Court need not look further. Id. The plaintiff, however, may also make this prima facie showing by putting forth evidence that, if proven to be true, would support jurisdiction over the defendant. Dudnikov, 514 F.3d at 1070. “[A]ny factual disputes in the parties' affidavits must be resolved in plaintiffs' favor.” Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         “In determining whether a federal court has personal jurisdiction over a defendant, 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.” Niemi v. Lasshofer, 770 F.3d 1331, 1348 (10th Cir. 2014); Trujillo v. Williams, 465 F.3d 1210, 1217 (10th Cir. 2006) (quoting Peay v. BellSouth Med. Assistance Plan, 205 F.3d 1206, 1209 (10th Cir. 2000)). The Colorado long-arm statute, Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-1-124, has been construed to extend jurisdiction to the full extent permitted by the Constitution, so the jurisdictional analysis here reduces to a single inquiry of whether jurisdiction offends due process. See Pro Axess, Inc. v. Orlux Distrib., Inc., 428 F.3d 1270, 1276 (10th Cir. 2005); 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 assuming jurisdiction does not offend “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” 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. Where general jurisdiction is asserted over a nonresident defendant who has not consented to suit in the forum, minimum contacts exist if the plaintiff demonstrates that the defendant maintains “continuous and systematic general business contacts” in the state. OMI Holdings, Inc. v. Royal Ins. Co. of Canada, 149 F.3d 1086, 1091 (10th Cir. 1998). Plaintiff does not argue that defendant is subject to general jurisdiction in Colorado. See Docket No. 53 at 2 (“Specific personal jurisdiction over BMW AG complies with Colorado's long arm statute and constitutional due process.”), 7 (“BMW AG has sufficient minimum contacts for specific personal jurisdiction in Colorado based on the stream of commerce doctrine.”). The Court therefore limits its analysis to the issue of specific jurisdiction.

         Specific jurisdiction 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 Calif., San Francisco Cty., 137 S.Ct. 1773, 1780 (2017). The specific jurisdiction analysis is two-fold. First, the Court must determine whether a defendant has such minimum contacts with Colorado that the 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 the defendant purposefully directed its activities at residents of the forum, Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472 (1985), and whether plaintiff's claim arises out of or results from “actions by . . . defendant . . . that create a substantial connection with the forum State.” Asahi Metal Indus. Co. v. Superior Court of Cal., 480 U.S. 102, 109 (1987) (internal quotations omitted). Second, if defendant's actions create sufficient minimum contacts, the Court must consider whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction over defendant offends “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Id. at 105. The Court considers several factors as part of this analysis, including: (1) the burden on the defendant; (2) the forum state's interest in adjudicating the dispute; (3) the plaintiff's interest in obtaining 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 substantive social policies. Burger King Corp., 471 U.S. at 477.

         A. Stream of Commerce Framework

         Plaintiff seeks to establish specific personal jurisdiction under a stream of commerce theory. See Docket No. 53 at 7. This theory was first articulated in World Wide Volkswagen Corp., where the Supreme Court stated that a “forum State does not exceed its powers under the Due Process Clause if it asserts personal jurisdiction over a corporation that delivers its products into the stream of commerce with the expectation that they will be purchased by consumers in the forum State.” 444 U.S. at 297-98. As plaintiff notes, however, two subsequent Supreme Court decisions have placed the “proper framework for a stream of commerce analysis . . . in flux.” Docket No. 53 at 7. In Asahi Metal Industry Co., the Supreme Court addressed “whether the mere awareness on the part of a foreign defendant that the components it manufactured, sold, and delivered outside the United States would reach the forum State in the stream of commerce constitutes ‘minimum contacts' between the defendant and the forum State such that the exercise of jurisdiction ‘does not offend “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.”'” 480 U.S. at 105. In a plurality opinion, Justice O'Connor answered this question in the negative. She concluded that

[t]he “substantial connection” between the defendant and the forum State necessary for a finding of minimum contacts must come about by an action of the defendant purposefully directed toward the forum State. The placement of a product into the stream of commerce, without more, is not an act of the defendant purposefully directed toward the forum State.

Id. at 112 (plurality op.) (internal citations omitted). Justice Brennan, joined by three other justices, filed an opinion concurring in the judgment but disagreeing with Justice O'Connor's stream of commerce analysis. Justice Brennan concluded it was unnecessary to require plaintiffs to show “‘additional conduct' directed toward the forum before finding the exercise of jurisdiction over the defendant to be consistent with the ...

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