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Thompson v. Ford Motor Co.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

September 24, 2019

LORELLE THOMPSON; Plaintiff,
v.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY, a Delaware company, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS

          William J. Martínez, United States District Judge.

         In this action, Plaintiff Lorelle Thompson (“Plaintiff”) brings various claims against Defendant Ford Motor Company (“Ford”). (ECF No. 1.) Before the Court is Ford’s Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) (the “Motion”; ECF No. 8). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the Motion and dismisses the case without prejudice for lack of personal jurisdiction.

         I. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On December 27, 2016, Plaintiff drove her 1998 Ford Expedition (the “Vehicle”) to her community mailbox, located near her home in El Paso County, Colorado. (¶¶ 24–26.)[1] Upon arriving, Plaintiff put the Vehicle into park and left the engine running. (¶ 26.) Plaintiff then opened the Vehicle’s door and stepped out. (Id.) When she stepped onto the ground, she slipped and fell on her back, with her left leg positioned behind the Vehicle’s front left wheel. (Id.) The Vehicle then “unexpectedly self-shifted into powered reverse and began to roll backwards.” (Id.) The Vehicle rolled over Plaintiff’s left leg, resulting in fractures to her tibia and fibula. (¶¶ 26–27.)

         Plaintiff alleges that the Vehicle unexpectedly shifted into reverse due to a “park-to-reverse” defect in the Vehicle. The following is Plaintiff’s description of the defect:

A “park-to-reverse” defect can exist in a vehicle equipped with an automatic transmission when there is inadequate mechanical force . . . to ensure that a vehicle always defaults into an intended gear position (such as park or reverse) when an operator inadvertently does not fully shift into the very center of the intended gear position.
In a vehicle with a park-to-reverse defect, an operator of the vehicle in normal use can inadvertently and unintentionally place the shift selector between the intended park and reverse gear positions. Rather than defaulting into the park or reverse gear position, as it would in a properly designed vehicle which meets industry standards . . ., the shift selector can remain for a period of time (several seconds or longer) between the intended park and reverse gear positions and from this “false park” position the vehicle then may (or may not) have a delayed engagement of powered reverse.

(¶¶ 33–34 (emphasis in original).) Plaintiff alleges that Ford failed to, inter alia, design its vehicles to prevent the “park-to-reverse” defect despite prior notice of the flaw, install out-of-park alarms on all of its vehicles susceptible to park-to-reverse problems, and properly test its vehicles’ transmission systems. (See ¶¶ 33–48.)

         Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on December 26, 2018, asserting state law tort claims against Ford for (1) strict products liability (¶¶ 54–65); (2) “negligence, gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct: design defect” (¶¶ 66–72); (3) “negligence, gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct: manufacturing defect” (¶¶ 73–80); (4) failure to warn (¶¶ 81–88); (5) breach of implied warranty (¶¶ 89–98); and (6) fraud (¶¶ 99–108). (ECF No. 1.)

         Plaintiff is an individual and a resident of El Paso County, Colorado. (¶ 5.) Ford is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Michigan. (¶ 6.)

         On January 18, 2019, Ford moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims against it for lack of personal jurisdiction. (ECF No. 8.) Plaintiff filed a response to the Motion (“Response”; ECF No. 17), to which Ford replied (ECF No. 21).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) is to determine whether the Court has personal jurisdiction over a defendant. The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing personal jurisdiction. Behagen v. Amateur Basketball Ass’n, 744 F.2d 731, 733 (10th Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 471 U.S. 1010 (1985). “When a district court rules on a Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction without holding an evidentiary hearing, as in this case, the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction to defeat the motion.” OMI Holdings, Inc. v. Royal Ins. Co. of Can., 149 F.3d 1086, 1091 (10th Cir. 1998).

         “The plaintiff may make this prima facie showing by demonstrating, via affidavit or other written materials, facts that if true would support jurisdiction over the defendant.” Id. “In order to defeat a plaintiff’s prima facie showing of jurisdiction, a defendant must present a compelling case demonstrating ‘that the presence of some other considerations would render jurisdiction unreasonable.’” Id. (quoting Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 477 (1985)).

         At this stage, the Court accepts the well-pled (that is, plausible, non-conclusory, and non-speculative) factual allegations of the complaint as true to determine whether Plaintiff has made a prima facie showing that personal jurisdiction exists. Dudnikov v. Chalk & Vermillion Fine Arts, Inc., 514 F.3d 1063, 1070 (10th Cir. 2008). Any factual conflicts arising from affidavits or other submitted materials are resolved in Plaintiff’s favor. Wenz v. Memery Crystal, 55 F.3d 1503, 1505 (10th Cir. 1995).

         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). Because Colorado’s long-arm statute, Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-1-124, “confers the maximum jurisdiction permissible consistent with the Due Process Clause . . . the first, statutory, inquiry effectively collapses into the second, constitutional, analysis.” Dudnikov, 514 F.3d at 1070. Thus, the Court need only address the constitutional question of whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the defendant comports with due process. Old Republic Ins. Co. v. Cont’l Motors, Inc., 877 F.3d 895, 903 (10th Cir. 2017).

         “In order to evaluate whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction comports with due process, [the Court] must first assess whether ‘the defendant has such minimum contacts with the forum state that he should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there. This minimum-contacts standard may be satisfied by showing general or specific jurisdiction.’” Niemi, 770 F.3d at 1348 (quoting Emp’rs Mut. Cas. Co. v. Bartile Roofs, Inc., 618 F.3d 1153, 1160 (10th Cir. 2010)). “[I]f the defendant has minimum contacts within the forum state, [the Court must] determine whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the defendant offends traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Bartile Roofs, 618 F.3d at 1160 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Plaintiff avers that the Court has both general jurisdiction and specific jurisdiction over Ford in the District of Colorado. (¶¶ 12–13; see generally ECF ...


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