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Valerie Martinez and Sonia Montemayor v. Manheim Central California

April 18, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheila K. Oberto United States Magistrate Judge



On June 25, 2010, Plaintiffs Valerie Martinez and Sonia Montemayor (collectively "Plaintiffs") filed this action in Fresno County Superior Court against Defendants Manheim Central California ("Manheim"), Manheim's Pennsylvania Auction ("MPA"), and Cox Enterprises, Inc. ("Cox").*fn1 (Doc. 1, p. 7-33.) The complaint alleges violations of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, codified at Government Code § 12940, and a claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy. (Id.)

On August 19, 2010, Manheim removed the case to this court. In its removal notice, Manheim asserted that the court has subject matter jurisdiction over this action on the basis of complete diversity of the parties under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 2-5.) Manheim stated that, although Plaintiffs' complaint alleges that Manheim is a California corporation, Manheim is incorporated in Delaware and has its principal place of business in Georgia; thus, Manheim is not a California citizen for purposes of determining diversity. (Doc. 1, ¶ 2.)*fn2

On March 3, 2011, Cox filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2).*fn3 Cox argues that the Court has no general or specific personal jurisdiction over it, and it should be dismissed from the suit. (Doc. 26-1.) Plaintiffs filed a brief in opposition on March 31, 2011, asserting that they are entitled to jurisdictional discovery to determine whether personal jurisdiction over Cox exists. (Doc. 30.) On April 13, 2011, Cox filed a reply brief disputing that Plaintiffs have made a colorable showing that personal jurisdiction exists such that Plaintiffs are entitled to limited jurisdictional discovery. (Doc. 31.)


A. Legal Standard

A non-resident defendant may be subject to the personal jurisdiction of the court where the defendant has either a continuous and systematic presence in the state (general jurisdiction), or minimum contacts with the forum state such that the exercise of jurisdiction "does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice" (specific jurisdiction). Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (citations omitted). Where there is no federal statute applicable to determine personal jurisdiction, a district court should apply the law of the state where the court is located. See Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 800 (9th Cir. 2004). California law requires only that the exercise of personal jurisdiction comply with federal due process requirements. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 410.10; see id. at 800-01;

General personal jurisdiction exists over a non-resident defendant when "the defendant engage[s] in continuous and systematic general business contacts that approximate physical presence in the forum state." Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d at 801 (internal quotation marks omitted). Where a defendant is subject to a state's general jurisdiction, it can be haled into court in that state in any action, even if the action is unrelated to those contacts. Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414-15 (1984). "Factors to be taken into consideration are whether the defendant makes sales, solicits or engages in business in the state, serves the state's markets, designates an agent for service of process, holds a license, or is incorporated there." Bancroft & Masters, Inc. v. Augusta Nat'l, Inc., 223 F.3d 1082, 1086 (9th Cir. 2000).

Specific personal jurisdiction exists where a case arises out of forum-related acts. The Ninth Circuit employs a three-part test to determine whether specific jurisdiction exists:

(1) The non-resident defendant must purposefully direct his activities or consummate some transaction with the forum or resident thereof; or perform some act by which he purposefully avails himself of the privilege of conducting activities in the forum, thereby invoking the benefit and protections of its laws;

(2) the claim must be one which arises out of or relates to the defendant's forum-related activities; and

(3) the exercise of jurisdiction must comply with fair play and substantial justice, i.e.[,] it must be reasonable.

Yahoo! Inc. v. La Ligue Contre le Rascime Et L'Antisemitisme, 433 F.3d 1199, 1205-06 (9th Cir. 2006). "If the plaintiff succeeds in satisfying both the first two prongs, the burden then shifts to the defendant to present a compelling case that the exercise of jurisdiction would not be ...

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