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Eve V. Gonzales, Personal Representative of the Estate of Miguel v. F/V Daniela

June 21, 2012

EVE V. GONZALES, PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF MIGUEL VIVERO GONZALES, DECEASED, AND HIS
PLAINTIFF,
v.
F/V DANIELA, U.S. COAST GUARD OFFICIAL NUMBER 531005, HER ENGINES, TACKLE, APPAREL, FURNITURE, AND APPURTENANCES IN REM; AACH HOLDING CO. NO. 2, LLC, A FLORIDA LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY; AACH HOLDING CO., LLC, A FLORIDA LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY; SARDINHA AND CILEU MANAGEMENT, INC., A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION, IN PERSONAM, AND DOES 1 THROUGH 20, INCLUSIVE,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Anthony J. BattagliaU.S. District Judge

Order Denying Motion to Dismiss [Doc. No. 16]

On May 14, 2011, the Plaintiff, Eve V. Gonzales, wife of the Decedent, Miguel Vivero Gonzales, filed a complaint alleging wrongful death and survival actions under the Jones Act, General Maritime Law, Death on the High Seas Act, and Merchant Seamen Protection and Relief Act. Pl.'s Compl., Doc. No. 1, at 1. The Plaintiff filed the complaint against the Defendants, AACH Holding Co., AACH Holding Co. No. 2. LLC, F/V Daniela, and Sardinha and Cileu Management ("SCM"), Inc. Id. The Plaintiff alleges that the Decedent died "as a result of injuries and complications legally resulting from an accident" while aboard the Defendant's ship, the Daniela. Id. at 3. On March 2, 2012, the Defendants specially appeared and filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, Doc. No. 16, at 1. On April 23, 2012, the Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the Defendants' motion to dismiss. Doc. No. 24. On May 7, 2012, the Defendants filed a reply in support of their motion to dismiss. Doc. No. 25. The hearing set for August 17, 2012 is hereby VACATED as the Court finds this motion appropriate for submission on the papers without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1.d.1. For the reasons set forth below, the Defendant's motion to dismiss, [Doc. No. 16], is hereby DENIED.

Legal Standard

"It is the plaintiff's burden to establish the court's personal jurisdiction over a defendant." Doe v. Unocal Corp., 248 F.3d 915, 922 (9th Cir. 2001). On a motion to dismiss, the court may decide the issue of personal jurisdiction on the basis of affidavits and documentary evidence submitted by the parties, or hold an evidentiary hearing regarding the matter. See Data Disc, Inc. v. Sys. Tech. Ass'n Inc., 557 F.2d 1280, 1285 (9th Cir. 1977). Under either procedure, the plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating that jurisdiction is appropriate. Doe v. Unocal Corp., 248 F.3d 915, 922 (9th Cir. 2001). If the motion is based on affidavits and documentary evidence, the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of facts establishing personal jurisdiction, namely, "facts that if true would support jurisdiction over the defendant." Id. Uncontroverted allegations in the complaint are accepted as true, and conflicts between parties over statements contained in affidavits must be resolved in the plaintiff's favor. Id.

Discussion

I. Personal Jurisdiction

The Defendants move to dismiss the Plaintiff's complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction.

Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, Doc. No. 16, at 17. The Plaintiff maintains that jurisdiction is proper because Defendant SCM is the agent of Defendants AACH2 and AACH "and stands in the shoes of AACH2 or AACH when operating and managing the vessel." Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, Doc. No. 24, at

A. Legal Standard

"Personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant is tested by a two-part analysis." Chan v. Soc'y Expeditions, Inc., 39 F.3d 1398, 1404 (9th Cir. 1994). "First, the exercise of jurisdiction must satisfy the requirements of the applicable state long-arm statute." Id. "Second, the exercise of jurisdiction must comport with federal due process." Id. at 1404-05. Because California's long arm statute is coextensive with the limits of due process, the court need only consider the requirements of due process. Doe v. Unocal Corp., 248 F.3d 915, 923 (9th Cir. 2001).

Due process requires that a nonresident defendant have certain minimum contacts with the forum state so that the exercise of jurisdiction does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945). Where the claim does not arise out of a defendant's contacts with the forum, there is no specific jurisdiction. However, "[i]f the defendant's activities in the forum are substantial, continuous and systematic, general jurisdiction is available." Doe v. Unocal Corp., 248 F.3d 915, 923 (9th Cir. 2001). In addition to establishing the requisite contacts, the assertion of jurisdiction must be found reasonable. Id. A court may exercise either general or specific jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant. Cybersell, Inc. v. Cybersell, Inc., 130 F.3d 414, 416 (9th Cir. 1997) (citing Helicopteros Nacionales de Columbia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414 (1984)).

"For purposes of personal jurisdiction, the actions of an agent are attributable to the principal." Sher v. Johnson, 911 F.2d 1357 (9th Cir. 1990). "In determining the sufficiency of a defendant's contacts, it is not only defendant's activities in the forum, but also actions relevant to the transaction by an agent on defendant's behalf, which support personal jurisdiction." Theo H. Davies & Co. v. Republic of the Marshall Islands, 174 F.3d 969, 974 (9th Cir. 1999). "The agency test is satisfied by a showing that the subsidiary functions as the parent corporation that if it did not have a representative to perform them, the corporations own officials would undertake to perform substantially similar services." Doe v. Unocal Corp., 248 F.3d 915, 928 (9th Cir. 2001).

B. Analysis

The Defendants argue that neither AACH2 nor AACH has engaged in any forum-related acts which would give rise to a finding of specific jurisdiction. Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, Doc. No. 16, at 12. The Defendants also argue that neither AACH2 nor AACH has the requisite minimum contacts with California to support a finding of specific jurisdiction. Id. at 11. The Plaintiff argues that Defendant SCM is the managing agent or operator of the vessel. Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, Doc. No. 24, at 10. The Plaintiff argues that jurisdiction over Defendants AACH2 and AACH is still proper because SCM, a San Diego company, is the agent of AACH2 and AACH "and stands in the shoes of AACH2 or AACH when operating and managing the vessel." Id. The Plaintiff relies on SMC invoices sent to AACH charging for a "management fee" regarding the Daniela. Id. at 12. The Plaintiff also offers AACH and AACH2's insurance policies regarding the Daniela, which were placed with a San Diego insurance broker and delivered to SCM's offices. Id. at 13. Additionally, the Plaintiff offers various invoices that were sent to SCM's offices for the Daniela's parts and supplies. Id. at 13. The Plaintiff also offers evidence in the form of a deposition of one of SCM's owners regarding SCM's dealings with AACH2 and AACH. Thus, the Plaintiff argues that because SCM performed essential functions on behalf of AACH2 and AACH in managing the vessel, SCM's acts in California can be imputed to Defendants. Id. at 14. In the Defendants' reply the Defendants argue that SCM "was never decedent's employer and had nothing to do with the incident". Def.'s Reply in Supp. of Def.'s ...


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