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Martinez v. Caribbean

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

August 21, 2014

LORENZO MENDOZA MARTINEZ; ELIEZER MENDOZA MARTINEZ; ELIU MENDOZA; GLORIA MARTINEZ MONTES, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
AERO CARIBBEAN; EMPRESSA AEROCARIBBEAN, S.A.; CUBANA DE AVIACION, S.A.; ATR; GIE AVIONS DE TRANSPORT REGIONAL, Defendants-Appellees

Argued and Submitted, San Francisco, California: April 7, 2014.

Petition for certiorari filed at, 01/13/2015

Page 1063

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. D.C. No. 3:11-cv-03194-WHA. William Alsup, District Judge, Presiding.

SUMMARY[*]

Personal Jurisdiction

The panel affirmed the dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction of a tort lawsuit against a French company.

The panel held that Burnham v. Superior Court, 495 U.S. 604, 110 S.Ct. 2105, 109 L.Ed.2d 631 (1990) (holding that personal service upon physically present defendant suffices to confer jurisdiction, without regard to whether defendant was only briefly in state or whether cause of action was related to his activities there), does not apply to corporations. Accordingly, service of process on a corporation's officer within the forum state does not create general personal jurisdiction over the corporation. The panel held that a court may exercise general personal jurisdiction over a corporation only when its contacts " render it essentially at home" in the state. Applying Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 187 L.Ed.2d 624 (2014), the panel concluded that under this " demanding" jurisdictional standard, the defendant's contacts were insufficient to subject it to general jurisdiction in California.

Brian J. Malloy (argued), Thomas John Brandi, Daniel Dell'Osso, The Brandi Law Firm, San Francisco, California, for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

Eric C. Strain (argued), Cameron Robert Cloar, Brian C. Dalrymple, Nixon Peabody LLP, San Francisco, California, for Defendant-Appellee.

Before: Barry G. Silverman, William A. Fletcher, and Jay S. Bybee, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 1064

W. FLETCHER, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiffs, the heirs of Lorenzo Corazon Mendoza Cervantes, appeal the district court's dismissal of their claims against Avions de Transport Ré gional (" ATR" ) for lack of personal jurisdiction. Cervantes was a passenger on an airplane that crashed in Cuba, killing everyone aboard. ATR, a French company, designed and manufactured the airplane. Plaintiffs sued ATR in federal court in California, alleging that ATR's defective design and construction of the airplane caused the crash.

We must decide whether, under Burnham v. Superior Court, 495 U.S. 604, 110 S.Ct. 2105, 109 L.Ed.2d 631 (1990), service of process on a corporation's officer within the forum state creates general personal jurisdiction over the corporation. We hold that Burnham does not apply to corporations. A court may exercise general personal jurisdiction over a corporation only when its contacts " render it essentially at home" in the state. Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 751, 187 L.Ed.2d 624 (2014) (alteration and internal quotation marks omitted). Because ATR is not otherwise " essentially at home" in California, and service on its corporate officer did not render it so, we affirm the district court.

I. Background

ATR designs, manufactures, and sells aircraft. In November 2010, an airplane designed and built by ATR crashed approximately 200 miles southeast of Havana, Cuba. All sixty-eight people on board the airplane died, including Cervantes. In 1995, ATR had sold the airplane to Commuter Finance IV Ltd., a Grand Cayman company, which in the same year sold the airplane to Continental Airlines, Inc., a Texas corporation. Plaintiffs allege that

Page 1065

at the time of the crash, the airplane was owned, maintained, serviced, and operated by some combination of Aero Caribbean, Empresa Aerocaribbean S.A., and Cubana de Aviacion S.A., international airlines based in Cuba. There is no evidence the airplane was ever ...


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