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APL Co. Pte, Ltd. v. Intergro Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

September 22, 2014

APL CO. PTE, LTD., Plaintiff,
v.
INTERGRO INC., Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS Re: Dkt. No. 14

JAMES DONATO, District Judge.

Plaintiff APL Co. Pte, Ltd. ("APL") is an international shipping corporation that is incorporated in Singapore and registered to conduct business in California. Defendant Intergro, Inc. ("Intergro") is a Florida corporation that has its principal place of business in Clearwater, Florida. This dispute arises out of defendant's alleged breach of contract. Pending before the Court is defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction or improper venue, or alternatively to transfer venue to the Middle District of Florida. Dkt. No. 14. The Court grants defendant's motion and orders the case transferred to the Middle District of Florida.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges as follows. In 2009, APL entered into a contract with Intergro "whereby APL agreed to transport and convey wood sticks from Honduras into the United States, on behalf of, and at the request of, Intergro." Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 6. Intergro expressly agreed to a "Minimum Volume Commitment, " specifically "a minimum quantity of carriage of 600 freight equivalent units ("FEU") before the contract expiration date of January 31, 2010." Id. ¶¶ 7-8. APL alleges that Intergro violated this contract by shipping only 251 FEUs of cargo, and that under the contract Intergro is now obligated to pay APL a liquidated damages charge of $122, 150. Id. ¶ 11.

The contract between APL and Intergro contains a forum selection clause which provides that all disputes arising out of or in connection with the parties' contract "may be referred by either party to litigation before any Court of competent jurisdiction." Dkt. No. 14-1 at 4. The clause further stipulates that the following locations "shall each be considered proper for jurisdictional purposes: the place of legal residence (including incorporation) or principal place of business of the responding party." Id. The clause further provides that "[a]lternatively, the parties may agree to resolve disputes by arbitration in San Francisco, California (or such other place mutually agreed upon by the parties)...." Id. The decision of the arbitrator "may be enforced by any court, tribunal or other forum as may properly assert jurisdiction, " and "[t]he parties expressly consent and agree that the United States District Court for the Northern District of California has personal jurisdiction for this purpose." Id. The contract states that it shall be construed pursuant to the maritime law of the United States, and to the extent that such law is silent on any given legal issue that might arise under the contract, "then reference shall be made to the laws of the State of New York." Id. at 4-5.

STANDARD

In a motion challenging personal jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, plaintiff, as the party seeking to invoke the jurisdiction of the federal court, has the burden of "demonstrating that jurisdiction is appropriate." See Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 800 (9th Cir. 2004). "Where, as here, the motion is based on written materials rather than an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts." Id. (quotation marks omitted). While plaintiff cannot "simply rest on the bare allegations of its complaint, uncontroverted allegations in the complaint must be taken as true. Conflicts between parties over statements contained in affidavits must be resolved in the plaintiff's favor." Id. (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

"Where, as here, there is no applicable federal statute governing personal jurisdiction, the district court applies the law of the state in which the district court sits." Schwarzenegger, 374 F.3d at 800. California's long-arm statute permits the exercise of jurisdiction "on any basis not inconsistent with the Constitution of this state or of the United States." Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. § 410.10. Consequently, the jurisdictional analyses under California state law and federal due process "are the same, " and the Court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant so long as the defendant "ha[s] at least minimum contacts' with the relevant forum such that the exercise of jurisdiction does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'" Schwarzenegger, 374 F.3d at 800-01 (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)).

Although the Court can exercise general jurisdiction or specific jurisdiction, APL argues here only for the latter. In our Circuit, courts apply a three-part test to determine whether specific jurisdiction comports with due process:

(1) The defendant must have done some act by which he purposefully avails himself of the privilege of conducting activities in the forum, thereby invoking the benefits and protections of its laws; (2) the claim must arise out of the defendant's forum-related activities; and (3) the exercise of jurisdiction must be reasonable.

Fireman's Fund Ins. Co. v. Nat'l Bank of Cooperatives, 103 F.3d 888, 894 (9th Cir. 1996).

In evaluating the first prong - purposeful availment - in contract cases, the Supreme Court has instructed that "[i]f the question is whether an individual's contract with an out-of-state party alone can automatically establish sufficient minimum contacts in the other party's home forum, we believe the answer clearly is that it cannot." Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 478 (1985) (emphasis in original). Instead, to determine whether the defendant purposefully established minimum contact within the forum, the court must analyze "these factors - prior negotiations and contemplated future consequences, along with the terms of the contract and the parties' actual course of dealing." Id. at 479.

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff does not dispute that the Court does not have general personal jurisdiction over defendant. Dkt. No. 18 at 3. Rather, plaintiff argues that the Court has specific jurisdiction over ...


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