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Electronic Recyclers International, Inc. v. Calbag Metals Co.

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 1, 2015

ELECTRONIC RECYCLERS INTERNATIONAL, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
CALBAG METALS CO. and DOES 1 to 100, inclusive, Defendants.

ORDER

KIMBERLY MUELLER, District Judge.

Electronic Recyclers International, Inc. (ERI) has sued Calbag Metals Co., alleging Calbag did not pay for shipments of recycled metal as promised. Calbag has argued in response that it is not subject to this court's personal jurisdiction, or at least that the case should be transferred to Washington or Oregon. The court previously granted Calbag's motion to strike ERI's untimely opposition. Order Mar. 6, 2015, ECF No. 28. After considering Calbag's briefing, the court decides the motion without a hearing, and denies the motion to dismiss or transfer.

I. BACKGROUND

The complaint includes the following allegations: ERI is a Delaware company with its principal place of business in Fresno, California. Compl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 1. It is the plaintiff here and makes the following allegations: ERI produces and sells various grades of copper and scrap metal. Id. ¶ 10a. Calbag was one of ERI's customers. Id. Calbag is an Oregon corporation with its principal place of business in Oregon. Id. ¶ 2. In November 2012, Jason Carter of ERI solicited an offer to purchase scrap metal from Joshua Mauk of Calbag. Id. ¶ 10b. The two agreed on a price and delivery date, and soon they were in business. Id. Their relationship continued through October 2013: ERI would contact Calbag, solicit an offer; Calbag would respond with an offer, which ERI could accept or reject; and if ERI accepted, Calbag wired money and picked up the metal. Id. ¶ 10c.

In about October 2013, ERI accepted another Calbag offer, in this instance to buy twenty loads of material. Id. ¶ 11a. After Calbag picked up these loads, it expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of scrap delivered and refused to pay the previously agreed price. Id. ¶ 11b. Carter and Mauk could not reach a resolution, id. ¶ 11c, and in January 2014 another Calbag representative, Jim Perris, met with ERI to discuss Calbag's objections, id. ¶ 11g. The discussions were not fruitful, and in ERI's estimation, Calbag has not paid $101, 154.01 it owes under the parties' agreement. Id. ¶ 11j.

ERI brought this action against Calbag based on the court's diversity jurisdiction. Id. ¶ 2. Venue is proper, it alleges, because "[a] substantial part of the events and omissions giving rise to the claims in this Complaint occurred in Fresno, California." Id. ¶ 3. The complaint lists five claims, all under state law: (1) breach of contract, (2) fraud, (3) negligent misrepresentation, (4) breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and (5) violation of section 17200 of the California Business and Professions Code. Id. ¶¶ 12-36. ERI seeks damages and other costs. Id. at 10:2-9.

On October 29, 2014, Calbag filed the pending motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction or, in the alternative, to transfer to the Western District of Washington or the District of Oregon. Def.'s Mot. Dismiss (Mot.) 1-2, ECF No. 8; Def.'s Mem. P.&A. Mot. Dismiss (Mem.) 1:18-26, ECF No. 8-1. Calbag noticed a hearing on December 3, 2014. Id. The hearing was reset for December 5, 2014, after assignment to the undersigned. Minute Order, ECF No. 13. ERI did not file a timely opposition or statement of non-opposition. On December 22, 2014, the court ordered ERI to file an opposition within twenty-one days or risk dismissal or transfer. Order Dec. 22, 2014, ECF No. 16. On January 13, 2015, twenty-two days later, ERI filed an untimely opposition. Opp'n Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 17. As noted, Calbag's motion to strike ERI's untimely opposition was granted, after briefing and a hearing. Order Mar. 6, 2015, ECF No. 28.

II. PERSONAL JURISDICTION

Although Calbag's motion now faces no opposition, the court's duty remains to consider its underlying merits. See Knapp v. Cate, No. 08-1779, 2013 WL 5466641, at *3 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 30, 2013).

A defendant may move to dismiss a complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). Even though the defendant makes a motion under Rule 12(b)(2), it is the plaintiff's burden to establish the court's personal jurisdiction. See Sher v. Johnson, 911 F.2d 1357, 1361 (9th Cir. 1990). When, as here, the court acts without holding an evidentiary hearing, "the plaintiff need make only a prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts to withstand the motion to dismiss." Ballard v. Savage, 65 F.3d 1495, 1498 (9th Cir. 1995). In other words, "the plaintiff need only demonstrate facts that if true would support jurisdiction over the defendant." Id. The plaintiff may not rely on "bare allegations" alone, Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 800 (9th Cir. 2004), but the court assumes the complaint's allegations are true unless "directly contravened" by other evidence, Harris Rutsky & Co. Ins. Servs. v. Bell & Clements Ltd., 328 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 2003). Any factual conflicts are resolved in the plaintiffs' favor. Doe v. Unocal Corp., 248 F.3d 915, 922 (9th Cir. 2001) (per curiam).

When no federal statute governing personal jurisdiction applies, the district court applies the law of the state in which it sits, here California. Schwarzenegger, 374 F.3d at 800 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1)(A)). Calbag is not a resident of California, so the court looks to California's long-arm statute, which is "coextensive with federal due process requirements." Schwarzenegger, 374 F.3d at 800-01; see Cal. Code. Civ. P. § 410.10. Federal due process requires some "minimum contacts" between the defendant and the relevant forum so that the court's exercise of personal jurisdiction "does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

The court may exercise either general or specific personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant. Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414 nn.8-9 (1984). A corporation's principal place of business and place of incorporation are the paradigm justifications for an exercise of general personal jurisdiction. Daimler AG v. Bauman, ___ U.S. ___, 134 S.Ct. 746, 760 (2014). Theoretically, a corporate defendant may be subject to general personal jurisdiction outside of the location of its principal place of business and state of incorporation, but if so its contacts with the forum state must be "so continuous and systematic' as to render [it] essentially at home in the forum State." Id. at 761 (quoting Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, ___ U.S. ___, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 2851 (2011)) (alterations in Daimler ). No such continuous and systematic contacts subject Calbag to general personal jurisdiction in California. It is an Oregon corporation doing business principally in Oregon, and ERI has established no evidence to show Calbag is anything more than a purchaser of California scrap metal.

Specific personal jurisdiction requires a lesser showing of Calbag's California contacts, but to subject it to the jurisdiction of this court, ERI's alleged injuries must have a logical relation to those contacts. The test for specific personal jurisdiction has three parts: first, ERI must show that Calbag purposefully directed its activities at California or purposefully availed itself of the California forum; second, ERI must show that its claim arises out of or is related to those activities; and third, if ERI makes this showing, the ...


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