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Sandoval v. Bnsf Railway Co.

United States District Court, N.D. California, Oakland Division

July 2, 2019

MYRON SANDOVAL, Plaintiff,
v.
THE GREENBRIER COMPANY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT GUNDERSON LLC'S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION DKT. 28

          SAUNDRA BROWN ARMSTRONG SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a products liability action brought by Plaintiff Myron Sandoval against Gunderson LLC (“Gunderson”), among other party-defendants. The parties are presently before the Court on Gunderson's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). Dkt. 28. Having read and considered the papers filed in connection with this matter and being fully informed, the Court hereby GRANTS the motion for the reasons set forth below. The Court, in its discretion, finds this matter suitable for resolution without oral argument. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b); N.D. Cal. Civ. L.R. 7-1(b).

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 29, 2018, Plaintiff, an employee of ITS Technologies and Logistics, LLC, was working at the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company (“BNSF”) rail yard located in Richmond, California. First Am. Compl. (“FAC”) ¶ 9. On that date, Plaintiff and his co-workers were loading and unloading vehicles from an Auto-Max railcar (“Railcar”) manufactured by Gunderson. Id. ¶ 10. While working in the Railcar, the lift system failed, causing a portion of the deck plate car to fall on Plaintiff, causing him to sustain serious injury. Id. ¶¶ 10, 14.

         According to Plaintiff, Gunderson “designed, manufactured, constructed, assembled for sale, wholesaled and/or retailed the particular [Railcar] ….” Id. ¶ 11. Gunderson is a limited liability company organized under Oregon law and is a subsidiary of co-defendant Greenbrier Companies, Inc. (“Greenbrier”). Brask Decl. ¶¶ 5-8. Gunderson designs, builds, and sells various models of railcars in and around Portland, Oregon. Id. ¶¶ 10, 12. Auto-Max railcars are designed for use throughout North America and contain no California-specific features. Id. ¶¶ 12-14.

         The Railcar at issue in this case, BNSF Railway Car Number 314110, was manufactured by Gunderson at its Portland facility in 2000. Id. ¶ 15. Immediately after manufacturing the Railcar, Gunderson sold it to Greenbrier Leasing Corp. (“Greenbrier Leasing”). Id. ¶ 16. In turn, Greenbrier Leasing leased the Railcar to BNSF, which took delivery of the Railcar in Portland, Oregon. Id. ¶ 18. Shortly thereafter, Greenbrier Leasing sold its interest in the Railcar to Bombardier Capital Rail, Inc. Id. ¶ 19.

         On or about November 13, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in Alameda County Superior Court. The Complaint alleged causes of action for strict products liability and negligence against Greenbrier and BNSF. On December 21, 2018, Greenbrier removed the action to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441, 1332.

         On February 6, 2019, Plaintiff filed a FAC, which alleged the same causes of action as the original Complaint but added Gunderson as a party-defendant. Gunderson now moves for dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction. Plaintiff has filed an opposition to the motion, in response to which Gunderson has filed a reply. The matter is fully briefed and is ripe for adjudication.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         District courts have the authority to dismiss an action for lack of personal jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). “When a defendant moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating that the court has jurisdiction over the defendant.” Pebble Beach Co. v. Caddy, 453 F.3d 1151, 1154 (9th Cir. 2006). “Where, as here, the defendant's motion is based on written materials rather than an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts to withstand the motion to dismiss.” Ranza v. Nike, Inc., 793 F.3d 1059, 1068 (9th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). In that regard, courts evaluate the pleadings and affidavits to determine whether the plaintiff has made the requisite showing of personal jurisdiction. Boschetto v. Hansing, 539 F.3d 1011, 1015 (9th Cir. 2008). While uncontroverted factual allegations must be taken as true, Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 800 (9th Cir. 2004), “legal conclusions unsupported by factual allegations will not satisfy a [party's] pleading burden, ” Swartz v. KPMG, LLP, 476 F.3d 756, 766 (9th Cir. 2007).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A plaintiff may invoke either general or specific personal jurisdiction. Ranza, 793 F.3d at 1068. Plaintiff does not contend that Gunderson is subject to the Court's general jurisdiction. As such, resolution of the instant motion turns on whether Plaintiff has made a prima facie showing of specific jurisdiction.

         There are three requirements for a court to exercise specific jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant:

(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 ...

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