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Moore v. ANG Transport Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 3, 2019

TIM MOORE, Plaintiff,
ANG TRANSPORT INC., et al., Defendant.



         Plaintiff Tim Moore filed this lawsuit against defendants ANG Transport, Inc. (“ANG”), Tuff Machinery LLC (“Tuff”), Moore Brokers Inc., doing business as Moore Transportation Services (“Moore Transportation”), and Does 1-10. Plaintiff asserts the following claims: breach of contract against defendant Tuff, liability under 49 U.S.C. § 14706 against ANG, and negligence against Moore Transportation. Currently before the court is defendant Tuff's Motion to Dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. (Docket No. 11.)

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         On or about October 26, 2017, plaintiff contracted with defendant Tuff to purchase a John Deere Model 650H LT Tractor for $49, 597. (Compl. ¶ 7 (Docket No. 1).) Plaintiff paid for the tractor by wire transfer that same day. (Id. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff and Tuff agreed that Tuff would deliver the tractor to plaintiff in Nevada County, California. (Id. ¶ 10.) Tuff hired Moore Transportation to act as the shipping broker for the tractor shipment. (Id. ¶ 11.) Moore Transportation then hired ANG Transport Inc. to deliver the tractor. (Id. ¶ 12.)

         On or about November 8, 2017, an ANG employee was involved in a traffic accident and the tractor was destroyed. (Id. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff alleges that the failure to deliver the tractor to him prevented him from completing several projects and, as a result, caused him financial damages. (Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff further alleges that he incurred additional financial damages when he was forced to purchase a comparable tractor for $65, 500. (Id. ¶ 24.)

         The only cause of action against Tuff is for breach of contract for failure to deliver the tractor. (Id. ¶¶ 16-25.) Tuff argues that this court lacks personal jurisdiction because Tuff is a Texas company that does not have “minimum contacts” with California such that this court may exercise personal jurisdiction over it in connection with plaintiff's claim. (Mot. to Dismiss (Docket No. 11).)

         II. Legal Standard

         Plaintiff has the burden of establishing that the court has personal jurisdiction over a defendant. In re W. States Wholesale Nat. Gas Antitrust Litig., 715 F.3d 716, 741 (9th Cir. 2013), aff'd sub nom., Oneok, Inc. v. Learjet, Inc., 135 S.Ct. 1591 (2015). Where the court does not hold an evidentiary hearing and the motion is based on the written materials, the plaintiff need only establish a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction.[1] Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 800 (9th Cir. 2004). In such a case, “[u]ncontroverted allegations in the complaint must be taken as true” and “[c]onflicts between parties over statements contained in affidavits must be resolved in the plaintiff's favor.” Id.

         If there is no applicable federal statute governing personal jurisdiction, the court applies the law of the state in which it sits. Love v. Associated Newspapers, Ltd., 611 F.3d 601, 608-09 (9th Cir. 2010). “California's long-arm jurisdiction statute is coextensive with federal due process requirements.” Id.

         Due process requires that for a nonresident defendant to be subject to the court's jurisdiction, the defendant must “have certain minimum contacts with [the forum state] such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (citation omitted). The strength of contacts required depends on which of the two categories of personal jurisdiction a litigant invokes: specific jurisdiction or general jurisdiction. Ranza v. Nike, Inc., 793 F.3d 1059, 1068 (9th Cir. 2015) (citing Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 754 (2014)). “[A] finding of general jurisdiction permits a defendant to be haled into court in the forum state to answer for any of its activities anywhere in the world, ” Schwarzenegger, 374 F.3d at 801, whereas specific jurisdiction requires a relationship that “arise[s] out of contacts that the defendant himself creates with the forum state, ” Walden v. Fiore, 571 U.S. 277, 284 (2014) (quotation omitted; emphasis in original). The court must thus “look[] to the defendant's contacts with the forum State itself, not the defendant's contacts with persons who reside there.” Walden, 571 U.S. at 285.

         The Ninth Circuit uses a three-prong test to analyze claims of specific personal jurisdiction. This analysis requires first that the non-resident defendant “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 forum, thereby invoking the benefits and protections of its laws.” Schwarzenegger, 374 F.3d at 802 (quoting Lake v. Lake, 817 F.2d 1416, 1421 (9th Cir. 1987)). In breach of contract cases such as that at hand, courts typical examine whether there was “purposeful availment” of the forum, whereas in tort cases, the analysis centers on whether there was “purposeful direction.” See Id. (“We often use the phrase ‘purposeful availment,' in shorthand fashion, to include both purposeful availment and purposeful direction, but availment and direction are, in fact, two distinct concepts. A purposeful availment analysis is most often used in suits sounding in contract. A purposeful direction analysis, on the other hand, is most often used in suits sounding in tort.”) (internal citations omitted).

         The second factor of the Ninth Circuit's three-part test for evaluating specific personal jurisdiction requires that the claim “be one which arises out of or relates to the defendant's forum-related activities.” Id. The plaintiff has the burden of establishing both of these first two prongs. Id. (quoting Sher v. Johnson, 911 F.2d 1357, 1361 (9th Cir. 1990)). If the plaintiff satisfies the first two prongs, the burden shifts to the defendant to present a compelling case that the third prong, which requires that the exercise of jurisdiction comports with fair play and substantial justice, is not met. Id. (quoting Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 476-78 (1985)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         III. Analysis

         Defendant Tuff is a Texas corporation and none of the allegations in the complaint tend to show that its contacts with California are so “substantial and continuous” as to give rise to general jurisdiction. See Pacific Atlantic Trading Co., 758 F.2d at 1327.[2] The court's analysis will therefore focus on the question of whether the court has specific personal jurisdiction over defendant Tuff. Plaintiff advances two arguments[3] in support of its contention that the court does, in fact, have such jurisdiction: (1) Tuff sold and shipped a tractor ...

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