United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
L. RUSSELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
this Court is Defendant Carolina Integrated Solutions
(“CIS”) Motion to Dismiss asserting that the
Court lacks personal jurisdiction over this non-resident
Defendant. (Doc. 61) Plaintiffs responded to the motion,
conceding the lack of general personal jurisdiction but
asserting sufficient minimum contacts for the exercise of
specific jurisdiction over CIS. (Doc. No. 63). Defendant
filed a Reply in support of its request for dismissal. (Doc.
No. 64). The matter is fully briefed and at issue. For the
reasons stated herein, the Court DENIES Defendant's
filed this products liability action against Defendant CIS
and the other Defendants after Mr. Pando was injured when a
wind turbine he was disassembling, allegedly at the direction
of Defendant Gerald Barber, collapsed. Plaintiffs allege the
turbine was “designed, built and/or sold by Defendants
in Hooker, OK, at the direction of Gerald L Barber”
(Doc No. 54, ¶ 4). Defendant CIS, a limited liability
company whose sole member is a Georgia corporation, is one of
the “Defendants” allegedly engaged in the design
and building of the turbine.
asserts that it has no employees, representatives, or offices
in Oklahoma. CIS does not do business in Oklahoma, nor does
it advertise here. It has not performed services for anyone
in Oklahoma, and, as it relates to this case, although
Defendant CIS admits it fabricated certain parts for the
turbine constructed by Mr. Barber, it shipped its parts
within the state of South Carolina to Carbures, the non-party
blade manufacturer, in Greenville, South Carolina, which
assembled the blades. CIS asserts that it did not participate
in the design, engineering, assembly or disassembly of the
turbine at issue. Rather, it is a custom metal fabrication
company that builds products according to customer design.
(Doc. No. 61-1, ¶ 4). CIS asserts via affidavit of Scott
Robinson, Executive Vice President of CIS, that it was
retained by Gerald Barber to fabricate a Hub Connection
Assembly, Mid Hub and Tip Side Connection Assemblies and Tip
Assembly, and that all related work was completed in South
Carolina. (Doc. No. 61-1, ¶¶ 9-10). Mr. Robinson
avers he was in Oklahoma, “at the location where the
turbine was constructed two times before the incident which
is the subject of this lawsuit. Once to get a better
understanding of the scope of the project and determine if
the customer would need the services of CIS for future
projects and once to inspect some broken welds.”
(Id., ¶ 14). He does not identify the date of
either of his visits to Oklahoma but indicates both pre-dated
the July 17, 2017 collapse of the turbine.
does not contest many of Defendant's jurisdictional
allegations, but he nonetheless insists that this Court has
personal jurisdiction over Defendant, in part because CIS
knew the parts it welded were to be installed on a turbine
being constructed in Oklahoma and because a representative of
CIS visited Oklahoma twice -- once to inspect welds -- and
the collapse of the turbine was the result of improper design
of the weld connection.
defendant contests the court's jurisdiction,
‘“plaintiff bears the burden of establishing
personal jurisdiction over the defendant.”' See
Kuenzle v. HTM Sport-Und Freizeitgerate AG, 102 F.3d
453, 456 (10th Cir. 1996) (quoting Behagen v.
Amateur Basketball Ass'n, 744 F.2d 731, 733
(10th Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 471 U.S. 1010
(1985)). In the preliminary stages of litigation, the
plaintiff's burden is to establish a prima facie
case that jurisdiction exists. Old Republic Ins. Co. v.
Cont'l Motors, Inc., 877 F.3d 895, 903 (10th Cir.
2017). The Court must accept well-pled factual allegations of
the complaint as true unless the defendant contradicts those
allegations via affidavit. Behagen, 744 F.2d at 733.
If the parties' evidence is conflicting, factual disputes
are resolved in the plaintiff's favor. Id.
Court follows state law in determining the outer limits of
its jurisdiction over persons. Daimler AG v. Bauman,
571 U.S. 117, 125 (2014). Oklahoma's long-arm statute
extends jurisdiction to the fullest extent allowed by the Due
Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Okla. Stat. tit.
12 § 2004(F). Under the Due Process Clause, this Court
may exercise jurisdiction over a defendant if (1) “the
defendant purposefully established minimum contacts”
with the forum, and (2) the “assertion of personal
jurisdiction would comport with [traditional notions of] fair
play and substantial justice.” Old Republic,
877 F.3d at 903 (quoting Burger King Corp. v.
Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 476 (1985), quoting
Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310,
are two types of personal jurisdiction -- general and
specific. Plaintiff does not argue that Defendant CIS's
contacts with Oklahoma are sufficient to support general
personal jurisdiction. Accordingly, the Court's inquiry
in this case is case specific, wherein it inquires (1) did
defendant purposefully direct its activities at the forum
state; (2) do plaintiffs' claims arise out of those
activities; and (3) would the exercise of jurisdiction be
reasonable. Id. at 904-05 (citations omitted).
Defendant's suit-related conduct must have created a
substantial connection with the forum state. Walden v.
Fiore, 571 U.S. 277, 284 (2014).
stated above, the threshold inquiry for specific jurisdiction
is whether Defendant reached out to the forum-that is,
whether Defendant “purposefully directed its activities
at residents of the forum state.” Dudnikov v. Chalk
& Vermillion Fine Arts, Inc., 514 F.3d 1063, 1071
(internal quotation marks omitted) (citing Burger
King, 471 U.S. at 472); see also Bell Helicopter
Textron, Inc. v. Heliqwest Int'l, Ltd., 385 F.3d
1291, 1296 (10th Cir. 2004) (“To support specific
jurisdiction, there must be ‘some act by which the
defendant purposefully avails itself of the privilege of
conducting activities within the forum State, thus invoking
the benefits and protections of its laws.'”
(quoting Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253
(1958))). ‘“[P]urposeful direction' has three
elements: ‘(a) an intentional action . . . that was (b)
expressly aimed at the forum state . . . with (c) knowledge
that the brunt of the injury would be felt in the forum state
. . . .'” Newsome v. Gallacher, 722 F.3d
1257, 1264-65 (10th Cir. 2013) (ellipsis original)
(quoting Dudnikov, 514 F.3d at 1072).
relates to products liability,
[t]he requirement of purposeful availment . . . precludes
personal jurisdiction as the result of random, fortuitous, or
attenuated contacts. Although it is foreseeable that a
product might travel to a forum state, such foreseeability is
not a sufficient benchmark for personal jurisdiction under
the Due Process Clause. The foreseeability that is critical
to due process analysis is not the mere likelihood that a
product will find its way into the forum State. Rather, it is
that the defendant's conduct and connection with the
forum State are such that he should reasonably anticipate
being haled into court there.
Monge v. RG Petro-Machinery (Group) Co., 701 F.3d
598, 613 (quoting World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v.
Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 295 (1980) (quotation marks,
additional citations, and brackets omitted)); see also
Bell Helicopter, 385 F.3d at 1296 (“Generally
speaking, specific jurisdiction must be based on actions by
the defendant and not on events that are the result of
unilateral actions taken by someone else.”) The Court
finds that Defendant's knowledge that the parts it
manufactured and provided to a third party for use in a
turbine to be erected in Oklahoma does not itself support a
finding of personal jurisdiction.
this knowledge coupled with the visits Mr. Robinson made to
Oklahoma in conjunction with the turbine project lead the
Court to conclude at this stage that Plaintiff has
sufficiently established that Defendant CIS purposely
directed its activities at Oklahoma. Although CIS contends
that Mr. Robinson's visit to Oklahoma for the purpose of
inspecting broken welds does not provide a basis for
exercising personal jurisdiction, the Court finds that this
visit permits Plaintiffs to make their prima facie
case for the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction,
because Defendant availed itself of this jurisdiction by
sending a representative to inspect the work it performed and
shipped within South Carolina and because Defendant should
have anticipated that if the welds failed, the brunt of the
injury would be felt in Oklahoma.
to the second inquiry, do Plaintiffs' claims arise out of
CIS's contacts with the Oklahoma? Again, the Court finds
that at this stage Plaintiff has sufficiently established
that Plaintiff's injuries, allegedly at least partially
the result of defective welding by CIS, are related to Mr.
Robinson's pre-incident visit to Oklahoma where he
inspected cracks near the CIS work. The Tenth Circuit has
enunciated two tests upon which a plaintiff may establish
that claims arise out of or relate to a defendant's forum
contacts- the “proximate cause” approach and the
“but-for causation” approach. Newsome,
722 F.3d at 1269. In Newsome, the court declined to
choose one test over the other, noting that the plaintiff
therein satisfied the more onerous proximate cause test.
Under the but-for approach, “‘any event in the
causal chain leading to the plaintiff's injury is
sufficiently related to the claim to support the exercise of
specific jurisdiction.' Id. (internal quotation
marks omitted)(quoting Dudnikov, 514 F.3d at 1078).
The proximate-cause approach “‘is considerably
more restrictive and calls for courts to examine whether any
of the defendant's contacts with the forum are relevant
to the merits of the plaintiff's claims.'”
Id. at 1269-70 (quoting Dudnikov, 514 F.3d
at 1078)(internal quotation marks omitted). Despite their
differences, both approaches require a “true causal
element” between a defendant's forum contacts and a
plaintiff's claim. Shrader v. Biddinger, 633
F.3d 1235, 1246 n.8 (10th Cir. 2011) (citing
Dudnikov, 514 F.3d at 1078-79). Similarly, this Court
need not decide which test is ...