United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
J. CAUTHRON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for
Lack of Personal Jurisdiction, as well as Plaintiff's
Response and Defendants' Reply thereto. (Dkt. Nos. 3, 4,
7.) The motion is now at issue.
is an Oklahoma-based company, with headquarters in Oklahoma
City, that mainly provides “electrical infrastructure
installation and support services to electric cooperatives
and electric utility companies.” (Dkt. No. 1-2, p. 1.)
Despite its Oklahoma roots though, Plaintiff also maintains
an office in Texas. In 2017, Plaintiff hired both
Defendants-two Texas residents-to work in its Texas office.
their time with Plaintiff, Defendants spent most of their
time in Texas. Defendant Whalen did come to Oklahoma for some
business meetings, and even obtained an Electrical Journeyman
License in the state. (Dkt. No. 4, pp. 3-4.) Nonetheless, for
the most part, Defendants' interactions with Oklahoma
were electronic. These communications included reaching out
to Oklahoma for various aspects of their work, including to
fill their staffing needs. (Id. at 3.) Additionally,
Defendants' employment agreements are governed by
Defendants resigned in May 2019. According to Plaintiff,
though, before resigning, they began soliciting regular
customers and inducing them to do business with
Plaintiff's competitor, for whom Defendants went to work
soon after resigning. And, after they resigned, they began
soliciting Plaintiff's employees to transition with them
to Plaintiff's competitor. (Dkt. No. 4-1, p. 4.)
then filed this suit, which accuses Defendants of breach of
contract, tortious interference, and violations of the
Oklahoma Uniform Trade Secrets Act, as well as the Oklahoma
Deceptive Trade Practices Act. (See Dkt. No. 1-2.)
Defendants, however, now move to dismiss this
case-maintaining that Oklahoma cannot exercise personal
jurisdiction over them.
court's jurisdiction is contested, the plaintiff has the
burden of proving jurisdiction exists. Wenz v. Memery
Crystal, 55 F.3d 1503, 1505 (10th Cir. 1995). But in the
preliminary stages of litigation, the plaintiff's burden
is light. Doe v. Nat'l Med. Servs., 974 F.2d
143, 145 (10th Cir. 1992). Where, as here, a district court
considers a pre-trial motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction without conducting an evidentiary hearing, the
plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of personal
jurisdiction to defeat the motion. OMI Holdings, Inc. v.
Royal Ins. Co. of Canada, 149 F.3d 1086, 1091 (10th Cir.
1998); Wenz, 55 F.3d at 1505. And when evaluating
the prima facie case, all factual disputes must be resolved
in favor of the plaintiff in determining whether it has made
the requisite showing. Wenz, 55 F.3d at 1505.
demonstrate personal jurisdiction over a nonresident
defendant, a plaintiff must satisfy the requirements of the
forum's long arm statute, as well as the federal
Constitution. Equifax Servs., Inc. v. Hitz, 905 F.2d
1355, 1357 (10th Cir. 1990). Oklahoma's long arm statute
is coextensive with the constitutional limitations imposed by
due process. Rambo v. Am. S. Ins. Co., 839 F.2d
1415, 1416-17 (10th Cir. 1988). Therefore, if jurisdiction is
consistent with due process, Oklahoma's long arm statute
authorizes jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant. Due
process requirements are satisfied when personal jurisdiction
is asserted over a nonresident defendant that has certain
minimum contacts with the forum state. Burger King Corp.
v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 474 (1985).
minimum contacts may be demonstrated by showing a
defendant's contacts with the forum warrant the exercise
of specific jurisdiction. [*] Generally, courts may exercise
specific jurisdiction if “the nonresident defendant
‘purposefully directed' its activities at the forum
state.” Dudnikov v. Chalk & Vermillion Fine
Arts, Inc., 514 F.3d 1063, 1071 (10th Cir. 2008).
Purposeful direction exists when there is “an
intentional action . . . expressly aimed at the forum state .
. . with [the] knowledge that the brunt of the injury would
be felt in the forum state.” Dudnikov, 514
F.3d at 1072. Also, a plaintiff's “injuries must
arise out of defendant's forum-related activities.”
Id. at 1071 (internal quotations and citations
omitted). The relationship between a defendant and the forum
state, moreover, “must arise out of contacts that the
defendant himself creates with the forum
State.” Walden v. Fiore, 571 U.S. 277, 284
(2014) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
Thus, “a plaintiff's contacts with the forum State
cannot be decisive in determining whether the defendant's
due process rights are violated.” Id. at 279
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
Plaintiff's facts as true, the Court must first determine
whether Plaintiff has demonstrated Defendants' minimum
contacts with Oklahoma. According to Plaintiff, Defendants
agreed to work for Plaintiff-an Oklahoma-based company with
headquarters in Oklahoma City-in 2017. For both Defendants,
their employment contracts are governed by Oklahoma law, and
they were directed to contact Oklahoma-based contacts with
any questions or concerns about the contract.
Defendants also reached out to Oklahoma for different aspects
of their work, including to fill their staffing needs.
Defendant Whalen, moreover, attended business development
meetings at Plaintiff's main office in Oklahoma, and
obtained an Electrical Engineering Journeyman License in
Oklahoma. And, perhaps most importantly, Plaintiff alleges
that Defendants illegally solicited Plaintiff's regular
customers, as well as its employees-all in an effort to
damage Plaintiff in Oklahoma. Upon ...