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McGinley v. Magone Marine Service, Inc.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

December 2, 2013

DEVON McGINLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
MAGONE MARINE SERVICE, INC., Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS

JAMES L. ROBART, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Before the court is Defendant Magone Marine Service, Inc.'s ("Magone") unopposed Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction and Improper Venue. (Mot. (Dkt. # 11).) Magone asks the court to dismiss this action in its entirety for lack of personal jurisdiction, arguing that this case has nothing to do with Washington State. ( See id. ) Indeed, Magone is an Alaska company and all of the events giving rise to this case happened in Alaska. (Magone Decl. (Dkt. # 13) ¶¶ 3-8.) The only connection this case has with Washington is that Plaintiff Devon McGinley is currently incarcerated in Washington. (Krisher Decl. (Dkt. # 12) ¶ 10.) As Magone correctly points out, this is not sufficient to give the court personal jurisdiction over Magone. Mr. McGinley does not challenge the merits of Magone's motion to dismiss. (Resp. (Dkt. # 17) at 1.) As a result, the only issue in dispute is whether an award of attorney's fees is appropriate. For the reasons explained below, the court awards attorney's fees to Magone in the amount of $2, 820.00.

II. BACKGROUND

This is a personal injury case arising under maritime and admiralty laws. ( See Compl. (Dkt. # 1).) Mr. McGinley worked as a crewman for Magone aboard a 260-foot ex-Navy troop transport barge called the YAHVEH JIREH. (Compl. ¶¶ 3-4.) Mr. McGinley alleges that he was "ordered to engage in heavy lifting activity, more specifically, a heavy log, which he was trying to handle when he slipped and suffered injury because of [Magone's] failure to provide a safe place to work and seaworthy vessel." ( Id. ¶ 5.) Mr. McGinley asserts claims for negligence under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30104, and for maintenance and cure under maritime law. ( Id. ¶ 2.)

The events involved in this case took place in Alaska. Mr. McGinley is an Alaska resident ( id. ¶ 10), and Magone is an Alaska corporation with its principal place of business in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. (Magone Decl. ¶¶ 3, 7.) Magone has no business presence in Washington. ( Id. ¶ 8.) Magone's principal shareholders, Susan and Dan Magone, reside in Alaska. ( Id. ¶ 3-4.) The vessel YAHVEH JIREH, aboard which Plaintiff alleges he was injured (Compl. ¶ 3-4), is permanently secured to shore in Dutch Harbor, Alaska and has been since 1990. (Magone Decl. ¶ 5.) In fact, the YAHVEH JIREH is classified under the State of Alaska fire code as a three-story building. ( Id. ) Mr. McGinley was hired by Magone in Alaska and worked for Magone only in Alaska. ( Id. ¶ 6.) Indeed, the only connection this case seems to have with Washington is that Mr. McGinley is currently incarcerated in Washington. ( See Compl.; Krisher Decl. ¶ 10.)

Mr. McGinley filed this complaint in the Western District of Washington, and Magone moved to dismiss shortly thereafter. ( See Compl.; Mot.) Magone brings its motion under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(3), arguing that the court should dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction or improper venue. ( See Mot. at 1.) Magone also requests an award of attorney's fees expended in preparing its motion to dismiss. ( See id. ) Mr. McGinley responded to the motion by stating that "Plaintiff will not challenge Defendant's arguments relating to jurisdiction and venue." (Resp. at 1.) Instead, Mr. McGinley challenges only whether Magone is entitled to attorney's fees for preparation of its motion to dismiss. ( See id. )

III. ANALYSIS

A. Standard on a Rule 12(b)(2) Motion to Dismiss

A Rule 12(b)(2) motion asserts that the court lacks personal jurisdiction. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). In opposing a defendant's 12(b)(2) motion, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that jurisdiction is proper. Mavrix Photo, Inc. v. Brand Techs., Inc., 647 F.3d 1218, 1223 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing Boschetto v. Hansin, 539 F.3d 1011, 1015 (9th Cir. 2008)). Where, as here, the defendant's motion is based on written materials, the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts to withstand the motion to dismiss. Id. (citing Brayton Purcell LLP v. Recordon & Recordon, 606 F.3d 1124, 1127 (9th Cir. 2010)). The plaintiff cannot simply "rest on the bare allegations of its complaint, " but uncontroverted allegations in the complaint must be taken as true. Id. (quoting Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 800 (9th Cir. 2004)).

Where, as here, no federal statute authorizes personal jurisdiction, the district court applies the law of the state in which the district court sits. Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1)(A)). Washington's long-arm statute, RCW 4.28.185, permits the exercise of jurisdiction to the full extent of the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. See Easter v. Am. W. Fin., 381 F.3d 948, 960 (9th Cir. 2004). For a court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant consistent with due process, the defendant must have "certain minimum contacts" with the relevant forum "such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Int'l Shoe Co. v. Wash., 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

A court can exercise its power over a nonresident defendant (absent the defendant's consent) only if it has either general or specific jurisdiction. Bancroft & Masters, Inc. v. Augusta Nat'l, Inc., 223 F.3d 1082, 1086 (9th Cir. 2000). Where a defendant has "substantial" or "continuous and systematic" contacts with the forum state, it is subject to general jurisdiction, and can be haled into court on any action, even one unrelated to its contacts. Id. If a defendant is not subject to general jurisdiction, it may be subject to specific jurisdiction if the action upon which it is sued arises from its contacts within the forum state. Id. In either case, the critical factor in determining personal jurisdiction is the extent of the defendant's contacts with the forum state. See id.

B. The Court Lacks Personal Jurisdiction Over Magone

Defendant Magone has no contacts with Washington. ( See Magone Decl.) Mr. McGinley does not challenge this on a factual level, nor does he argue that there is any basis at all for the court to assert personal jurisdiction over Magone. ( See Resp.) Instead, Mr. McGinley concedes that he "will not challenge Defendant's arguments relating to jurisdiction and venue." (Resp. at 1.) Mr. McGinley has not met his burden of opposing the motion or of establishing either general or specific jurisdiction. See Mavrix, 647 F.3d at 1223. Nor could he: there is no basis for general jurisdiction because Magone has no contacts with Washington ( see Magone Decl.), and there is no basis for specific jurisdiction because the events allegedly giving rise to Mr. McGinley's claim occurred ...


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