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Coe v. Philips Oral Healthcare Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, at Seattle

February 14, 2014

AMY COE, et. al., Plaintiffs,
v.
PHILIPS ORAL HEALTHCARE INC, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS KONINKLIJKE PHILIPS FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION

MARSHA J. PECHMAN, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV ("Koninklijke Philips") pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). (Dkt. No. 38.) The Court has reviewed the motion, the response (Dkt. No. 52), the reply (Dkt. No. 54), all related papers, and heard oral argument on January 28, 2014. Finding Koninklijke Philips lacks sufficient contacts with Washington and no other ground exists for this Court to exercise personal jurisdiction, the Court GRANTS the motion (Dkt. No. 38).

Background

The Plaintiffs in this defective products case are purchasers of various Sonicare electric toothbrushes. (Dkt. No. 20.) Alleging their toothbrushes slowed due to a design defect, Plaintiffs bring this putative class action against Philips Oral Healthcare Inc., and Koninklijke Philips. (Id.) The Court limits its recitation of the facts to those needed to resolve the pending motion to dismiss.

Koninklijke Philips is a Dutch holding company. (Dkt. No. 39 at 2.) According to the deputy secretary of the Board of Management, the company has no contacts with Washington. (Id.) Of its nine employees, none works here. (Id.) Nor does it have any offices, operational facilities or manufacturing centers in Washington or elsewhere in the United States. (Id.) It has never conducted business in this state and does not pay any taxes. (Id.)

Philips Oral Healthcare is a Washington corporation. (Dkt. No. 40 at 2.) Philips Oral Healthcare is held by Philips Holding USA, Inc., an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Koninklijke Philips. (Dkt. No. 39 at 3.) In total, four corporate tiers separate Koninklijke Philips from Philips Oral Healthcare. (Id.) Koninklijke Philips does not manage Philips Oral Healthcare, nor does it exert control over its daily operations. (Dkt. No. 40 at 2.)

Plaintiff Amy Coe filed this case in March 2013. (Dkt. No. 1.) Counsel for Defendants entered notices of appearances three weeks later. (Dkt. No. 4.) After several related matters- all involving plaintiffs alleging the same defects with their Sonicare toothbrushes-were transferred to this Court, the parties stipulated to consolidation. (Dkt. No. 18.) The consolidated Complaint alleges Plaintiffs' complaint includes seven claims for relief. (Dkt. No. 20.)

Analysis

A. Legal Standard

When a defendant invokes Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2), Plaintiffs bear the burden of establishing that the court has personal jurisdiction. See, e.g., Zigler v. Indian River Cnty. , 64 F.3d 470, 473 (9th Cir. 1995). Because the court is resolving the motion to dismiss without holding an evidentiary hearing, Plaintiffs "need [to] make only a prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts to withstand the motion." Wash. Shoe Co. v. A-Z Sporting Goods, Inc. , 704 F.3d 668, 671-72 (9th Cir. 2012). That is, Plaintiffs need only demonstrate facts that if true would support jurisdiction over Koninklijke Philips. Bancroft & Masters, Inc. v. Augusta Nat'l Inc. , 223 F.3d 1082, 1085 (9th Cir. 2000) ("Where... the district court does not hold an evidentiary hearing but rather decides the jurisdictional issue on the basis of the pleadings and supporting declarations, we will presume that the facts set forth therein can be proven."). Neither party has requested an evidentiary hearing.

In determining whether Plaintiffs have met their burden of making a prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts, the court considers uncontroverted allegations in the complaint as true and resolves conflicts between facts contained in the parties' affidavits in Plaintiffs' favor. AT & T v. Compagnie Bruxelles Lambert , 94 F.3d 586, 588 (9th Cir. 1996). In addition to Plaintiffs' consolidated Complaint (Dkt. No. 20), Koninklijke Philips submitted affidavits in support of the motion. (Dkt. Nos. 39-41.)

B. Koninklijke Philips Did Not Waive its Right to Deny Personal Jurisdiction

Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(1) dictates that a defendant waives a personal jurisdiction defense if it does not raise it in a responsive pleading or in a motion to dismiss that precedes the responsive pleading. Although "Rule 12(h)(1) specifies the minimum steps that a party must take in order to preserve a defense, " it does not follow "that a party's failure to satisfy those minimum steps constitutes the only circumstance under which a party will be deemed to have waived a defense." Peterson v. Highland Music, Inc. , 140 F.3d 1313, 1318 (9th Cir. 1998). A court can find a defendant has waived a defense listed in Rule 12(h)(1) if its litigation conduct amounts to "deliberate, strategic behavior" or "sandbagging" designed to seek affirmative relief from the court only to take shelter later in the protection of a threshold defense. Id.

Koninklijke Philips did not waive its right to challenge personal jurisdiction. Koninklijke Philips' entry of a notice of appearance before filing this motion (Dkt. No. 4), does not constitute waiver. Jackson v. Hayakawa , 682 F.2d 1344, 1347 (9th Cir. 1982)(waiver occurs if defendant fails to challenge the defect in a preliminary motion, or responsive pleading.) Nor did Phillips waive personal ...


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