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Dudley v. Lucasfilm, Ltd.

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

March 18, 2014

JOHN R. DUDLEY, Plaintiff,
LUCASFILM, LTD., et al., Defendants.



BEFORE the court is a motion to dismiss filed by Defendant International Creative Management Partners LLC ("ICM Partners"), ECF No. 32. The Court heard oral argument on the motion. Plaintiff is appearing in this action pro se. ICM Partners is represented by Michael Brian Garfinkel and Nicholas Arnold Manheim. The Court has considered the briefing and the file, and is fully informed.


Plaintiff John R. Dudley filed a Complaint pro se in this court alleging that numerous defendants, including ICM Partners, infringed his copyright in making the movie "Red Tails, " by appropriating substantial portions of a screenplay he had written. ECF No. 1. ICM Partners is a talent and literary agency. Plaintiff contends that his attorney sent a copy of his screenplay to ICM Partners and that ICM Partners then made the screenplay available to other defendants without informing them of the script's origins. ECF No. 1 at 6-7.

Regarding the Court's personal jurisdiction over defendants, including ICM Partners, Plaintiff alleged in his Complaint that "[e]ach defendant has sought, and derived, benefits from doing business in the State of Washington and is, therefore, subject to personal jurisdiction under the long-arm statute of the State of Washington, RCW 4.28.185, and the doctrine of purposeful availment." ECF No. 1 at 4.

Prior to filing an answer in this action, Defendant ICM Partners moved to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue. ECF No. 32.


ICM Partners contends (1) that Plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction; and (2) that if ICM Partners' motion to dismiss is successful, it is additionally entitled to an award of attorney's fees under RCW 4.28.185(5). Each of these issues is discussed in turn.[1]

A. Personal Jurisdiction

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) allows a party to bring a motion to dismiss asserting that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction to hear a claim. In opposing a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that jurisdiction is proper. Maverix Photo, Inc. v. Branch Techs. Inc., 647 F.3d 1218, 1223 (9th Cir. 2011). When a defendant's motion to dismiss is based on written materials rather than an evidentiary hearing, "the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts to withstand the motion to dismiss." Id. The plaintiff may not rely only on the "bare allegations" of the complaint, but "uncontroverted allegations in the complaint must be taken as true." Id.

Personal jurisdiction in this case would rely on the application of Washington state law because there is no federal statute authorizing service of process. See id. Washington's long-arm statute "extends jurisdiction over a defendant to the fullest extent permitted by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Washington Shoe Co. v. A-Z Sporting Goods, Inc., 704 F.3d 668, 672 (9th Cir. 2012) (citing RCW 4.28.185; Shute v. Carnival Cruise Lines, 113 Wn.2d 763, 783 (1989)).

Under the Due Process Clause, assertion of personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state party must comply with "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945). Personal jurisdiction may be satisfied through (1) "general or all-purpose jurisdiction" or (2) "specific or case-linked jurisdiction." Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 2851 (2011).

General jurisdiction may be exercised over an out-of-state corporation to hear any and all claims involving that party "when their affiliations with the State are so continuous and systematic' as to render them essentially at home in the forum State." Id. (quoting International Shoe, 326 U.S. at 317). Specific jurisdiction depends on "an affilatio[n] between the forum and the underlying controversy, ' principally, activity or an occurrence that takes place in the forum State and is therefore subject to the State's regulation." Id.

ICM Partners contends that Plaintiff can satisfy neither general nor specific personal jurisdiction in this case. Plaintiff does not appear to contend that the Court has general jurisdiction over ICM Partners. In his response briefing, Plaintiff contends that the Court has personal jurisdiction over ICM Partners solely due to its conduct relative to Plaintiff's action. ECF No. 34 at 13-18. Such argument implicates only specific and not general personal jurisdiction. See Brown, 131 S.Ct. at 2851 ("In contrast to general, all-purpose jurisdiction, specific jurisdiction is confined to the adjudication of issues deriving from, or connected with, the very controversy that establishes jurisdiction."). Moreover, the Court concludes from its review of the record in this case that Plaintiff has not demonstrated "continuous and systematic" contacts that would give courts sitting in ...

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