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Stelly v. Gettier, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

April 28, 2014

LEROY STELLY, Plaintiff,
v.
GETTIER, INC.; J.R. GETTIER & ASSOCIATES, INC.; LOUIS MANERCHIA; GULF PACIFIC MARINE, INC.; FOSS MARITIME CO.; SHAVER TRANSPORTATION CO.; PACIFIC RIVER, LLC, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT LOUIS MANERCHIA'S MOTION TO DISMISS

ROBERT J. BRYAN, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Louis Manerchia's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, insufficiency of process and/or insufficiency of service of process. Dkt. 20. The Court has considered the pleadings in support of and in opposition to the motion and the record herein.

INRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Leroy Stelly filed this action January 28, 2014, alleging causes of action for negligence, unseaworthiness of vessels, maintenance and cure, and for the personal liability of Defendant Louis Manerchia for failure to procure longshore and harbor workers insurance. Dkt. 1 p. 8-9. Manerchia is named in his capacity as president of J.R. Gettier & Associates, Inc. (Gettier). Id. Stelly, a California resident, was retained by Getttier on September 26, 2012, to provide temporary uniformed security services as a maritime guard on board a fleet of tugs, including the M/V Daniel Foss, the M/V Sara, and the M/V Washington. Id. pp. 2-3. The M/V Daniel Foss was owned and/or controlled by Defendant Foss Maritime Company, and the M/V Sara and the M/V Washington were owned and/or controlled by Defendant Shaver Transportation Co., and said vessels were chartered or leased to Defendant Gulf Pacific Marine. Id. p. 3. Stelly's complaint alleges that he was engaged in maritime employment when he suffered an on-the-job injury while boarding the M/V Daniel Foss from a launch boat operated by Defendant Pacific River, LLC. Id. p. 3-4.

Stelly contends that he is entitled to benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act, 33 U.S.C. ยง 901 et seq. Under the Act, an officer of a corporation can be held personally liable for failure of the corporation to maintain Longshore and Harbor Workers' compensation insurance. The sole basis that Manerchia is individually named as a defendant is his status as president of Gettier. Dkt. 1 pp. 8-9.

Manerchia resides in the state of Delaware and does not maintain a domicile or residence in Washington. Dkt. 21 pp. 1-2. Manerchia does not own any interest in real or personal property in the state of Washington. Id. p. 2. Manerchia has no professional or personal licenses in Washington. Id. Manerchia has been in Washington a maximum twelve to fifteen times in his lifetime. Id. p. 4. Manerchia was not in Washington at the time of Shelly's injury and has never been to Washington to set up a temporary security force. Id.

Service of summons and complaint was purportedly accomplished by a registered process server by personal delivery to Manerchia at his Deleware residence. Dkt. 40 p. 3. The declaration of the professional process server, Grandville Morris, states:

On March 2, 2014 at 5:00 pm. I went to the residence of Louis Manerchia at 3214 Heathwood Road, Wilmington, Delaware 19810. Mr. Louis Manerchia identified himself to me through the living room window, and I observed that he was a white male, age 60's 5'9" 200lbs with black-gray hair. I told him I had legal papers to serve on him. He told me to go away and he refused to open the door. I announced service and left the documents at his front door.

Dkt. 40-1 p. 2.

Defendant Manerchia contradicts this statement of service of process with his own declaration, which states in part:

On Tuesday, March 3, 2014, I found a copy of the summons and complaint in this matter stuffed into the storm door of my home in Delaware. Neither I nor anyone in my office or my home was personally given a copy of the summons and complaint in this matter. Nor was I or any member of my household or office advised that service on me was being attempted.

Dkt. 21 p. 5.

In a supplemental declaration, Manerchia elaborates further and states that the events set forth in the process server's declaration never happened. Dkt. 43 p. 2. Manerchia states that if he was at home on the date of the purported service and had Mr. Morris knocked or rang the doorbell he would have heard it. Id. He did not hear a knock or the doorbell ring. Id. Manerchia states he "never saw or heard Mr. Morris on or about March 2, 2014.... I did not see or hear Mr. Morris. I did not tell him to "go away, " close a window on him, nor refuse to open my door, or relock an already locked door." Id. In conclusion, Manerchia states that he is "unaware of any efforts being made by Mr. Morris to personally serve me on March 2, 2014." Id. p. 3.

Manerchia moves to dismiss this action for lack of personal jurisdiction and/or insufficient service of process.

PERSONAL JURIDICTION

Where a defendant moves to dismiss a complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating that jurisdiction is appropriate. Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Company, 374 F.3d 797, 800 (9th Cir. 2004). The plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of the jurisdictional facts to withstand the motion where, as here, the district court rules without holding an evidentiary hearing. Doe v. Unocal Corp., 248 F.3d 915, 922 (9th Cir. 2001). In order to make a prima facie showing, plaintiff must allege facts that, if true, would be sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction. Id. If not directly controverted, plaintiff's version of the facts is taken as true for the purposes of ...


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