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Driver v. Davis

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

December 14, 2017

CLARKSON DAVIS, a Texas limited liability corporation; JASON PEDIGO, an individual; COURTYARD SPOKANE DOWNTOWN AT THE CONVENTION CENTER, an unknown business entity; COURTYARD MANAGEMENT CORPORATION; a Delaware corporation; MARCOURT INVESTMENTS INCORPORATED, a Maryland corporation; and DOES 1 through 50, Defendants.



         Before the Court is Defendant Clarkson Davis's Motion to Dismiss, or Transfer Venue, ECF No. 27. Driver and Defendants Courtyard Spokane Downtown at the Convention Center, Courtyard Management Corporation and MarCourt Investment Incorporated (collectively, Courtyard Defendants) oppose the motion, and all parties, with the exception of Defendant Jason Pedigo, submitted briefing in support of their positions. The Court held a hearing on December 12, 2017, and took the matter under advisement.

         Clarkson Davis argues that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction and that venue in the Eastern District of Washington is improper. In the alternative, Clarkson Davis moves for discretionary transfer of venue to the Northern District of Texas under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Driver and the Courtyard Defendants oppose the motion on all grounds. Because Clarkson Davis purposefully directed its business towards Washington State and a substantial portion of the events giving rise to Driver's claims took place in Spokane, Washington, Clarkson Davis's jurisdictional arguments fail. Although the considerations governing discretionary transfer are more evenly balanced, the interest of justice ultimately favors retaining all claims in this District. Accordingly, Clarkson-Davis's motion is denied in full.


         On July 27, 2016, Jason Pedigo attempted to spy on his then-coworker Rechael Driver while on a business trip in Spokane, Washington. Both Driver and Pedigo were employed by Clarkson Davis, a small Texas-based consulting firm. See ECF No. 42 at 2-3.

         Pursuant to a 2015 Consulting Services Agreement with the nonprofit Feeding America, Clarkson Davis provided consulting services to food banks throughout the nation. ECF No. 27-1 at 3. When necessary, Clarkson Davis would send its employees on business trips to consult with the nonprofit food banks designated by Feeding America. Id. at 3-4.

         As part of her job duties, Driver was required to travel to meet with potential clients across the United States. See ECF No. 42 at 2-3. Both Driver and Pedigo stayed at the Courtyard Spokane on at least two occasions prior to the July 28, 2016 incident. ECF No. 53 at 2.

         On July 25, 2017, Driver and Pedigo traveled to Spokane on behalf of Clarkson Davis to consult with Washington-based organizations selected by Feeding America. ECF No. 42 at 2. Driver and Pedigo were scheduled to stay at the Courtyard Spokane for three nights, from July 25 through July 28, 2016. ECF No. 53 at 2. They were housed in adjoining rooms, which were separated by a locked door. Id.

         On July 27, 2017, Pedigo spied on Driver by inserting a flexible, scope-like spy camera under the door separating their adjoining rooms. ECF No. 43-2. Driver discovered the scope and called the police, who arrested Pedigo. See ECF No. 43-1.

         After learning of the incident, Clarkson Davis terminated Pedigo's employment. ECF No. 27-1 at 3. Driver returned home to California to spend time with her family. Id. Clarkson Davis alleges that Driver failed to respond to its requests to establish a formal “return to work date.” Id. On August 15, 2016, Clarkson Davis terminated Driver's employment. ECF No. 1 at 13.

         On August 28, 2017, Driver filed two lawsuits, one in the Eastern District of Washington, and one in the Northern District of Texas. These lawsuits are based on the same underlying facts, however the suit in the Eastern District of Washington includes the Courtyard Defendants.


         A. Burden of Proof and Evidence Considered

         Because there is no statutory method for resolving a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, district courts have broad discretion in selecting a mode of determination. See Data Disc, Inc. v. Sys. Tech. Assocs., Inc., 557 F.2d 1280, 1285 (9th Cir. 1977). The Court may resolve the matter on the pleadings and affidavits, or it may consider discovery materials. “If a plaintiff's proof is limited to written materials, it is necessary only for these materials to demonstrate a prima facie showing of jurisdiction.” Id. However, “if the pleadings and other submitted materials raise issues of credibility or other disputed questions of fact regarding jurisdiction, the district court has the discretion to take evidence at a preliminary hearing to resolve the contested issues.” Id. In this situation, the plaintiff must establish the jurisdictional facts by a preponderance of the evidence. Id.

         Here, it is possible to resolve the motion to dismiss on written materials alone. Accordingly, Driver must establish only a prima facie case for personal jurisdiction over Clarkson Davis.

         B. ...

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