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Driver v. Davis

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

December 20, 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 pro se Defendant Jason Pedigo's Motion to Dismiss, or Transfer Venue, ECF No. 34. 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 submitted briefing in support of their positions. Pedigo argues this Court lacks personal jurisdiction and asserts that the proper venue for this matter is the Northern District of Texas. By separate order, this Court denied a substantially identical motion submitted by defendants Clarkson Davis. ECF No. 65. Much of the Court's reasoning applies with equal force to the instant motion. In short, this Court has jurisdiction because Driver's claims are based on criminal conduct occurring in Spokane, Washington, to which Pedigo pleaded guilty. For the same reasons articulated in this Court's previous order regarding Clarkson Davis' motion to transfer venue, the interest of justice favors continued jurisdiction in this District. Accordingly, Pedigo's motion is denied in full.


         The facts of this case were set out in detail in this Court's Order Denying Clarkson Davis's Motion to Dismiss or Transfer Venue, ECF No. 65. Accordingly, they need not be addressed at length here. In short, Rechael Driver and her then-coworker Jason Pedigo travelled to Spokane, Washington for business in July 2015. While in Spokane, Pedigo attempted to spy on Driver by inserting a camera under the door separating their adjoining hotel rooms. Driver discovered the camera and called the police, who arrested Pedigo. Both Driver and Pedigo were eventually terminated from employment with Clarkson Davis.

         In February 2017, Pedigo pleaded guilty to First Degree Criminal Trespass in violation of Wash. Rev. Code (RCW) § 9A.52.070-G. ECF No. 50-1. Pedigo received a sentence of 364 days with 3 days' credit for time served and 361 days suspended. Pedigo was placed under supervision for a period of 24 months.

         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 Pedigo.

         B. Personal Jurisdiction

         The Court “begins its personal jurisdiction analysis with the long-arm statute of the state in which the court sits.” Glencore Grain Rotterdam B.V. v. Shivnath Rai Harnarain Co., 284 F.3d 1114, 1123 (9th Cir. 2002). Washington's long-arm statute extends the court's personal jurisdiction to the broadest reach permitted by the United States Constitution. See RCW § 4.28.185. Because Washington's long-arm statute is coextensive with federal due process requirements, the jurisdictional analysis under state law and federal due process are the same. Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 800-01 (9th Cir. 2004).

         Due process requires that the nonresident defendant have “certain minimum contacts with [the forum state] such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'” Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463 (1940)). The inquiry “focuses on the relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation.” Keeton v. Hustler Magazine, Inc., 456 U.S. 770, 775 (1984). Specifically, “the defendant's suit-related conduct must create a substantial connection with the forum state.” Walden v. Fiore, 134 S.Ct. 746, 753 (2014).

         Personal jurisdiction exists in two forms: general and specific. See Dole Food Co. v. Watts, 303 F.3d 1104, 1111 (9th Cir. 2002). Courts have general jurisdiction over a non-resident when the non-resident has “continuous systematic general business contacts that approximate physical presence in the forum state.” Schwarzenegger, 374 F.3d at 801. Personal jurisdiction exists when (1) the defendant purposefully availed himself of the laws of the forum state; (2) plaintiff's claims arise out of the defendant's ...

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