United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR
LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION
S. Lasnik United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on defendant's
“Motion to Dismiss Complaint for Lack of Personal
Jurisdiction and Improper Venue.” Dkt. # 4. The Court
has reviewed the memoranda submitted by the parties,
defendant's declaration, and plaintiffs
complaint.For the following reasons, the motion
workplace injury suit, a Washington State resident seeks to
hold a North Carolina corporation liable for injuries
sustained in Georgia. Defendant Sunbelt Rentals, Inc.
(“Sunbelt”), a heavy equipment rental company, is
incorporated in North Carolina and maintains its principle
place of business in South Carolina. Ford Decl., Dkt. # 5
¶¶ 3-4. Defendant has approximately six hundred
branch locations in the United States, including twelve
locations in Washington. Id. ¶ 5.
Defendant's Washington employees represent less than two
percent of its workforce, and its Washington branches provide
less than three percent of its rental revenues. Id.
April 2016, plaintiff was employed as part of a team charged
with setting up an athletic event at the Atlanta Motor
Speedway in Atlanta, Georgia. Dkt. # 1-1 at 6. Plaintiffs
employer rented a forklift from defendant's branch in
Jonesboro, Georgia. Id. at 6-7. During the set-up,
one of the forklift's forks became loose and struck
plaintiff's head, injuring plaintiff. Dkt. # 1-1 at 8.
Plaintiff later returned to Washington. He filed suit in
Snohomish County Superior Court, alleging that defendants
negligently provided a defective forklift. Dkt. # 1 at 1.
Defendants removed to federal court. Id Defendant
Sunbelt then filed this motion to dismiss for lack of
personal jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12 and improper
venue under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1391 and 1406(a).
has the burden of demonstrating that the Court may exercise
personal jurisdiction over defendant. In re W. States
Wholesale Natural Gas Antitrust Litig., 715 F.3d 716,
741 (9th Cir. 2013). In evaluating defendant's
jurisdictional contacts, the Court accepts uncontroverted
allegations in the complaint as true. Menken v. Emm,
503 F.3d 1050, 1056 (9th Cir. 2007). Because the Court did
not hear testimony or make findings of fact, plaintiffs need
only “make a prima facie showing of personal
jurisdiction” to withstand a motion to dismiss.
Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d
797, 800 (9th Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks and
to Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1)(A), federal courts ordinarily follow
state law when determining the extent to which they can
exercise jurisdiction over a person. Daimler AG v.
Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 753 (2014). The Washington State
Supreme Court has held that, despite the rather narrow
language used in Washington's long-arm statute, RCW
4.28.185, the statute “extends jurisdiction to the
limit of federal due process, ” Shute v. Carnival
Cruise Lines, 113 Wn.2d 763, 771 (1989). The Court
therefore need determine only whether the exercise of
jurisdiction comports with federal constitutional
requirements. Easter v. Am. W. Fin., 381 F.3d 948,
960 (9th Cir. 2004).
alleges that defendant is subject to the Court's general
jurisdiction. “A court may assert general
jurisdiction over foreign (sister-state or foreign-country)
corporations to hear any and all claims against them when
their affiliations with the State are so ‘continuous
and systematic' as to render them essentially at home in
the forum State.” Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations,
S.A. v. Brown, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 2851 (2011) (quoting
Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 317
(1945)). The Supreme Court recently made clear that the
contacts that make a corporation subject to general
jurisdiction are, for both practical and fairness reasons,
generally limited to the place of incorporation and principal
place of business. Daimler, 134 S.Ct. at 760.
“These bases afford plaintiffs recourse to at least one
clear and certain forum in which a corporate defendant may be
sued on any and all claims.” Id. “[I]n
an ‘exceptional case, '” however, “a
corporate defendant's operations in another forum
‘may be so substantial and of such a nature as to
render the corporation at home in that State.'”
BNSF Ry. Co. v. Tyrell, 137 S.Ct. 1549, 1558 (2017)
(quoting Daimler, 134 S.Ct. at 761 n.19). When
assessing whether a corporation is “at home” for
purposes of general jurisdiction, a reviewing court must
appraise “a corporation's activities in their
entirety, ” rather than focusing solely on the
defendant's in-state contacts. Id. at 1559
(quoting Daimler, 134 S.Ct. at 762 n.20).
defendant is not “at home” in Washington State.
Defendant is not incorporated or headquartered in Washington.
Nor does defendant carry out activities in Washington
“so substantial” as to justify the exercise of
personal jurisdiction over defendant outside its place of
incorporation or principle place of business. See
Daimler, 134 S.Ct. at 761 n.19. Defendant maintains a
small fraction of its branches in Washington. It derives a
small fraction of its revenue from those branches. In view of
defendant's activities in their entirety, defendant's
contacts with Washington are insufficient to subject
defendant to general jurisdiction with respect to claims,
like plaintiff's, that are unrelated to events in the
forum. See Tyrell, 137 S.Ct. at 1559 (finding no
general jurisdiction over corporation that maintained less
than five percent of its workforce and generated less than
ten percent of its revenue in the forum state).
of the foregoing reasons, defendant's motion to dismiss,
Dkt. # 4, is GRANTED. Plaintiffs claims against defendant
Sunbelt Rentals, Inc., are hereby DISMISSED without prejudice
for lack of personal jurisdiction. To the extent plaintiffs
can, consistent with their Rule 11 obligations, amend their
complaint to include allegations remedying the deficiencies
identified in this order, they may file a motion to amend and
attach a proposed pleading for the Court's consideration
by May 7, 2018.