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Rosas v. Sarbanand Farms, LLC

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

June 6, 2019

BARBARO ROSAS and GUADALUPE TAPIA, as individuals and on behalf of all other similarly situated persons, Plaintiffs,
SARBANAND FARMS LLC, et al., Defendants.



         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant CSI Visa Processing S.C.'s (“CSI”) motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction (Dkt. No. 86). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby DENIES the motion for the reasons explained herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs bring this class action arising out of the Defendants' recruitment, employment, and treatment of foreign H-2A farm workers. (Dkt. No. 12 at 1.) Plaintiffs allege that Defendant CSI violated the Washington Farm Labor Contractors Act (“FLCA”) by failing to obtain and carry a current farm labor contractor's license at all times and exhibit it to Plaintiffs; failing to obtain a bond and disclose the existence and amount of that bond to Plaintiffs; failing to furnish Plaintiffs with a written statement on the form prescribed by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries describing the compensation to be paid and terms and conditions of employment; and by making or causing to be made false, fraudulent, or misleading representations to Plaintiffs concerning the terms and conditions of employment. (Id. at 31-32.)

         Defendant CSI is a Mexican visa processing company with its principal place of business in Durango, Mexico. (Dkt. No. 86 at 8.) It “processes visa applications at the request of employers across the United States, ” and describes itself as “the largest H2 [visa] processing company in Mexico, assisting hundreds of employers across the United States.” (Id. at 8; Dkt. No. 96-2 at 2). Defendants Sarbanand Farms and Munger Bros. (collectively, “Growers”) share common ownership and have the same CEO. (Dkt. Nos. 11, 18 at 16, 68 at 2-3.) Defendant Nidia Perez acted as an employee and agent of both Defendant Sarbanand Farms and Defendant Munger Bros. “for purposes of any allegations against her concerning employees hired to work on behalf of Munger Bros. . . . [and] Sarbanand Farms through the H-2A visa program . . . during the 2017 blueberry harvest in Sumas, Washington.” (Dkt. No. 19 at 3; see also Dkt. No. 18 at 3.)[1]

         Defendant CSI has historically engaged in the solicitation of business in Washington through WAFLA, an association of Pacific Northwest growers: Defendant CSI was a sponsor of WAFLA's annual conferences, and worked with WAFLA to provide workers to Washington growers through the 2017 season. (See Dkt. Nos. 12 at 9, 85-4 at 9.) In 2015 and 2016, Defendant Sarbanand Farms contracted with WAFLA to provide H-2A visa workers for the blueberry harvesting season in Sumas, Washington. (Dkt. Nos. 68 at 2, 85-11, 85-12, 95 at 5.) WAFLA in turn retained Defendant CSI to supply workers from Mexico to work for Defendant Sarbanand Farms. (See Dkt. No. 85-15.)

         In 2017, Growers worked directly with Defendant CSI “to locate recruit, and supply the workers needed to harvest blueberries in California and Washington.” (Dkt. No. 68 at 2-3; see also Dkt. No. 85-25) (PowerPoint setting forth number of workers needed by Defendant Sarbanand Farms in Sumas, Washington and stating that Defendant CSI would recruit workers in Mexico). Defendant CSI entered into a contract with Defendant Sarbanand Farms to provide professional services in recruiting and processing H-2A visa applicants for work in Washington. (Dkt. No. 96-18 at 14-22.) Defendant CSI processed 103 H-2A visa applications for work in Washington on behalf of Defendant Sarbanand Farms for the 2017 harvesting season. (Dkt. No. 89 at 2.)

         Plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit against Growers, Defendant Nidia Perez, and Defendant CSI. (Dkt. No. 12.) Plaintiffs assert that Defendant CSI violated various provisions of the Washington Farm Labor Contractors Act, Wash. Rev. Code. §§ 19.30 et seq. (Id. at 31-32.) Defendant CSI requests that the Court dismiss it from this lawsuit for lack of personal jurisdiction. (Dkt. No. 86 at 7.)


         A. Motion to Dismiss Standard of Review

         Claims against a defendant must be dismissed when a court lacks personal jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). When a defendant seeks dismissal on this ground, the plaintiff must show that the exercise of jurisdiction is appropriate. Picot v. Weston, 780 F.3d 1206, 1211 (9th Cir. 2015). “[I]n the absence of an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts;” in assessing this showing, the Court must take any uncontroverted allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true and resolve any conflicts between the facts in the documentary evidence in the plaintiff's favor. Sher v. Johnson, 911 F.2d 1357, 1361 (9th Cir. 1990); AT&T v. Compagnie Bruxelles Lambert, 94 F.3d 586, 588 (9th Cir. 1996).

         B. Personal Jurisdiction

         When determining whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction over a defendant is appropriate, federal courts apply the law of the state in which they sit; in Washington, courts are authorized to exercise jurisdiction “over a nonresident defendant to the extent permitted by the due process clause of the United States Constitution.” SeaHAVN, Ltd. v. Glitnir Bank, 226 P.3d 141, 149 (Wash.Ct.App. 2010). Thus, the only question for the Court is whether the exercise of jurisdiction over Defendant CSI comports with the limitations imposed by due process. See Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 413 (1984).

         Due process permits a court to “subject a defendant to judgment only when the defendant has sufficient contacts with the sovereign ‘such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'” McIntyre Mach., Ltd. v. Nicastro, 564 U.S. 873, 880 (2011) (citing Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)). Fair play and substantial justice mandate that a defendant has minimum contacts with the forum state before it may be hailed into a court in that forum. Int'l Shoe, 326 U.S. at 316. The extent of these contacts can result in either general or specific jurisdiction. Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011). If the requirements for either are met, a court may properly exercise jurisdiction over the parties. Helicopteros, 466 U.S. at 413-14.

         1. Genera ...

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