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Montgomery v. AIR Serv Corporation, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

August 12, 2019

JOHN E. MONTGOMERY and SHARON R. PARCHIA, individually and as Co-Personal Representatives of the Estate of DR. ELINOR ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY, and on behalf of the beneficiaries of the estate to include: DEBRA E. GRIFFIN, MICHAEL C. MONTGOMERY, LYNDA R. ESCALANTE, DANIEL E. MONGTOMERY, STEPHEN K. MONTGOMERY, and ENOCH P. MONTGOMERY Respondents,
v.
AIR SERV CORPORATION, INC., a for-profit corporation doing business in King County, State of Washington; ABM AVIATION, INC., d/b/a AIR SERV CORPORATION and AIR SERV, a for-profit corporation doing business in King County, Washington, and CLARISSA ESCALANTE, a single person residing in Washington State, Petitioners,

          DWYER, J.

         Following her death, Dr. Elinor Montgomery's estate filed a wrongful death action against Air Serv Corporation and ABM Aviation Inc. (collectively ABM)[1] alleging negligence in the provision of wheelchair services by ABM to Montgomery at the Dallas-Fort Worth (Dallas) airport in Texas.[2] On discretionary review, ABM seeks reversal of the trial court's ruling denying its motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. According to ABM, the trial court erred by concluding that it had specific jurisdiction over ABM and that the Estate's claim arose from ABM's contacts with Washington given that Montgomery was injured in Texas and ABM provided wheelchair assistance services in Texas but not in Washington. We agree and now reverse.

         I

         ABM is an airline and airport services company incorporated in Georgia with its principal place of business in Georgia. ABM offers a variety of airline and airport services, including wheelchair assistance, by contracting with airlines and airports. With respect to wheelchair assistance, passengers requiring such services request wheelchair assistance directly from their airline. If ABM has a contract with that airline to provide such services at the airport in which the passenger requires wheelchair assistance, the airline will then request wheelchair assistance from ABM on the customer's behalf.

         ABM has affiliate locations in numerous airports, including in Dallas and in Seattle (SeaTac). In July 2015, however, ABM did not provide wheelchair assistance services in the Sea Tac Airport but, rather, provided janitorial, cabin cleaning, and baggage services.

         Sharon Parchia, Montgomery's daughter, purchased a ticket from Alaska Airlines for Montgomery to travel from SeaTac to Dallas in July 2015.[3] Parchia utilized Alaska Airlines' website to purchase the ticket and, at the time of the booking, checked a box on the website to request wheelchair assistance for Montgomery for both her departure from SeaTac and her arrival in Dallas. The website did not identify or offer any suggestion or reference to the company or companies that would provide the wheelchair assistance. At no time did Parchia or Montgomery contact ABM during the booking process.

         On July 29, 2015, Montgomery's flight arrived at the Dallas airport and ABM provided Montgomery with wheelchair assistance services. The Estate alleges that during or immediately following the provision of these services, Montgomery sustained injuries that ultimately led to her death. Thereafter, the Estate filed its claim in King County Superior Court against ABM, alleging that negligence during the provision of wheelchair assistance services in Texas caused Montgomery's death.[4] The complaint alleges that jurisdiction over ABM is proper because "at all times relevant and material hereto" ABM was "doing business within King County, Washington, ... as well as other locations in Washington State."

         Subsequently, ABM filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. After hearing oral argument, the trial court denied the motion. During the hearing, the trial court concluded that ABM had purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting business in Washington and that the Estate's claim was sufficiently connected to ABM's contacts with Washington to subject ABM to the jurisdiction of Washington courts. Although the trial court considered the connection between the Estate's claim and the forum to be "a little bit tenuous," it nevertheless concluded, after discussing the extent of ABM's non-wheelchair-assistance-related services, that as long as there was some connection to ABM's acts or transactions in Washington, jurisdiction was proper, even if that connection was "fairly tenuous."

         ABM then moved this court for discretionary review, asserting that review was warranted pursuant to RAP 2.3(b)(1) because the trial court's denial of its motion to dismiss constituted an obvious error rendering further proceedings useless.[5] Our commissioner ruled that the trial court's decision appeared inconsistent with recent case law from the United States Supreme Court concerning whether claims have arisen from a nonresident defendant's contacts with a forum state and granted review.

         II

         ABM contends that the trial court erred by concluding that the superior court had specific personal jurisdiction over it and denying its CR 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. This is so, ABM asserts, because the Estate's claim does not arise out of, or relate to, ABM's contacts with Washington. In response, the Estate asserts that ABM purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting business in Washington by entering into contracts with airlines to provide wheelchair services to Washington residents in Texas and that the Estate's claim arose from those contracts. ABM has the better argument.

         A

         We review de novo the denial of a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. State v. LG Elecs.. Inc., 186 Wn.2d 169, 176, 375 P.3d 1035 (2016). "When a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction is resolved without an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiffs burden is only that of a prima facie showing of jurisdiction." LG Elecs., 186 Wn.2d at 176. Even when the trial court considers matters outside the pleadings, we treat the allegations in the complaint as established for purposes of determining jurisdiction. State v. LG Elecs., Inc. 185 Wn.App. 394, 406, 341 P.3d 346 (2015) (quoting Freestone Capital Partners LP v. MKA Real Estate Opportunity Fund I. LLC, 155 Wn.App. 643, 654, 230 P.3d 625 (2010)), affd. 186 Wn.2d 169 (2016). For matters outside the pleadings, we draw reasonable inferences in the light favorable to the nonmoving party. State v. AU Optronics Corp., 180 Wn.App. 903, 912, 328 P.3d 919 (2014).

         "The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment sets the outer boundaries of a state tribunal's authority to proceed against a defendant." Goodvear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 923, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 180 L.Ed.2d 796 (2011); U.S. Const, amend. XIV, § 1. "Under Washington's long arm jurisdiction statute, RCW 4.28.185, personal jurisdiction exists in Washington over nonresident defendants and foreign corporations as long as it complies with federal due process." Noll v. Am. Biltrite Inc., 188 Wn.2d 402, 411, 395 P.3d 1021 (2017). Thus, Washington courts may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant so long as: (1) purposeful minimum contacts exist between the defendant and the forum state, (2) the plaintiff's injuries arise out of or relate to those minimum contacts, and (3) the exercise of jurisdiction is consistent with notions of fair play and substantial justice. LG Elecs., 186 Wn.2d at 176-77.

         RCW 4.28.185(1) sets forth a list of acts that defendants may perform to submit themselves to the jurisdiction of Washington courts:

(1) Any person, whether or not a citizen or resident of this state, who in person or through an agent does any of the acts in this section enumerated, thereby submits said person, and, if an individual, his or her personal representative, to the jurisdiction of the courts of this ...

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