United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO
BARBARA J. ROTHSTEIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Seaton Gras initiated the instant action alleging that
Defendant Subcontracting Concepts, LLC (“SCI”),
and its President, Peter Fidopiastis, and Vice President of
Technology, Ryan Wise, (collectively
“Defendants”) intentionally intercepted a
telephone call between Plaintiff and a third-party in
violation of the Washington's Privacy Act, Wash. Rev.
Code § 9.73.030, leading to the souring of business
relations between Plaintiff and Defendants. Before the Court
is Defendants' motion to dismiss based on lack of
personal jurisdiction, improper venue, and failure to state a
claim. Dkt. No. 6. Having reviewed the motion, opposition
thereto, the record of the case, and the relevant legal
authorities, the Court will grant the motion on the basis of
lack of personal jurisdiction over Defendants. The reasoning
for the Court's decision follows.
is a software developer and entrepreneur who lives and works
in the State of Washington. Dkt. No. 1-1 at ¶ 2. SCI, in
turn, is a limited liability company organized under Delaware
law that is headquartered and primarily conducts business in
New York. Id. at ¶ 3; Dkt. No. 6 at 2. SCI is a
self-described “third-party administrator for logistic
companies and independent owner operators” whose
primary business is facilitating payment processing and
compliance primarily for the courier industry. Dkt. No. 6 at
2; see also Dkt. No. 1-1 at ¶ 3. Defendants
Fidopiastis and Wise are officers of SCI. See Dkt.
No. 1-1 at ¶¶ 4-5.
October 15, 2013, Plaintiff and Defendants entered into a
contract (“the Contract”) for Plaintiff to
develop a bidding software application (“the
App”) for Defendants to market to their clients. Dkt.
No. 1-1 at ¶ 10; Dkt. No. 6 at 2. As Plaintiff
describes, the App “would allow trucking companies to
post courier delivery routes to independent contractor
drivers” for which drivers would be able to bid. Dkt.
No. 1-1 at ¶ 11. The App would then place bids in
reverse order, allowing the bidder with the lowest price to
secure the contract for deliver. “The main purpose of
[the App], ” as Plaintiff explains, “is to ensure
drivers utilized by businesses like SCI or SCI's clients
would be classified by government regulators as bonafide
independent contractors, rather than employees, through the
app's reverse-auction bidding system.” Id.
at ¶ 12.
is some disagreement between the parties as to the exact
extent to which relevant events in the development of the
relationship and the concluding of the Contract occurred in
the State of Washington. Defendants, for example, assert that
all of the negotiations surrounding the App took place in New
York, including the signing of the Contract. Dkt. No. 6 at 2.
Plaintiff, however, asserts that the relationship goes back
further, including introductions through a mutual contact
from Washington, as well as the fact that he developed
software for the App while in Washington and
“navigate[d] technical details with defendant via email
in Seattle.” Dkt. No. 15 at 2-3. Either way, the
parties seemed to have differing understandings as to whether
software for the App was meant to be exclusive, with
Plaintiff thinking he was free to market the product to
third-parties, see Dkt. No. 1-1 at ¶ 15-18,
while Defendants thought he was not, Dkt. No. 6 at 2.
real heart of this case, however, is a phone call that
occurred on March 25, 2014 in which Plaintiff marketed the
App to several of Defendants' competitors while using
Defendants' conference call line. See Dkt. No.
1-1 at ¶ 21; Dkt. No. 6 at 3. According to Plaintiff,
Defendants “surreptitiously and illegally”
recorded this call without his permission and, upon learning
of Plaintiff's intent to market the App to competitors,
Defendants decided to “sabotage their contract with
[Plaintiff], block [Plaintiff]'s ability to build any
other business partnerships, and unilaterally gain control of
the [A]pp.” Dkt. No. 1-1 at ¶ 23.
locations matter. While he failed to state as much in his
complaint, Plaintiff asserts that he initiated the call while
in Washington State. See Dkt. No. 15 at 6, 7; Dkt.
No. 17 at ¶ 5. Defendants, however, assert that
“Plaintiff's phone call was initiated on SCI's
internal conference call telephone number and equipment,
which is solely located  at SCI's New York
office.” Dkt. No. 6 at 3. Defendants add that Plaintiff
neither had permission to use their conference call line, nor
would permission have been granted if requested. Id.
result of actions taken by Defendant in response to learning
of his intent to market the App, Plaintiff claims he was
“unable to monetize or raise investment funds for [the
App].” He subsequently filed the instant action in King
County Superior Court claiming two causes of action: (1)
Unlawful Wiretap in violation of the RCW 9.73.030 and (2) the
common law tort of Invasion of Privacy. Dkt. No. 1.
removal to this Court, see Dkt. No. 1, Defendants
moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, improper
venue, and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
12(b)(2), (3), and (6), respectively. Dkt. No.
6.Plaintiff opposes dismissal. Dkt. No.
courts ordinarily follow state law in determining the bounds
of their jurisdiction over persons.” Picot v.
Weston, 780 F.3d 1206, 1211 (9th Cir. 2015) (quoting
Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 125
(2014). As Washington State's long-arm statute
allows the exercise of personal jurisdiction to the full
extent permissible under the U.S. Constitution, Shute v.
Carnival Cruise Lines, 783 P.2d 78, 79 (Wash. 1989), the
Court's “inquiry centers on whether exercising
jurisdiction comports with due process, ”
Picot, 780 F.3d at 1211. Due process, in turn,
“requires that the 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.'”
Id. (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Wash.,
326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)); see also Mavrix Photo, Inc. v.
Brand Techs., Inc., 647 F.3d 1218, 1223 (9th Cir. 2011).
bears the burden of establishing that personal jurisdiction
in proper. Boschetto v. Hansing, 539 F.3d 1011, 1015
(9th Cir. 2008). Under the current procedural posture,
Plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of the
jurisdictional facts. Id. (citing Sher v.
Johnson, 911 F.2d 1357, 1361 (9th Cir. 1990)); see
also Data Disc, Inc. v. Sys. Tech. Assocs., Inc., 557
F.2d 1280, 1285 (9th Cir. 1977) (“if a plaintiff's
proof is limited to written materials, it is necessary ...