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Moseley v. Suzuki Motor of America, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Idaho

January 24, 2018

JON L. MOSELEY, personal representative of the Estate of Jon Moseley, deceased, JON L. MOSELEY, TONDALAYA MOSELEY, and MINOR CHILD K.G., Plaintiffs,
v.
SUZUKI MOTOR OF AMERICA, INC. and SUZUKI MOTOR CORPORATION, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          David C. Nye U.S. District Court Judge.

         I. OVERVIEW

         This matter comes before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants Suzuki Motor of America, Inc. (“SMAI”) and Suzuki Motor Corporation (“SMC”). Dkt. 9. After the Motion was fully briefed, the Court held oral arguments and took the Motion under advisement. After fully considering the arguments presented by the parties, for the reasons outlined below, the Court finds good cause to GRANT the Motion and dismiss this case.

         II. FACTS

         This wrongful death case centers on a crash involving a 2008 Suzuki GSX-R750. Defendant SMC (a Japanese corporation) designed and manufactured the motorcycle in Japan. American Suzuki Motor Corporation (“ASMC”)-a now defunct corporation- distributed the motorcycle to an independent dealer in Utah on May 28, 2008. Emily Phelps purchased the motorcycle from this independent dealer in Utah on June 9, 2008. The chain of ownership is not clear, but at some point Aleah Montalvan became the owner of the motorcycle.

         Montalvan permitted Decedent, Jon Moseley, to drive the motorcycle on or about May 31, 2015, in Twin Falls, Idaho. While Decedent was riding the motorcycle in the parking lot of a Target store in Twin Falls the front brakes failed. Decedent attempted to stop the motorcycle, but was unsuccessful. The motorcycle then hit a curb near the front of the store. The impact propelled the Decedent into the side of the Target building. An ambulance transferred the Decedent to the St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho, where the Decedent subsequently died. The cause of death was blunt force trauma due to the motorcycle accident.

         Prior to the crash, on or about November 18, 2013, Defendants had issued an “Important Safety Recall” involving the break system used in the motorcycle at issue in this case. Plaintiffs maintain that neither Decedent nor “any prior owners” of the motorcycle were notified of the recall.

         Plaintiffs are relatives of Decedent. They brought suit against Defendants on May 26, 2017. They assert three causes of action: (1) negligence, (2) wrongful death and loss of familial relationship, and (3) strict products liability. Plaintiffs seek both compensatory and punitive damages.

         On November 14, 2017, Defendants filed the instant Motion to Dismiss. In their response brief, Plaintiffs agreed to voluntarily dismiss SMAI from this suit. After the dismissal of SMAI, only two arguments for dismissal remain in this case. The only remaining Defendant, SMC, argues the Court should dismiss this case because (1) the service of process was insufficient and (2) it is not subject to the Court's personal jurisdiction. The Court first addresses the issues of personal jurisdiction, as that issue is dispositive in this case.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         “Federal courts apply state law to determine the bounds of their jurisdiction over a party.” Williams v. Yamaha Motor Co., 851 F.3d 1015, 1020 (9th Cir. 2017) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1)(A)). “In order for an Idaho court to exert jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant, two criteria must be met; the act giving rise to the cause of action must fall within the scope of [Idaho's] long-arm statute and the constitutional standards of due process must be met.” Saint Alphonsus Reg'l Med. Ctr. v. State of Wash., 852 P.2d 491, 494 (Idaho 1992). Idaho Code § 5-514 confers personal jurisdiction over any “cause of action arising from . . . [t]he commission of a tortious act within [Idaho].” See Idaho Code § 5-514(b). Under this standard, the tortious act “need not take place in Idaho; all that is required is that the injury is alleged to have occurred in Idaho.” Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh v. Aerohawk Aviation, Inc., 259 F.Supp.2d 1096, 1102 (D. Idaho 2003). “Because Idaho's long-arm statute, codified in Idaho Code § 5-514, allows a broader application of personal jurisdiction than the Due Process Clause, the Court need look only to the Due Process Clause to determine personal jurisdiction.” Cornelius v. DeLuca, 709 F.Supp.2d 1003, 1010 (D. Idaho 2010).

         “The Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment constrains a State's authority to bind a nonresident defendant to a judgment of its courts.” Walden v. Fiore, ___ U.S. ___, 134 S.Ct. 1115, 1121 (2014). A nonresident defendant must have “certain minimum contacts with [the forum] 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)). Since the Supreme Court's “seminal decision in International Shoe, [its] decisions have recognized two types of personal jurisdiction: ‘general' (sometimes called ‘all-purpose') jurisdiction and ‘specific' (sometimes called ‘case-linked') jurisdiction.” Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court, ___ U.S. ___, 137 S.Ct. 1773, 1779-80 (2017). “For an individual, the paradigm forum for the exercise of general jurisdiction is the individual's domicile; for a corporation, it is an equivalent place, one in which the corporation is fairly regarded as at home.” Id., (quoting Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 924 (2011)). “A court with general jurisdiction may hear any claim against that defendant, even if all the incidents underlying the claim occurred in a different State.” Id. “Specific jurisdiction is very different. In order for a state court to exercise specific jurisdiction, ‘the suit' must ‘aris[e] out of or relat[e] to the defendant's contacts with the forum.” Id. (quoting Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 760 (2014)). “In other words, there must be ‘an affiliation between the forum and the underlying controversy, principally, [an] activity or an occurrence that takes place in the forum State and is therefore subject to the State's regulation.' For this reason, ‘specific jurisdiction is confined to adjudication of issues deriving from, or connected with, the very controversy that establishes jurisdiction.'” Id. (quoting Goodyear, 564 U.S. at 919).

         Plaintiffs do not argue that the Court has general jurisdiction over SMC. Therefore, the Court focuses solely on specific jurisdiction. “There are three requirements for a court to exercise specific jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant: (1) the defendant must either ‘purposefully direct his activities' toward the forum or ‘purposefully avail[ ] himself of the privileges of conducting activities in the forum'; (2) ‘the claim must be one which arises out of or relates to the defendant's forum-related activities'; and (3) ‘the exercise of jurisdiction must comport with fair play and substantial justice, i.e. it must be reasonable.'” Axiom Foods, Inc. v. Acerchem Int'l, Inc., 874 F.3d 1064, 1068 (9th Cir. 2017) (quoting Dole Food Co., Inc. v. Watts, 303 F.3d 1104, 1111 (9th Cir. 2002)). “The plaintiff bears the burden of satisfying the first two prongs of the test.” Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 802 (9th Cir. 2004). “[T]he burden then shifts to the defendant to ‘present a compelling case' that the exercise of jurisdiction would not be reasonable.'” Id. (quoting Burger King Corp. v Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 476-78 (1985)).

         In cases like this, involving products liability, the Supreme Court “has stated that a defendant's placing goods into the stream of commerce ‘with the expectation that they will be purchased by consumers within the forum State' may indicate purposeful availment.” J. McIntyre Mach., Ltd. v. Nicastro, 564 U.S. 873, 881-82 (2011) (quoting World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 298 (1980) (finding that expectation lacking)). However, the Supreme Court has also clarified that a ‚Äúdefendant's transmission of goods permits the exercise of jurisdiction only where the defendant ...


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