United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
LAKE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the court is Defendant Daniel R. Coffee's 12(b)(2)
and 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint and
Supporting Memorandum of Law ("Coffee's Motion to
Dismiss") (Docket Entry No. 26). For the reasons stated
below, the court concludes that it lacks personal
jurisdiction over Coffee. The court therefore does not reach
Coffee's 12(b)(6) arguments.
thorough account of the facts of this case can be found in an
earlier opinion. In short, plaintiff Downhole Technology
LLC ("Downhole") manufactures and deploys frac
plugs, some of which were sold to customers FTS International
Services, LLC ("FTSI") and Rice Energy for use at a
site in the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania (the
"FTSI/Rice Site"). The defendants were involved in
various aspects of the installation. Downhole alleges that
the defendants used confidential information and trade
secrets gained from their work on the FTSI/Rice Site to
create and market a competing frac plug ("the ZIP
Plug") that infringes on patents held by Downhole.
Daniel R. Coffee is a resident of Ohio and former employee of
FTSI. Downhole alleges that Coffee "learned detailed
information about the Downhole frac plugs from his
involvement at the FTSI/Rice Site, and/or through [Michael]
Didier, [Dillon W.] Kuehl, and/or [Charles M.]
Williams." In December of 2013 Coffee, along with
defendants Didier, Kuehl, and Williams, allegedly formed
Silver Creek Services Inc., which markets ZIP
Plugs. Coffee is currently the Chief Operating
Officer and President of Silver Creek. Downhole alleges
that Coffee "obtained confidential information belonging
to Downhole as a result of Coffee's employment with FTSI,
" which he then used "to facilitate creation of the
ZIP Plug for Silver Creek." Coffee "and/or"
the other Defendants also allegedly induced Kuehl, a former
Downhole employee, to violate a Proprietary Information and
Intellectual Property Assignment Agreement (the "Kuehl
Standard of Review
for lack of personal jurisdiction is governed by Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b) (2) . When a foreign defendant moves
to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)
(2), "the plaintiff 'bears the burden of
establishing the district court's jurisdiction over the
defendant.'" Quick Technologies, Inc. v. Sage
Group PLC, 313 F.3d 338, 343 (5th Cir. 2002), cert,
denied, 124 S.Ct. 66 (2003) (quoting Mink v. AAAA
Development LLC, 190 F.3d 333, 335 (5th Cir. 1999)).
"When the district court rules on a motion to dismiss
for lack of personal jurisdiction 'without an evidentiary
hearing, the plaintiff may bear his burden by presenting a
prima facie case that personal jurisdiction is
proper.'" Id. (quoting Wilson v.
Belin, 20 F.3d 644, 648 (5th Cir.), cert,
denied. 115 S.Ct. 322 (1994)). "In making its
determination, the district court may consider the contents
of the record before the court at the time of the motion, ;
including 'affidavits, interrogatories, depositions, oral
j testimony, or any combination of the recognized methods of
(discovery.'" Id. at 344 (quoting
Thompson v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 755 F.2d
1162, 1165 (5th Cir. 1985)) . The court must accept as true
the uncontroverted allegations in the plaintiff's
complaint and must resolve in favor of the plaintiff any
factual conflicts. Guidry v. United States Tobacco
Co., 188 F.3d 619, 625 (5th Cir. 1999). However, the
court is not obligated to credit conclusory allegations, even
if uncontroverted. Panda Brandywine Corp. v. Potomac
Electric Power Co., 253 F.3d 865, 869 (5th Cir. 2001).
"Absent any dispute as to the relevant facts, the issue
of whether personal jurisdiction may be exercised over a
nonresident defendant is a question of law to be determined .
. . by th[e C]ourt." Ruston Gas Turbines, Inc. v.
Donaldson Co., Inc., 9 F.3d 415, 418 (5th Cir. 1993) .
federal district court sitting in diversity may exercise
personal jurisdiction only to the extent permitted a state
court under applicable state law." Allred v. Moore
& Peterson, 117 F.3d 278, 281 (5th Cir. 1997),
cert, denied, 118 S.Ct. 691 (1998). Moreover, a
federal court may only exercise personal jurisdiction over a
nonresident defendant if the exercise of personal
jurisdiction comports with the Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth j Amendment. Id. Thus, the court may
exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant
if "(1) the forum state's long-arm statute confers
personal jurisdiction over that defendant; and (2) the
exercise of personal jurisdiction comports with the Due
Process j Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment."
McFadin v. Gerber, 587 F.3d) 753, 759 (5th Cir.
2009), cert, denied. 131 S.Ct. 68 (2010). Since the
Texas long-arm statute extends as far as constitutional due
process allows, the court considers only the second step of
the inquiry. Id.
process is satisfied if the "nonresident defendant has
certain minimum contacts with [the forum] such that the
maintenance of suit does not offend 'traditional notions
of fair play and substantial justice.'" Gardemal
v. Westin Hotel Co., 186 F.3d 588, 595 (5th Cir. 1999)
(quoting International Shoe Co. v. State of j
Washington, Office of Unemployment Compensation and
Placement, 66 S.Ct. 154, 158 (1945)) (quoting
Milliken v. Meyer, 61 S.Ct. 339, 343 (1940)).
"The 'minimum contacts' inquiry is fact
intensive and no one element is decisive; rather the
touchstone is whether the defendant's conduct shows that
[he] 'reasonably j anticipates being haled into
court.'" McFadin, 587 F.3d at 759. If a
plaintiff satisfies the due process requirement, a
presumption arises that jurisdiction is reasonable, and the
burden of proof and persuasion shifts to the defendant
opposing jurisdiction to present f "a compelling case
that the presence of some other considerations } would render
jurisdiction unreasonable." Burger King Corp. v.
Rudzewicz, 105 S.Ct. 2174, 2185 (1985).
are two types of 'minimum contacts': those that give
rise to specific personal jurisdiction and those that give
rise to general personal jurisdiction." Lewis v.
Fresne, 252 F.3d 352, 358 (5th Cir. 2001) . This case
involves specific jurisdiction. A court may exercise specific
jurisdiction when the nonresident defendant's contacts
with the forum state arise from, or are directly related to,
the cause of action. Gundle Lining Construction Corp. v.
Adams County Asphalt. Inc., 85 F.3d 201, 205 (5th Cir.
1996) (citing Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S. A.
v. Hall, 104 S.Ct. 1868, 1872 n.8 (1984); and Quick
Technologies, Inc. v. Sage Group PLC, 313 F.3d 338, 344
(5th Cir. 2002)). To determine whether specific jurisdiction
exists, a court must "examine the relationship among the
defendant, the forum, and the litigation to determine whether
maintaining the suit offends traditional notions of fair play
and substantial justice." Gundle Lining, 85
F.3d at 205. Even a single contact can support specific
jurisdiction if the defendant "purposefully avails
itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the
forum State, thus invoking the benefits and protections of
its laws." Burger King, 105 S.Ct. at 2183.
"The non-resident's 'purposeful availment'
must be such that the I defendant 'should reasonably
anticipate being haled into court' in the forum
state." Ruston Gas Turbines, Inc. v. Donaldson Co.,
Inc., 9 F.3d 415, 419 (5th Cir. 1993) (citing
World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 100 S.Ct.
alleges that personal jurisdiction exists over Coffee
"because he is the Chief Operating Officer and President
of Silver Creek, a Texas corporation." But Coffee's
employment by a Texas corporation does not, alone, establish
the requisite minimum contacts with the forum State. See
Gustafson v. Provider HealthNet Services, Inc., 118
S.W.3d479, 483 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2003) ("[T]he mere fact
that [Defendant] was employed by a company with its principal
place of business in Texas is not sufficient to establish the
requisite minimum contacts with Texas.") (citing
Burger King, 105 S.Ct. 2174) . For the remaining