United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division
SPARKS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
REMEMBERED on this day the Court reviewed the file in the
above-styled cause, and specifically Defendant Ford Motor
Company (Ford)'s Motion to Dismiss, and in the
Alternative, Motion to Transfer Venue [#4], Plaintiff Mariah
Griffin's Response [#5] in opposition, and Ford's
Reply [#6] in support. Having reviewed the documents, the
governing law, the arguments of the parties at the hearing,
and the file as a whole, the Court now enters the following
opinion and order.
case involves claims for negligence and products liability
arising from a vehicle accident involving a 2010 Ford Focus
(the Vehicle). Plaintiff Mariah Griffin alleges that on
October 24, 2015, Jake Whitmore was driving the Vehicle in
the eastbound lane on RM 1826 in Hays County, Texas, when he
drifted into oncoming traffic and struck another vehicle.
Compl. [#1] ¶ 3.01. Griffin, who owned the Vehicle, was
riding in the front passenger seat. Id. According to
Griffin, she suffered "serious injuries to her face and
body as a result of the passenger side air bags failing to
deploy." Id. ¶ 3.03. On May 11, 2017,
Griffin filed this suit against Ford, asserting claims for
negligence and strict liability based on the allegedly
defective design, manufacture, and warnings of the Vehicle
and its side air bags. Id. ¶ 4.01.
resides in Travis County, Texas. Id. ¶ 1.01.
Griffin generally alleges Ford manufactures, promotes, and
distributes its vehicles in Texas. Id. ¶ 1.02.
Ford is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of
business in Michigan. Mot. Dismiss [#4-2] Ex. A (Krishnaswami
Decl.) ¶ 6. According to Ford, Ford made the primary
decisions regarding the Vehicle's design and development
in Michigan, and the Vehicle was assembled at Ford's
assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan. Id. ¶ 4. On
August 31, 2009, Ford sold the Vehicle to Elder Ford, an
independently-owned dealership located in Troy, Michigan.
Id. ¶¶ 5-6. Elder Ford then sold or leased
the Vehicle to a Michigan resident on September 25, 2009.
Id. [#4-4] Ex. C (Certified Vehicle Title History)
at 15. Sometime in 2012, the Vehicle was sold to a used car
dealer located in Austin, Texas. Id.
acknowledges the presence of Ford dealerships in Texas, but
contends it "does not directly engage in servicing Ford
vehicles in Texas." Id. [#4-3] Ex. B (Michael
DeYoung Decl.) ¶ 3. Rather, Ford maintains these
dealerships are "independent entities" which must
agree to expressly disavow "the relationship of
principal and agent between the Company [Ford] and the
Dealer" and agree that "under no circumstances
shall the Dealer be considered to be an agent of the
company." Mot. Dismiss [#4] at 4; Michael De Young Decl.
5, 2017, Ford moved to dismiss Griffin's suit for lack of
personal jurisdiction. The parties fully briefed the motion
and it is now ripe for the Court's consideration.
moves to dismiss Griffin's complaint based on lack of
personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(2). To determine whether a federal district court has
personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, the court
considers first whether exercising jurisdiction over the
defendant comports with due process. Religious Tech. Ctr.
v. Liebreich, 339 F.3d 369, 373 (5th Cir. 2003). If the
requirements of due process are satisfied, the court then
determines whether the exercise of jurisdiction is authorized
by the jurisdictional "long-arm" statute of the
state in which the court sits. Id. Because the Texas
long-arm statute has been interpreted as extending to the
limit of due process, the two inquiries are the same for
district courts in Texas. Id; see also Tex. Civ.
Prac. & Rem. Code §§ 17.001-093.
Process Clause requires a nonresident defendant be properly
subject to the personal jurisdiction of the court in which
the defendant is sued. World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v.
Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 291 (1980). The Supreme Court has
articulated a two-pronged test to determine whether a federal
court may properly exercise jurisdiction over a nonresident
defendant: (1) the nonresident must have minimum contacts
with the forum state, and (2) subjecting the nonresident to
jurisdiction must be consistent with "traditional
notions of fair play and substantial justice."
Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316
(1945); Freudensprung v. Offshore Tech. Servs.,
Inc., 379 F.3d 327, 343 (5th Cir. 2004).
defendant's "minimum contacts" may give rise to
either general personal jurisdiction or specific personal
jurisdiction, depending on the nature of the suit and the
defendant's relationship to the forum state.
Freudensprung, 379 F.3d at 343. A court exercises
general jurisdiction over the defendant if the defendant has
"continuous and systematic contacts" with the
forum, regardless of whether those contacts are related to
the cause of action asserted in the case. Id.
Specific jurisdiction, by contrast, is based on the
proposition "that 'the commission of some single or
occasional acts of the [defendant] in a state' may
sometimes be enough to subject the [defendant] to
jurisdiction in that State's tribunals with respect to
suits relating to that in-state activity." Daimler
AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 754 (2014) (quoting
Int'l Shoe, 326 U.S. at 318).
plaintiff has the burden of making a prima facie case showing
that a defendant has sufficient "minimum contacts"
with the forum state to justify the state's exercise of
either specific or general jurisdiction.
Freudensprung, 379 F.3d at 343. If the plaintiff
does so, the burden shifts to the defendant to show such an
exercise offends due process because it is not consistent
with traditional notions of fair play and substantial
justice. Id. On a Rule 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss,
the Court may consider the "contents of the record
before the court at the time of the motion, including
'affidavits, interrogatories, depositions, oral
testimony, or any combination of the recognized methods of
discovery.'" Quick Techs., Inc. v. Sage Grp.
PLC, 313 F.3d 338, 344 (5th Cir. 2002) (quoting
Thompson v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 755 F.2d 1162,
1165 (5th Cir. 1985)). The Court "must accept the
plaintiffs uncontroverted allegations, and resolve in [her]
favor all conflicts between the facts contained in the
parties' affidavits and other documentation.'"
Monkton Ins. Servs., Ltd. v. Ritter, 768 F.3d 429,
431 (5th Cir. 2014) (quoting Revell v. Lidov, 317
F.3d 467, 469 (5th Cir. 2002)). However, the Court is not
required to accept as true conclusory allegations, even if
they are uncontroverted. Panda Brandywine Corp. v.
Potomac Elec. Power Co., 253 F.3d 865, 869 (5th Cir.