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Chevron Bangladesh Block Twelve Ltd. v. Baldwin

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

December 7, 2017

CHEVRON BANGLADESH BLOCK TWELVE LTD., Appellant
v.
STEPHEN BALDWIN AND VICKI BALDWIN, Appellees

         On Appeal from the 133rd District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 2016-20087

          Panel consists of Justices Jennings, Bland, and Brown.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HARVEY BROWN JUSTICE .

         This is an interlocutory appeal from the trial court's order overruling a special appearance made by a foreign defendant, Chevron Bangladesh Block Twelve Ltd., in a premises liability suit brought by Texas residents, Stephen and Vicki Baldwin. In this lawsuit, both the alleged negligence and the alleged injury occurred overseas in South Asia.[1] The principal issue is whether the trial court properly exercised general jurisdiction over Chevron Bangladesh.

         We reverse the trial court's order, sustain Chevron Bangladesh's special appearance, and dismiss the Baldwins' claims against Chevron Bangladesh for lack of personal jurisdiction.

         Background

         Chevron Bangladesh is a corporation that produces and processes natural gas and condensate in Bangladesh. It sells all the natural gas and condensate it produces to Bangladesh's national oil company, Petrobangla.[2] Chevron Bangladesh is organized under the laws of Bermuda, and its principal place of business is Bangladesh. It maintains offices in Bermuda and Bangladesh and employs approximately 200 individuals, all of whom work in either Bermuda or Bangladesh.

         Several years ago, Chevron Bangladesh began working on a project to expand an existing gas processing plant to process additional natural gas produced from a field in northeast Bangladesh. Chevron Bangladesh hired an affiliate, Chevron Energy Technology Company, to provide quality assurance and quality control oversight and review of the work performed by contractors at the plant.

         In 2014, a Chevron Energy employee and Texas resident, Stephen Baldwin, provided such quality control services at Chevron Bangladesh's plant in Bangladesh. One day, while exiting the plant, Baldwin fell several stories and was severely injured.

         Baldwin and his wife, Vicki, sued Chevron Bangladesh, along with sixteen other defendants, in Texas state court. The Baldwins asserted a premises liability claim against Chevron Bangladesh, alleging that Chevron Bangladesh was negligent in (1) creating a dangerous exit, (2) failing to ensure that the exit was suitable for traversing, and (3) failing to warn potential users of the dangerous condition at its plant. The Baldwins generally pleaded that the trial court had personal jurisdiction over all the defendants because they were all either citizens of Texas or doing business in Texas, and they specifically pleaded that Chevron Bangladesh is a foreign business entity that is organized under the laws of Bermuda, maintains its principal place of business in Bangladesh, and does not maintain a registered agent for service of process in the State of Texas.

         Chevron Bangladesh filed a special appearance supported by an affidavit from one of its officers, Jonathon Noseworthy. Chevron Bangladesh argued that it is not subject to general jurisdiction because it is not incorporated in Texas, does not have its principal place of business in Texas, and is not otherwise at home in Texas. And it argued that it is not subject to specific jurisdiction because the alleged injury and the alleged negligence both occurred in Bangladesh.

         Following jurisdictional discovery, the Baldwins filed a response in which they conceded that Chevron Bangladesh is not subject to specific jurisdiction:

[Chevron Bangladesh] is correct that there is no showing that [the trial court] should exercise specific jurisdiction over it because the tort herein at issue did not occur within Texas.

         The Baldwins argued that Chevron Bangladesh is subject to general jurisdiction because its Texas contacts are so continuous and systematic as to render it essentially at home in Texas. The Baldwins emphasized that, between 2011 and 2016, Chevron Bangladesh recruited and hired five Texas residents and purchased millions of dollars of equipment and supplies from Texas-based ...


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