Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Ford Motor Co. v. Cejas

Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District, Beaumont

February 22, 2018

FORD MOTOR COMPANY, BRIDGESTONE AMERICAS, INC. AND BRIDGESTONE AMERICAS TIRE OPERATIONS, LLC, Appellants
v.
NATIVIDAD CARDENAS CEJAS, ET AL, Appellees

          Submitted on March 2, 2017

         On Appeal from the 58th District Court Jefferson County, Texas Trial Cause No. A-195, 335

          Before McKeithen, C.J., Horton and Johnson, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          LEANNE JOHNSON, JUSTICE.

         Appellants Bridgestone Americas, Inc. and Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC (collectively Bridgestone) and Ford Motor Company (Ford) filed an interlocutory appeal from the trial court's denial of Appellants' special appearances. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 51.014(a)(7) (West Supp. 2017). We reverse the portion of the trial court's order denying Appellants' special appearances and render judgment dismissing Appellees' claims against Appellants for lack of personal jurisdiction.

         Background

         In 2006, Rafael Cardenas, a Mexican resident, was killed in a car accident in Mexico. At the time of the accident, Rafael was a passenger in a 1995 Ford Explorer, owned and driven by Antonio Lopez Espinoza.[1] In 2007, Plaintiffs, Mexican residents and heirs of Rafael Cardenas, filed a suit in cause number E178023 in the 172nd District Court of Jefferson County, Texas, against Ford and Bridgestone alleging a claim against the defendant Bridgestone for defects in the tires that were on the 1995 Ford Explorer and negligence relating thereto, and against Ford for placing a defective vehicle into the stream of commerce and for other claims, including claims relating to "rollover resistance." In May of 2007, the case was transferred as a "tag-along case" to the 410th District Court of Montgomery County, as part of the In re Bridgestone/Ford Multidistrict Litigation (the "MDL court") and assigned "Individual Cause No. 07-03-03185[.]" In the MDL court, Ford and Bridgestone moved for a dismissal based on the forum non conveniens doctrine and asserted that Mexico was the proper forum. The MDL court dismissed the case on December 6, 2010, based upon forum non conveniens. The dismissal order stated that if Plaintiffs wanted to proceed with their claims in Mexico, they could file their petition in the Mexican court. The dismissal also provided, in relevant part, the following:

In the event that, despite Plaintiffs' good-faith efforts to file their Petition or Complaint pursuant to the foregoing Order, the Mexican court declares itself incompetent to preside over the case, the Court orders that Plaintiffs shall not be barred from re-filing and trying their claims in the appropriate court in the State of Texas and proceeding before this Court.
. . . .
If Plaintiffs invoke this return jurisdiction clause and re-file in the State of Texas, Plaintiffs may refile their case in Jefferson County, and this Court shall at that time have jurisdiction to determine whether the conditions for invoking the return jurisdiction clause have been met.

         Thereafter, on February 12, 2014, the Plaintiffs filed Plaintiff's Original Petition and Request for Disclosure in Jefferson County, Texas, and the suit was assigned cause number A-0195335 (hereinafter the "2014 Suit"), and assigned to the 58th Judicial District Court in Jefferson County. In the petition, Plaintiffs alleged that they had complied with the MDL court's return-jurisdiction clause in the prior dismissal order. The Plaintiffs alleged that they filed a suit in Mexico, and according to the Plaintiffs "[t]he Mexico courts denied jurisdiction over the Defendants in this matter." Plaintiffs alleged that Cardenas's Ford Explorer and the Bridgestone tire on the vehicle were defective, and asserted product-liability causes of action.

         On August 1, 2014, Ford filed its "Special Appearance, and Subject Thereto, Motion to Transfer Venue, and Subject Thereto, Motion to Dismiss, and Subject to Each of the Foregoing, Special Exceptions, Original Answer to Plaintiffs' Original Petition, and Reliance on Jury Demand" (hereinafter "Special Appearance"). In its Special Appearance, Ford argued that Plaintiffs alleged as jurisdictional facts only that Ford does business in the State of Texas, and Ford stated that plaintiff's allegation "is factually and legally insufficient to demonstrate personal jurisdiction over Ford in Texas under either specific or general jurisdiction analysis." Ford pleaded certain jurisdictional facts that it argued precluded Texas from imposing jurisdiction over them, and Ford requested that the trial court decline to exercise jurisdiction over Ford in the matter.

         On August 15, 2014, Bridgestone filed its "Special Appearance, Motion to Transfer Venue, Motion to Dismiss and Subject to Each of the Foregoing, Special Exceptions, Original Answer to Plaintiffs' Original Petition[, ]" asserting certain jurisdictional facts and arguing that Plaintiffs had failed to allege facts to support specific or general jurisdiction over Bridgestone.

         The 2014 Suit was transferred to the MDL court and assigned individual cause number 14-10-11193-CR. Ford and Bridgestone filed amended special appearances in the MDL court again challenging personal jurisdiction. In the MDL court, the Plaintiffs filed a motion to reopen their previously dismissed case and to consolidate the old and new lawsuits. In February 2015, the MDL court granted Plaintiffs' motion and reopened Plaintiffs' old case "administratively . . . for purposes of the consolidation[, ]" and ordered that the consolidated case proceed forward under "Individual Cause No. 14-10-11193[.]" Subsequently, the MDL litigation proceedings were closed and the MDL court transferred Plaintiffs' case back to the Jefferson County trial court for further proceedings.

         On July 5, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Petition, asserting, among other things, causes of action for breach of warranty, negligence, gross negligence, and strict product liability against Ford and Bridgestone. The same day, Plaintiffs filed a response to Ford's and Bridgestone's special appearances and objections to and a motion to strike the special appearances. In their objections to and motion to strike the special appearances, Plaintiffs alleged that Bridgestone's First Amended Special Appearance did not include the attachments it referenced and that any affidavit supporting the pleading should have been served at least seven days prior to the hearing set for July 12, 2016. Plaintiffs also argued that Ford's special appearance was defective because the verification provided by Ford to its Special Appearance was from counsel for Ford and was not based on personal knowledge, is conclusory, and did not meet the requirements of Rule 120a of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. And, Plaintiffs argued that Ford and Bridgestone waived their special appearances because their special appearances were not in compliance with Rule 120a and "were not filed prior to any other pleading[.]"

         On July 11, 2016, Bridgestone filed its Second Amended Special Appearance, with an attached affidavit from the Director of Bridgestone's Product Analysis Department. On July 12, 2016, the trial court held a hearing on Ford's Second Amended Special Appearance, Bridgestone's Second Amended Special Appearance, and Plaintiffs' Objections to and Motion to Strike Defendants' Special Appearances.

         On July 22, 2016, the 58th Judicial District Court in Jefferson County entered an order denying Ford and Bridgestone's special appearances and finding that Ford and Bridgestone are subject to general jurisdiction but not specific jurisdiction. The trial court also expressly overruled Plaintiffs' objection to the lack of notice on Bridgestone's Second Amended Special Appearance, overruled Plaintiffs' objections to Ford's and Bridgestone's special appearances, and denied Plaintiffs' motion to strike Ford's and Bridgestone's special appearances. Ford and Bridgestone filed notices of appeal. In their joint appellate brief, Appellants argue that the trial court erred in holding that Ford and Bridgestone are subject to general jurisdiction in Texas. Plaintiffs did not cross-appeal and no party has challenged the trial court's ruling that the trial court lacks specific jurisdiction over Bridgestone and Ford.

         Issues on Appeal

         In their joint appellate brief, Appellants present three issues. In issues one and two, Appellants argue that the trial court erred in denying their special appearances as to general jurisdiction because they were not "at home" in Texas. In issue three, Appellants contend that they did not waive their personal-jurisdiction defense in this lawsuit by their conduct in Plaintiffs' first suit.

         Standard of Review

         Whether a trial court has personal jurisdiction over a defendant is a question of law that we review de novo. Moncrief Oil Int'l, Inc. v. OAO Gazprom, 414 S.W.3d 142, 150 (Tex. 2013); BMC Software Belg., N.V. v. Marchand, 83 S.W.3d 789, 794 (Tex. 2002). The plaintiff has the initial burden of pleading sufficient allegations to bring a nonresident defendant within the jurisdiction of a Texas court. Moncrief, 414 S.W.3d at 149; Kelly v. Gen. Interior Constr., Inc., 301 S.W.3d 653, 658-59 (Tex. 2010); Retamco Operating, Inc. v. Republic Drilling Co., 278 S.W.3d 333, 337 (Tex. 2009).

         If the plaintiff meets its initial burden, "the burden shifts to the defendant to negate all potential bases for personal jurisdiction the plaintiff pled." Moncrief, 414 S.W.3d at 149; BMC Software, 83 S.W.3d at 793. A defendant may negate the plaintiff's jurisdictional allegations on either a factual basis or a legal basis. Kelly, 301 S.W.3d at 659.

Factually, the defendant can present evidence that it has no contacts with Texas, effectively disproving the plaintiff's allegations. The plaintiff can then respond with its own evidence that affirms its allegations, and it risks dismissal of its lawsuit if it cannot present the trial court with evidence establishing personal jurisdiction. Legally, the defendant can show that even if the plaintiff's alleged facts are true, the evidence is legally insufficient to establish jurisdiction; the defendant's contacts with Texas fall short of purposeful availment; for specific jurisdiction, that the claims do not arise from the contacts; or that traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice are offended by the exercise of jurisdiction.

Id. (footnotes omitted).

         Personal Jurisdiction

         A trial court has personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant if the exercise of jurisdiction is authorized by statute and is consistent with federal and state constitutional due process guarantees. Moncrief, 414 S.W.3d at 149; Spir Star AG v. Kimich, 310 S.W.3d 868, 872 (Tex. 2010). The Texas long-arm statute provides that in addition to other acts that may constitute doing business in Texas, a nonresident does business in this state if the nonresident:

(1) contracts by mail or otherwise with a Texas resident and either party is to perform the contract in whole or in part in this state;
(2) commits a tort in whole or in part in this state; or
(3) recruits Texas residents, directly or through an intermediary located in this state, for employment inside or outside this State.

Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 17.042 (West 2015). Although an allegation of jurisdiction may satisfy the Texas long-arm statute, the allegation still may not satisfy the due process requirements under the United States Constitution. Moncrief, 414 S.W.3d at 149. Accordingly, a court must examine the facts to determine if the exercise of personal jurisdiction over the defendant comports with due process. See CSR Ltd. v. Link, 925 S.W.2d 591, 594 (Tex. 1996).

         Asserting personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant comports with due process when (1) the nonresident defendant has minimum contacts with the forum state, and (2) asserting jurisdiction comports with traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. Retamco Operating, 278 S.W.3d at 338. The minimum contacts analysis requires "'some act by which the defendant purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws.'" Michiana Easy Livin' Country, Inc. v.Holten, 168 S.W.3d 777, 784 (Tex. 2005) (quoting Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253 (1958)). The focus is on the defendant's activities and expectations. Am.Type Culture Collection, Inc. v. Coleman, 83 S.W.3d 801, 806 (Tex. 2002). ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.