Appeal from the 125th Judicial District Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 2016-59771
consists of Justices Bland, Lloyd, and Caughey.
Jennifer Caughey Justice
Commodities, LP and Aspire Commodities, LP appeal the trial
court's grant of appellee Patrick De Man's special
appearance. Appellants argue that De Man had sufficient
relevant contacts with Texas to be subject to personal
jurisdiction in Texas. He did not.
and Aspire sought a declaration that a non-Texan who was
recruited outside of Texas and performed his work outside of
Texas was not a partner in either entity. Raiden and Aspire
also asserted claims of conversion, misappropriation of trade
secrets, and breach of the partnership agreements pertaining
to alleged actions that occurred outside of Texas. The
relevant parties reside in Puerto Rico and a parallel case is
pending in Puerto Rico.
to the trial court's supported findings of fact, we
conclude that De Man had insufficient relevant contacts with
Texas to support jurisdiction. The trial court properly
granted De Man's special appearance.
appeal turns on De Man's contacts with Texas. De Man
contends he had almost no contacts with Texas. Appellants
Aspire and Raiden-two limited partnerships-disagree. The
facts are as follows.
in September 2008, De Man lived and worked in New York. At
all relevant times, De Man was a citizen of the Netherlands.
2009, Andrew Sinn-who was then a Texan but now resides in
Puerto Rico-approached De Man about working for one of his
trading companies. In 2009 and 2010, Sinn met De Man in New
York at least five times to discuss working together. They
did not meet in Texas during this period.
2010, De Man moved to Connecticut. Sinn offered De Man
employment at Aspire. Sinn sent De Man an offer letter but De
Man never signed it.
April 2011, De Man (who still lived in Connecticut) began
working in Connecticut as a commodities trader for Aspire. He
had no written employment agreement. Outside of Texas, De Man
made trades on behalf of Aspire and, ultimately, Raiden.
Raiden was formed in 2011 as a Virgin Islands limited
2013, De Man moved to Puerto Rico and became an employee of
Raiden Commodities 1, LLC (RC1). RC1 is a Puerto Rican LLC
with its principal place of business in Dorado, Puerto Rico.
It is not a party to this lawsuit. Around the time of De
Man's move, Sinn also moved to Puerto Rico, where he
conducted a "substantial amount of his work for the
companies." In 2013, Aspire listed a Puerto Rican
address on its tax forms and Raiden listed a Virgin Islands
address. In 2014, both partnerships listed Puerto Rican
De Man joined RC1, Schedule K-1 tax forms (IRS Form 1065) for
appellants Raiden and Aspire listed De Man as a partner.
regard to Texas travel, De Man says that he visited Texas
only four times-three times in 2011 and once in 2014. He
contends that all visits were five days or less and none
related to the claims in this lawsuit. Aspire and Raiden
contend that De Man "worked out of the Houston office
physically on several occasions, including coming to Houston
to interview candidates for an analyst position supporting
2016, De Man terminated his employment relationship with RC1
and demanded the distribution of alleged unpaid earnings.
When the companies refused to pay him, De Man sent a demand
letter and ultimately filed a lawsuit in Puerto Rico. Aspire
and Raiden brought this lawsuit in Texas.
filed a special appearance in this case, contesting the trial
court's personal jurisdiction over him. The trial court
concluded that it lacked jurisdiction and entered the
following findings of fact:
1. Patrick de Man ("De Man") lives in Dorado,
Puerto Rico. At all times material to this case he was a
citizen of the Netherlands.
2. After the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in September 2008, De
Man moved to New York City, New York and he lived there until
3. In October 2009, De Man Accepted a job offer with Sempra
Energy Trading LLC in Stamford, Connecticut.
4. From 2010 to 2013, De Man lived in Stamford, Connecticut.
5. De Man moved to Puerto Rico in 2013, and he has lived