United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division
PITMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is a motion to dismiss filed in the consolidated
case, 1:18-CV-596, by Defendants Toxey Haas
(“Haas”) and William Sugg (“Sugg”).
(Dkt. 127). Plaintiffs Dryshod International, LLC
(“Dryshod”) and James Donohue
(“Donohue”) (together, “Plaintiffs”)
filed a response. (Dkt. 132). Having considered the
parties' briefs, the record, and the relevant law, the
Court will grant the motion.
and Sugg are executive officers of codefendant Haas Outdoors,
Inc. (“Haas Outdoors”), which designs and
manufactures camouflage patterns, clothing, and accessories.
(Haas Am. Compl., Dkt. 126, at 3). Donohue founded Dryshod to
design and source footwear, including camouflage boots. (Am.
Compl., Dkt. 123, at 4-5). Rather than license one of Haas
Outdoors' camo designs, Dryshod designed its own.
(Id. at 19; Resp., Dkt. 132, at 4-5). Haas Outdoors,
believing that Dryshod's designs infringed the copyrights
for its own, sued Plaintiffs in this Court in 2018,
voluntarily dismissed that action, and refiled in the
Northern District of Mississippi. (Resp., Dkt. 132, at 5).
That action is back before this Court, now consolidated with
this action after being transferred from the federal district
court in Mississippi. Haas Outdoors, Inc. v. Dryshod
Int'l, LLC, 1:18-CV-978-RP (W.D. Tex.).
Plaintiffs sued Haas Outdoors in this district seeking
declarations that they are not infringing its copyrights or
trademarks. (Am. Compl., Dkt. 123, at 24-26). Plaintiffs also
assert a series of claims against Haas and Sugg: tortious
interference with existing business relations; illegal
restraint of trade in violation of Texas Business and
Commerce Code § 15.05(a) and (b); and defamation.
(Id. at 27-29). Haas and Sugg now ask the Court to
dismiss the claims against them because their alleged conduct
does not subject them to this Court's jurisdiction.
(Mot., Dkt. 127).
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow a defendant to assert
lack of personal jurisdiction as a defense to suit.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). On such a motion, “the plaintiff
bears the burden of establishing the district court's
jurisdiction over the nonresident.” Stuart v.
Spademan, 772 F.2d 1185, 1192 (5th Cir. 1985). The court
may determine the jurisdictional issue “by receiving
affidavits, interrogatories, depositions, oral testimony, or
any combination of the recognized methods of
when, as here, the Court rules on the motion without an
evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff need only present a
prima facie case that personal jurisdiction is
proper; proof by a preponderance of the evidence is not
required. Walk Haydel & Assocs., Inc. v. Coastal
Power Prod. Co., 517 F.3d 235, 241 (5th Cir. 2008).
Uncontroverted allegations in a plaintiff's complaint
must be taken as true, and conflicts between the facts
contained in the parties' affidavits must be resolved in
the plaintiff's favor. Id. Nevertheless, a court
need not credit conclusory allegations, even if
uncontroverted. Panda Brandywine Corp. v. Potomac Elec.
Power Co., 253 F.3d 865, 869 (5th Cir. 2001) (per
Haas and Sugg are not Texas residents, (see Am.
Compl., Dkt. 123, at 2), Plaintiffs have the burden to
establish a prima facie case for this Court's
personal jurisdiction over them. Lewis v. Fresne,
252 F.3d 352, 358 (5th Cir. 2001). A federal district 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 Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
McFadin v. Gerber, 587 F.3d 753, 759 (5th Cir.
2009), cert. denied, 562 U.S. 827 (2010). Because
Texas's long-arm statute extends as far as constitutional
due process allows, the two-step inquiry “collapses
into one federal due process analysis.” Sangha v.
Navig8 ShipManagement Private Ltd., 882 F.3d 96, 101
(5th Cir. 2018).
personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant is
compatible with due process when “(1) the defendant has
purposefully availed himself of the benefits and protections
of the forum state by establishing minimum contacts with the
forum state, and (2) the exercise of jurisdiction over that
defendant does not offend traditional notions of fair play
and substantial justice.” Walk Haydel, 517
F.3d at 243 (cleaned up). There are two types of minimum
contacts: those that give rise to specific personal
jurisdiction and those that give rise to general personal
jurisdiction. Lewis, 252 F.3d at 358. Plaintiffs
argue only that Haas and Sugg are subject to this Court's
specific jurisdiction. (Resp., Dkt. 132, at 8).
circuit, specific personal jurisdiction is a claim-specific
inquiry; a plaintiff bringing multiple claims that arise out
of different forum contacts must establish specific
jurisdiction for each claim. McFadin, 587 F.3d at
759. Specific jurisdiction applies when a nonresident
defendant “has purposefully directed its activities at
the forum state and the litigation results from alleged
injuries that arise out of or relate to those
activities.” Walk Haydel, 517 F.3d at 243.
Conduct unrelated to a plaintiff's claims is irrelevant
to the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction. See
Seiferth v. Helicopteros Atuneros, Inc., 472 F.3d 266,
274-75 (5th Cir. 2006) (stating that the Due Process Clause
bars the exercise of specific jurisdiction over claims that
do not arise out of the defendant's forum contacts);
see also Jackson v. FIE Corp., 302 F.3d 515, 530
(5th Cir. 2002) (stating that personal jurisdiction exists
only if a cause of action arises from or relates to the
defendant's conduct “in or vis-à-vis the
forum”). The touchstone of specific-jurisdiction
analysis is “whether the defendant's conduct shows
that it reasonably anticipates being haled into court.”
McFadin, 587 F.3d at 759 (cleaned up). Even a single
contact can support specific jurisdiction if it creates a
“substantial connection” with the forum.
Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 475
said, specific jurisdiction “focuses on the
relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the
litigation.” Sangha, 882 F.3d at 103. Due
process requires that specific jurisdiction be based on more
than the “random, fortuitous, or attenuated”
contacts a defendant makes by interacting with people
affiliated with the forum state. Walden v. Fiore,
571 U.S. 277, 285 (2014). The plaintiff thus “cannot be
the only link between the defendant and the forum. Rather, it
is the defendant's conduct that must form the necessary
connection with the forum State that is the basis for its
jurisdiction over him.” Id. at 285.
because specific personal jurisdiction is a
“claim-specific inquiry, ” McFadin, 587
F.3d at 759, the relevant conduct is that which is related to
Plaintiffs' claims against Haas and Sugg for tortious
interference, restraint of trade, and defamation. (Am.
Compl., Dkt. 123, at 27-29). The first two of those claims
arise out of Haas Outdoors' litigation against
Plaintiffs, which they characterize as “sham
lawsuits” filed simply to bully the smaller Dryshod
into licensing Haas Outdoors' camo rather than compete
with Dryshod's own designs. (Am. Compl., Dkt. 123, at
21-24). According to Plaintiffs, Haas and Sugg knew that
their company's lawsuit against Dryshod was baseless when
it was filed but approved it anyway because they knew that
the lawsuit would financially stress the smaller company and
damage its reputation with retailers. (Id.; see
also Resp., Dkt. 132, at 4-5 (emphasizing that the
record demonstrates that Haas and Sugg “at least
approved” of the lawsuit against Plaintiffs)). For the
defamation claim, Plaintiffs allege that Haas Outdoors
salespeople have been contacting Dryshod customers and