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Luevano v. Colonial Pipeline Co.

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

July 19, 2019




         Plaintiff Jesus Luevano ("Plaintiff") sued defendants Colonial Pipeline Company ("Colonial") and Burns & McDonnell, Inc. ("B&M") for negligence after he was injured while working at Colonial's petrochemical tank farm. Pending before the court is Defendant Colonial Pipeline Company's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Claims for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction and Improper Venue ("Colonial's Motion to Dismiss") (Docket Entry No. 8). For the reasons explained below, Colonial's Motion to Dismiss will be granted.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Colonial contracted with B&M to construct a tank at Colonial's tank farm in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. [1] B&M subcontracted with Plaintiff's employer, Advanced Tank and Construction ("ATC"), to construct the tank.[2] Plaintiff alleges that he was injured while working on the tank construction project as a result of Colonial and B&M's negligence.[3]

         Plaintiff is a Texas resident.[4]Colonial is a Delaware company with it's principal place of business in Georgia.[5] B&M is a Kansas corporation with it's principal place of business in Missouri.[6] Plaintiff filed this action on February 4, 2019. [7]Colonial responded by filing its Motion to Dismiss.[8] Plaintiff responded to Colonial's Motion to Dismiss and requested leave to amend his complaint after taking jurisdictional discovery.[9] On April 4, 2019, the court granted Plaintiff's request to take jurisdiction discovery and allowed Plaintiff to file an amended Complaint by June 14, 2019.[10] The court modified the deadline for Plaintiff to submit his amended complaint to July 3, 2019, in a subsequent order.[11] Plaintiff has not filed an amended complaint.

         II. Standard of Review

         Dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b) (2). When a foreign defendant moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Rule 12(b) (2), "the plaintiff 'bears the burden of establishing the district court's jurisdiction over the defendant.'" Quick Technologies, Inc. v. Sage Group PLC, 313 F.3d 338, 343 (5th Cir. 2002), cert. denied, 124 S.Ct. 66 (2003) (quoting Mink v. A Development LLC, 190 F.3d 333, 335 (5th Cir. 1999)). "When the district court rules on a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction 'without an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff may bear his burden by presenting a prima facie case that personal jurisdiction is proper."' Id. at 343-44 (quoting Wilson v. Belin, 20 F.3d 644, 648 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 115 S.Ct. 322 (1994)). "In making its determination, the district 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. '" Id. at 344 (quoting Thompson v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 755 F.2d 1162, 1165 (5th Cir. 1985)).

         The court must accept as true the uncontroverted allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint and must resolve any factual conflicts in favor of Plaintiff. See Guidry v. United States Tobacco Co., Inc., 188 F.3d 619, 625 (5th Cir. 1999). However, the court is not obligated to credit conclusory allegations, even if uncontroverted. Panda Brandywine Corp. v. Potomac Electric Power Co., 253 F.3d 865, 869 (5th Cir. 2001). "Absent any dispute as to the relevant facts, the issue of whether personal jurisdiction may be exercised over a nonresident defendant is a question of law. . . .I Ruston Gas Turbines, Inc. v. Donaldson Co., Inc., 9 F.3d 415, 418 (5th Cir. 1993) .

         III. Analysis

         A. Applicable Law

         The 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, 131 S.Ct. 68 (2010). Since the Texas long-arm statute extends as far as constitutional due process allows, the court considers only the second step of the inquiry. Id.

         Exercise of personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant comports with federal due process guarantees when the nonresident defendant has established minimum contacts with the forum state, and the exercise of jurisdiction "does not offend 'traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'" International Shoe Co. v. State of Washington, Office of Unemployent Compensation and Placement, 66 S.Ct. 154, 158 (1945) (quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 61 S.Ct. 339, 343 (1940)) . A plaintiff satisfying these requirements raises a presumption that exercise of jurisdiction over the defendant is reasonable, and the burden shifts to the defendants to present "a compelling case that the presence of some other considerations would render jurisdiction unreasonable." Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 105 S.Ct. 2174, 2185 (1985). "The 'minimum contacts' inquiry is fact intensive and no one element is decisive; rather the touchstone is whether the defendant's conduct shows that [he] 'reasonably anticipate[d] being haled into court'" in the forum. McFadin, 587 F.3d at 759. "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 v. Fresne, 252 F.3d 352, 358 (5th Cir. 2001).

         1. General Jurisdiction

         A court may exercise general jurisdiction over non-resident defendants "when their affiliations with the State are so 'continuous and systematic' as to render them essentially at home in the forum State." Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 2851 (2011). General personal jurisdiction grants the court jurisdiction over "any claim against [a] defendant, even if all the incidents underlying the claim occurred in a different State." Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, San Francisco County,137 S.Ct. 1773, 1780 (2017) (emphasis in the original). "Establishing general jurisdiction is 'difficult' and requires 'extensive contacts between a defendant and a forum.'" Sangha v. Navig8 ShipManagement Private Limited,882 F.3d 96, 101-02 (5th Cir. 2018) (quoting Johnston v. Multidata Systems International Corp.,523 F.3d 602, 609 (5th Cir. 2008)). Vague allegations "that give no indication as to the extent, duration, or frequency of contacts are insufficient to support general jurisdiction." Johnston, 523 F.3d at 610. Only in "exceptional ...

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