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Peppers Unlimited, Inc. v. Trujillo

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Fort Worth Division

September 26, 2019

PEPPERS UNLIMITED, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
TOMAS TRUJILLO d/b/a CARMELITAS ORIGINAL SALSAS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MARK T. PITTMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendant Tomas Trujillo’s (“Defendant”) Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction and Improper Venue and in the Alternate to Transfer Venue (ECF No. 8), and Plaintiff Peppers Unlimited, Inc.’s (“Plaintiff”) Response (ECF No. 11). Having considered the motion, related briefing, and applicable law, the Court finds that Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction and Improper Venue and in the Alternate to Transfer Venue (ECF No. 8) should be and is hereby DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff is a Texas-based corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of Texas with its principal place of business located in Grand Prairie, Texas. Pl.’s Compl. at 2, ECF No. 1. Plaintiff imports and distributes canned food products. Pl.’s Br. Opp. MTD 2, ECF No. 12. Defendant is an individual citizen of California doing business as Carmelitas Original Salsas with its principal place of business in San Martin, California. Compl. at 2. Defendant contacted Plaintiff in late 2015 to inquire about purchasing jalapeños, tomatillos, and other products. Id.

         From February 2016 to May 2016, Defendant sent Plaintiff several orders for products. Id. at 3. The parties’ agreement stated that the products would be shipped from Mexico to Plaintiff in Laredo, Texas, where they would be inspected by the FDA. Following release by the FDA and payment by the Defendant, Defendant would take possession of the products. Id. Pursuant to the agreement, Plaintiff shipped the products to Laredo, Defendant wired payments to Plaintiff’s bank, Pegasus Bank in Dallas, Texas, and the products were subsequently released to Defendant. Id.

         In May 2016, Defendant submitted five orders for products totaling at least $83, 160.00 from Plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff shipped the products to Laredo, Texas, but Defendant refused to pick up or pay for the products. As a result, Plaintiff incurred additional costs for storage and transportation of the products to its principal place of business in Grand Prairie, Texas. Id. Defendant also rejected products he received several months prior, forcing Plaintiff to buy those products back from Defendant and ship them to Grand Prairie. Id. Plaintiff seeks to recover losses associated with these alleged breaches of contract by Defendant. Id.

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Personal Jurisdiction

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) allows for dismissal of an action where the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over the defendant. On a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that a nonresident defendant is subject to the Court’s jurisdiction. Jones v. Petty-Ray Geophysical, Geosource, Inc., 954 F.2d 1061, 1067 (5th Cir. 1992). “The Court may determine the jurisdictional issue by receiving affidavits, interrogatories, depositions, oral testimony, or any combination of the recognized methods of discovery.” Stuart v. Spademan, 772 F.2d 1185, 1192 (5th Cir. 1985). All conflicts between the facts contained in the parties’ affidavits and other documentation must be resolved in the plaintiff’s favor. Cent. Freight Lines, Inc. v. APA Transp. Corp., 322 F.3d 376, 380 (5th Cir. 2003).

         In establishing personal jurisdiction, two conditions must be met: (1) the nonresident must be amenable to service of process under Texas’ long-arm statute; and (2) the assertion of jurisdiction over the nonresident must comport with the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. Jones, 954 F.2d at 1067. Because Texas’s long-arm statute has been held to extend to the limits of due process, the Court need only determine whether jurisdiction over the defendant is constitutionally permissible. Id. at 1067–68 (citing Schlobohm v. Schapiro, 784 S.W.2d 355, 357 (Tex. 1990)). To meet the federal constitutional test of due process, two elements must be satisfied: (1) the defendant must have purposefully availed itself of the benefits and protections of the forum state by establishing “minimum contacts” with that state such that it would reasonably anticipate being haled into court there; and (2) the exercise of jurisdiction over the defendant must not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. Id. at 1068 (citing World– Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286 (1980); Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235 (1958); International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945)).

         The “minimum contacts” test can be met by contacts giving rise to either specific or general jurisdiction. Gundle Lining Constr. Corp. v. Adams Cnty. Asphalt, Inc., 85 F.3d 201, 205 (5th Cir. 1996). “General personal jurisdiction is found when the nonresident defendant’s contacts with the forum state, even if unrelated to the cause of action, are continuous, systematic, and substantial.” Marathon Oil Co. v. Ruhrgas, 182 F.3d 291, 295 (5th Cir. 1999) (citation omitted). Specific jurisdiction exists when the cause of action arises from the nonresident defendant’s contacts with the forum state. Gundle, 85 F.3d at 205. In either context, the court considers the totality of the circumstances in conducting the minimum contacts analysis; no single factor is determinative. Stuart, 772 F.2d at 1192.

         B. Venue

         Venue is proper in “a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located” or “a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred.” 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). If venue is laid in the wrong division or district, the district court shall either dismiss or transfer the case to any district or division in which the action could have been brought. 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). In a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3) for improper venue, the court must view all facts in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Ambraco, Inc. v. Bossclip B.V., 570 F.3d 233, 237–38 (5th Cir. 2009). The court may look to the facts in the complaint and affidavits or any other evidence submitted by the non-moving party to inform its decision in a Rule 12(b)(3) motion to dismiss or transfer. Id. at 238 (citing Murphy v. Schneider Nat’l Inc., 362 F.3d 1133, 1138–40 (9th Cir. 2004)).

         III. ...


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