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Chevron Thailand Exploration & Production, Ltd. v. Taylor

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

December 3, 2019

CHEVRON THAILAND EXPLORATION & PRODUCTION, LTD., Appellant
v.
JAIME TAYLOR, Appellee

          On Appeal from the 152nd District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2016-22186

          Panel consists of Justices Jewell, Bourliot, and Zimmerer.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JERRY ZIMMERER JUSTICE

         Appellant, Chevron Thailand Exploration & Production, Ltd. (CTEP), brings this interlocutory appeal from the trial court's denial of its special appearance. In a single issue, CTEP argues that the trial court erred when it denied its special appearance because CTEP lacked the minimum contacts with Texas necessary to meet the purposeful availment standard for personal jurisdiction. We hold that the trial court erred when it denied CTEP's special appearance because there is not a substantial connection between the operative facts of appellee Jaime Taylor's claims and CTEP's contacts with Texas. Accordingly, we reverse and render judgment dismissing Taylor's claims against CTEP for want of personal jurisdiction.

         Background

         Taylor, a Mississippi resident, sued CTEP, Chevron U.S.A., Inc. (Chevron), Rig QA International, and other entities claiming that their negligence caused the injuries he suffered when he fell on an offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Thailand in 2015. At the time of the incident, Taylor was a Chevron employee on loan to CTEP.

         CTEP filed a special appearance pursuant to Rule 120a of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure challenging the trial court's assertion of personal jurisdiction over it. CTEP attached the affidavit of Jonathon Noseworthy, a CTEP director and officer, to the special appearance motion. CTEP also attached the deposition of Frank Soler, a Chevron Corporation employee and CTEP's assistant secretary, who testified that he has some involvement with CTEP because it produces gas.[1]

         According to Noseworthy, CTEP is a Bermuda company with its principal place of business in Thailand. Noseworthy also stated in his affidavit that CTEP's business consists solely of the development, extraction, and production of oil and gas in the Gulf of Thailand. Noseworthy continued that CTEP (1) has no offices in Texas, (2) conducts no operations in Texas, (3) is not registered to do business in Texas, (4) has no registered agent for service of process in Texas, (5) has no bank accounts in Texas, (6) owns no property in Texas, (7) sells no products in Texas, and (8) provides no services in Texas. Finally, Noseworthy averred that none of CTEP's officers and directors office in Texas.

         Soler testified that CTEP ran the drilling program on the rig where Taylor worked. Soler further testified that CTEP has had some interactions with Texas. Soler explained that these interactions primarily involved the purchase of goods and services from twenty-two companies with a connection to Texas for use in CTEP's overseas operations and making payments to the Texas bank accounts of these companies.[2] Soler also testified that CTEP paid for the travel of 249 people to Texas between 2012 and 2015. Soler continued that he did not know the purpose of the travel, nor why CTEP agreed to pay for the travel. Finally, Soler testified that CTEP's in-house counsel checked their litigation database and could not locate any other litigation involving CTEP that occurred in Texas.

         Taylor responded to CTEP's special appearance by filing an amended petition. Taylor added a new claim alleging that CTEP negligently hired and supervised Rig QA as a safety consultant for the rig. Taylor also filed a response to CTEP's special appearance. Taylor attached the deposition of Peter Kidd, Rig QA's corporate representative, to the response.

         Kidd testified that, at the time of his deposition, he was Rig QA's international operations manager. Kidd explained that Rig QA supplies consultants to the oil and gas industry primarily for the commissioning and inspection of new oil rigs. Kidd ensures that all international operations are coordinated between Rig QA and its clients. Kidd further testified that he negotiates the contracts on behalf of Rig QA. At the time of his deposition, Kidd lived in Bangkok, Thailand. Kidd's deposition testimony also established that he was a consultant for Rig QA working in Thailand during the time period relevant to this appeal, and that he officed in a "Chevron building." Kidd testified that Rig QA began performing services for CTEP possibly as early as 2007 and that work mostly ended in 2016.[3]

         Kidd's deposition then turned to issues more directly relevant to CTEP's special appearance. Kidd testified that he signed the Master Service Agreement (MSA) between CTEP and Rig QA in Thailand.[4] Kidd admitted, however, that Donna Fox, Rig QA's vice president based in Texas, was the primary person responsible for negotiating the price and cost terms of the MSA for Rig QA. Kidd further explained that while Fox was based in Texas, Fox traveled to Thailand several times every year for contract discussions with CTEP. According to Kidd, Rig QA's performance of its duties under the MSA, and CTEP's supervision thereof, occurred exclusively in Thailand. Kidd also testified however, that Fox managed the Thailand operation, and that he reported to her. When performance issues arose regarding Rig QA personnel in Thailand requiring Fox's input, Kidd testified that she would normally consult with him because he was on the ground in Thailand. Kidd testified that he was not aware of any CTEP personnel traveling to Texas to meet with Rig QA regarding the contract at issue here. Kidd specifically testified that he had no meetings in Texas with any persons associated with any Chevron entity in 2014.[5] Kidd continued that he did have one meeting in Texas with a CTEP person in 2017. Kidd described the meeting as a social lunch that occurred because they both happened to be in Houston at the same time. Kidd further testified that, at the time of the Houston lunch, Rig QA was no longer performing work on any rigs in the Gulf of Thailand.

         The trial court did not admit any evidence at the special appearance hearing, but instead decided the special appearance based on the parties' special appearance filings, the evidence attached to them, and the arguments of counsel. The trial court subsequently denied CTEP's special appearance. CTEP filed a notice of ...


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