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Whitley v. Linde Heavy Truck Division Ltd.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

June 1, 2018

JAMES WHITLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
LINDE HEAVY TRUCK DIVISION LTD., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION

          Judith Gail Dein United States Magistrate Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, James Whitley, is a resident of Massachusetts. He has brought this action against Linde Heavy Truck Division Ltd. (“LHTD”), a company organized under the laws of the United Kingdom, with its principal place of business in South Wales. Mr. Whitley was seriously injured while working as a Longshoreman/Harbor Worker at the Conley Terminal located in South Boston, Massachusetts on August 31, 2012. At that time, a forklift truck[1] he was operating allegedly flipped over and crushed his leg. In his Amended Complaint (“Am. Compl.”) (Docket No. 58), Mr. Whitley alleges that the forklift truck was manufactured by LHTD and was defective. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 8, 12). He has asserted claims against LHTD for negligence (Count I) and breach of implied warranty of merchantability (Count II).

         This matter is before the court on “Defendant, Linde Heavy Truck Division Ltd.'s, Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction.” (Docket No. 63). By its motion, LHTD contends that all of Mr. Whitley's claims must be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) because LHTD lacks sufficient contacts with Massachusetts to support this court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over it. As described below, this court finds that LHTD is not subject to this court's jurisdiction. Accordingly, and for all the reasons detailed herein, LHTD's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction is ALLOWED.

         II. STATEMENT OF FACTS

         Standard of Review of Record

         “On a motion to dismiss for want of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff ultimately bears the burden of persuading the court that jurisdiction exists.” Astro-Med, Inc. v. Nihon Kohden Am., Inc., 591 F.3d 1, 8 (1st Cir. 2009), and cases cited. “When a district court rules on a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction without holding an evidentiary hearing, as in this case, the ‘prima facie' standard governs its determination.” United States v. Swiss Am. Bank, Ltd., 274 F.3d 610, 618 (1st Cir. 2001). Under this standard, the plaintiff must “demonstrate the existence of every fact required to satisfy both the forum's long-arm statute and the Due Process Clause of the Constitution.” Id. (citation omitted). Thus, to meet its burden in this case, the plaintiff must “proffer evidence which, taken at face value, suffices to show all facts essential to personal jurisdiction.” Baskin-Robbins Franchising LLC v. Alpenrose Dairy, Inc., 825 F.3d 28, 34 (1st Cir. 2016). The court will “take the facts from the pleadings and whatever supplemental filings (such as affidavits) are contained in the record, giving credence to the plaintiff's version of genuinely contested facts.” Id. It will “then add to the mix facts put forward by the defendants, to the extent that they are uncontradicted.” N. Laminate Sales, Inc. v. Davis, 403 F.3d 14, 24 (1st Cir. 2005) (quoting Mass. Sch. of Law v. Am. Bar Ass'n, 142 F.3d 26, 34 (1st Cir. 1998)).

         Applying this standard to the instant case, the relevant facts are as follows.[2]

         Identification of the Manufacturer

         On August 31, 2012, Mr. Whitley was working as a Longshoreman/Harbor Worker at the Conley Terminal located in South Boston, Massachusetts, when a forklift truck on which he was riding flipped over and crushed his leg. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 4-5). The forklift truck allegedly had the name “Linde” emblazoned on the side. (See Docket No. 49 ¶ 5). On August 27, 2015, Mr. Whitley filed suit in Suffolk Superior Court against Linde Material Handling North America Corporation and Kion North America Corporation - the plaintiff believed that one of these related entities had manufactured the forklift truck at issue. (See Docket No. 6 (Original Compl.) ¶ 1). According to the defendant, Linde Material Handling North America Corporation is now known as Kion North America Corp. (See Docket No. 47 at 1). Based on this information, the plaintiff amended his complaint to name Kion North America Corporation (“Kion”) as the only defendant. (See Docket No. 6 at 21, 23).

         Kion removed the action to this court on January 5, 2016. (Docket No. 1). Kion then moved for summary judgment on the basis that it had not manufactured the forklift truck. (Docket No. 20). While the motion was initially denied (Docket No. 47), considerable confusion remained as to which “Linde” company was responsible for manufacturing the forklift truck at issue. (See, e.g., Docket Nos. 23, 24, 44, 49, 54, 55, 58). Finally, the parties agreed that LHTD is the entity responsible for manufacturing the forklift truck at issue in this case. (See Docket No. 55 ¶ 1). LHTD contends, however, that this court has no jurisdiction over this foreign entity.

         LHTD's Contacts With Massachusetts

         LHTD is a private limited company organized under the laws of the United Kingdom. (Smart Decl. ¶ 3). LHTD ceased active business operations in 2013. (Id.). When it was actively operating, LHTD maintained its principal place of business in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, Great Britain, where the forklift at issue was manufactured. (Id. ¶¶ 3-4). While it was active, LHTD did not conduct business in Massachusetts, did not conduct marketing activities in Massachusetts, was not a registered company in Massachusetts, had no registered agent for service of process in Massachusetts, did not pay taxes in Massachusetts, had no employees in Massachusetts, did not maintain an office in Massachusetts, owned no personal or real property in Massachusetts, held no bank accounts in Massachusetts, and had no telephone listings in Massachusetts. (Id. ¶ 4).

         The forklift truck at issue was manufactured in South Wales in 2006. (Id. ¶ 5). LHTD sold the forklift truck to Mi-Jack Products, Inc. (“Mi-Jack”), a distributor located in Hazel Crest, Illinois. (Id.). After the forklift truck was delivered to Mi-Jack in April 2006, LHTD had no further involvement with the forklift truck, either in the United States generally or in Massachusetts specifically. (Id.). LHTD had no involvement in the subsequent sale of the forklift truck by Mi-Jack, or involvement in any transaction or activity that ultimately resulted in the forklift truck's presence in Massachusetts. (Id.).

         On December 21, 2017, LHTD filed its motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, arguing that LHTD does not satisfy the minimum contacts required for this court to maintain general or specific jurisdiction over LHTD. On January 3, 2018, Whitley filed his opposition to defendant's motion to dismiss, arguing that this court should exercise jurisdiction over LHTD. (See Docket No. 67 (“Pl. Opp.”)). A hearing was held on January 30, 2018, after which the plaintiff was given 30 days to supplement the record with any evidence regarding personal jurisdiction, including the existence of an agency relationship, if any, between LHTD and Mi-Jack. (See Docket No. 73). No. supplementation was made.

         III. ...


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