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Moura v. New Prime, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

October 9, 2018

JOSE MOURA, SR., PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF JOSE MOURA, JR., LORI TURNER, AS PARENT AND NEXT FRIEND OF MINOR PLAITIFFS A.M., C.M., and J.M., LORI TURNER, INDIVIDUALLY PLAINTIFFS,
v.
NEW PRIME, INC. and JOHN DOE, PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF JOHN PAUL CANNON DEFENDANTS.

          ORDER AND MEMORANDUM ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION (Docket No. 9).

          HILLMAN, D.J.

         Defendant, New Prime, Inc. (“New Prime”) filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pr. 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction. (Docket No. 9). For the reasons that follow, New Prime's motion is denied.

         Background

         New Prime is a Nebraska trucking corporation with its principal place of business in Missouri. (Docket No. 10 at 15). It has terminals in Springfield, Missouri, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Pittston, Pennsylvania. Id. In Massachusetts, New Prime has employed between 45 and 60 drivers who have driven between 7, 821, 068 and 9, 606, 194 miles within the forum in the last five years. Id. This business has generated between $1, 467, 732, 381.40 and $1, 908, 780, 325.30 in revenue annually over that period. Id. at 16. Importantly, these figures represent only a small portion of New Prime's business nationally, accounting for less than one percent of its drivers and revenue and just over one percent of the total miles driven by company drivers. Id. at 15-16.

         Plaintiff decedent Jose Moura, Jr. (“Mr. Moura”) and his family lived in Shrewsbury Massachusetts. Over an eight-month period in 2016, Mr. Moura completed an initial driver training program at New England Tractor Trailer Training School (“NETTTS”), a Massachusetts company, to obtain his Commercial Driver's License. (Turner Decl. ¶ 4). New Prime first contacted Mr. Moura about potential employment opportunities by sending a recruiter to the NETTTS Rhode Island campus. Id. ¶ 6. Further, while Mr. Moura was in Massachusetts, he received U.S. Mail, emails, and phone calls from New Prime describing employment and training opportunities with the company. Id. ¶ 8. New Prime also sent Mr. Moura a contract to begin its driver training program. Id. ¶ 9. When Mr. Moura accepted this offer, New Prime sent a document confirming the training contract and purchased a bus ticket for Mr. Moura to travel from his Massachusetts home to Pennsylvania in order to begin training. Id. ¶ 11.

         Upon his arrival in Pennsylvania, Mr. Moura presented New Prime with his Massachusetts Commercial Driver's License. Id. ¶ 12. He was then assigned to work with Defendant John Paul Cannon (“Mr. Cannon”) as his training driver. Id. ¶ 13. Over the next several months, Mr. Moura drove within Massachusetts on behalf of New Prime. Id. ¶ 14. In early December, Mr. Moura gained the necessary 40, 000 training miles. Id. ¶ 16. Mr. Moura completed his training at or near New Prime's Salt Lake City, Utah terminal, (Docket No. 1 ¶ 21), thus, when he reached New Prime's Salt Lake City, Utah hub, he was no longer a trainee. (Turner Decl. ¶ 17). Further, because he had not yet signed an agreement, he was not employed by New Prime. Id. Mr. Moura and Mr. Cannon left Salt Lake City for New Prime's headquarters in Missouri. (Docket No. 1 ¶ 22). On December 14, while traveling through Oklahoma, Mr. Cannon struck another tractor-trailer at a high rate of speed. Id. ¶ 23. Mr. Cannon was killed in the accident. Mr. Moura was critically injured. Id. ¶ 25-26. On December 20, Mr. Moura was placed on a medical flight to Boston for further treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. Id. ¶ 28. He died in transport due to extubation and complications from his injuries. (Docket No. 17 at 8).

         Standard of Review

         When considering a Rule 12(b)(2) motion without an evidentiary hearing, a district court uses the prima facie standard to evaluate whether it has personal jurisdiction over the defendant. Under this standard, “the inquiry is whether the plaintiff has proffered evidence which, if credited, is sufficient to support findings of all facts essential to personal jurisdiction.” Phillips v. Prairie Eye Ctr., 530 F.3d 22, 26 (1st Cir. 2008). The plaintiff bears the burden of showing that the court may exercise personal jurisdiction over the defendant and “must put forward evidence of specific facts to demonstrate that jurisdiction exists.” A Corp. v. All Am. Plumbing, 812 F.3d 54, 58 (1st Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Further, courts “take the plaintiff's evidentiary proffers as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff's claim.” C.W. Downer & Co. v. Bioriginal Food & Sci. Cor., 771 F.3d 59, 65 (1st Cir. 2014). Finally, courts also “consider uncontradicted facts proffered by the defendant.” Id.

         Discussion

         “In determining whether a non-resident defendant is subject to its jurisdiction, a federal court exercising diversity jurisdiction is the functional equivalent of a state court sitting in the forum state.” Sawtelle v. Farrell, 70 F.3d 1381, 1387 (1st Cir. 1995). Thus, in order to establish personal jurisdiction over New Prime, Mr. Moura must satisfy the requirements of both the Massachusetts long-arm statute and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. WorldWide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 290 (1980).

         The Massachusetts long-arm statute enumerates eight specific grounds on which a nonresident defendant may be subjected to personal jurisdiction by a court of the Commonwealth. See Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 223A, § 3. Massachusetts courts have held that the long-arm statute “asserts jurisdiction over the person to the constitutional limit only when some basis for jurisdiction enumerated in the statue has been established.” Good Hope Indus., Inc. v. Ryder Scott Co., 378 Mass. 1, 6 (1979). Therefore, this court is “required to decline to exercise jurisdiction if the plaintiff [is] unable to satisfy at least one of the statutory prerequisites.” Id.

         Finally, “courts should consider the long-arm statute first, before approaching the constitutional question.” SCVNGR, Inc. v. Punchh, Inc., 478 Mass. 324, 330 (2017). Determining first whether the long-arm statute's requirements are met is consistent with the duty to avoid “decid[ing] questions of a constitutional nature unless absolutely necessary to a decision of the case.” Burton v. United States, 196 U.S. 283, 295 (1905).

         1. Massachusetts Long-Arm Statute

         The Massachusetts Long Arm Statue provides, in relevant part: “A court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a person, who acts directly or by an agent, as to a cause of action in law or equity arising from the person's transacting any business in this commonwealth.” Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 223A, § 3. Thus, New Prime must have transacted business in the Commonwealth and the Plaintiffs' claims must have arisen from that transaction of business.

         The requirement that a defendant transact business in the Commonwealth “has been construed broadly.” Tatro v. Manor Care, Inc., 416 Mass. 763, 767 (1994) (citations omitted). “Although an isolated (and minor) transaction with a Massachusetts resident may be insufficient, generally the purposeful and successful solicitation of business from residents of the Commonwealth, by a defendant or its agent, will suffice to satisfy this requirement.” Id. New Prime has satisfied this jurisdictional precondition. For instance, New Prime has received permission for 275 large tractor trailers to be present on roads in Massachusetts to deliver alcohol. (Docket No. 17 at 5). These trucks have driven 42, 726, 148 miles on Massachusetts roads and generated $63, 114, 195.99 in revenue in the last five years. Id. As part of that business, New Prime hires and trains new drivers. New Prime has employed 45-60 drivers in Massachusetts over the last five years. (Docket No. 10 at 15). Through its recruitment efforts, New Prime attempted to make Mr. Moura another one of these drivers. Mr. Mora was contacted repeatedly by New Prime in the Commonwealth by snail-mail, email, and phone calls. Id. Further, Mr. Moura was sent, and accepted a contact to begin its driver training program. Id. ¶¶ 9-11. After Mr. Moura accepted the offer, New Prime purchased a bus ticket so that he could travel to Pennsylvania. Id. ¶ 11. Mr. Moura then drove throughout the Commonwealth while completing his training. Id. ¶ 14. Hiring and training drivers, of course, is an essential element of New Prime's business in the Commonwealth and part of its overall transaction of business in the state.

         In addition, the Plaintiffs' claims have arisen from the New Prime's transaction of business in the Commonwealth. In accordance with the broad construction of the long-arm statute, the court in Tatro asserted jurisdiction when a Massachusetts resident was injured at a California hotel and interpreted the “arising from” requirement to require only “but for” causation. 416 Mass. at 770 (concluding that “terms such as ‘arising from' . . . should be interpreted as creating a ‘but for' test. This test permits jurisdiction in a case [where the transaction of business is] the first step in a train of events that results in the personal injury.”). New Prime argues that this requirement has not been met, but New Prime defines its transaction of business narrowly. Importantly, New Prime does not include its contacting and training drivers as part of its transaction of business in the Commonwealth. I find, however, that contacting, contracting with, and training Mr. Moura was part of New Prime's transaction of business in the Commonwealth. Further, it is clear that but for this transaction, Plaintiff would not have been harmed. Indeed, it was the first step in the train of events that led to his death. Therefore, I find that asserting jurisdiction is proper under the Massachusetts long-arm statute.

         2. ...


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