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Haines v. Get Air LLC

United States District Court, D. Arizona

June 16, 2016

Blake Haines, Plaintiff,
Get Air LLC, et al., Defendants.


          Eric J. Markovich, United States Migistrate Judge.

         Pending before the Court is Get Air, LLC’s Motion to Dismiss, which alleges that that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction because Get Air, LLC has not engaged in any business in Arizona, and because there are no facts supporting general or specific personal jurisdiction. (Doc. 97). Specifically, Get Air, LLC argues that the Employee Handbook, upon which Plaintiff relies to establish specific personal jurisdiction, was created by Amy Iverson (an independent contractor for former defendant Trampoline Parks, LLC) and distributed to Get Air Tucson by Trampoline Parks, LLC. Id. at 7. In his response, Plaintiff contends that he has made a prima facie showing that the defective Employee Handbook used by Get Air Tucson was created and supplied by Get Air, LLC and as such Get Air, LLC purposefully directed its conduct at Arizona. (Doc. 102 at 14). Alternatively, Plaintiff argues that there remains a factual dispute regarding personal jurisdiction which must be resolved in his favor. Id. at 16.

         The motion has been fully briefed by the parties, and the Court heard oral arguments on June 6, 2016. For the reasons stated below, the Court will defer ruling on the Motion to Dismiss to allow the parties to conduct further discovery regarding whether Get Air, LLC’s jurisdictional contacts with Arizona are sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction in the District of Arizona.

         I. LAW

         “The party seeking to invoke the court’s jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing that jurisdiction exists.” Scott v. Breeland, 792 F.2d 925, 927 (9th Cir. 1986) (citing Data Disc, Inc. v. Systems Tech. Assocs., 557 F.2d 1280, 1285 (9th Cir. 1977)). Analysis of whether the Court has specific jurisdiction over the nonresident defendant requires a three-pronged test:

(1) The non-resident defendant must purposefully direct [its] activities or consummate some transaction with the forum or resident thereof; or perform some act by which [it] purposefully avails [itself] of the privilege of conducting activities in the forum, thereby invoking the benefits and protections of its laws; (2) the claim must be one which arises out of or relates to the defendant’s forum related activities; and (3) the exercise of jurisdiction must comport with fair play and substantial justice, i.e. it must be reasonable.

Schwarzenegger, 374 F.3d at 802 (quoting Lake v. Lake, 817 F.2d 1416, 1421 (9th Cir. 1987)).[1] “The plaintiff bears the burden of satisfying the first two prongs two of the test.” Id. (citation omitted). For tort claims, the court most often utilizes a “purposeful direction analysis.” Id. This analysis involves evidence that the defendant’s actions outside the forum state are directed at the forum, such as distribution in the forum state of goods originating elsewhere. Id. at 803 (citation omitted).

         “When a defendant moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff is ‘obligated to come forward with facts, by affidavit or otherwise, supporting personal jurisdiction.’” Id. (quoting Amba Marketing Sys., Inc. v. Jobar Int’l, Inc., 551 F.2d 784, 787 (9th Cir. 1977)); see also Pebble Beach Co. v. Caddy, 453 F.3d 1151, 1154 (9th Cir. 2006). “If the district court decides the motion without an evidentiary hearing . . . ‘then the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of the jurisdictional facts.’” Boschetto v. Hansing, 539 F.3d 1011, 1015 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Sher v. Johnson, 911 F.2d 1357, 1361 (9th Cir. 1990). “Uncontroverted allegations in the plaintiff’s complaint must be taken as true” and “‘[c]onflicts between the parties over statements contained in affidavits must be resolved in the plaintiff’s favor.’” Id. (quoting Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 800 (9th Cir. 2004)). However, “[t]he mere allegations of a complaint, when contradicted by affidavits, are not enough to confer personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant.” Chem Lab Products, Inc. v. Stepanek, 554 F.2d 371, 372 (9th Cir. 1977) (citing Taylor v. Portland Paramount Corp., 383 F.2d 634, 639 (9th Cir. 1967)).

         “A court may permit discovery to aid in determining whether it has in personam jurisdiction.” Data Disc, 557 F.2d at 1285 n. 1 (citing Wells Fargo & Co. v. Wells Fargo Express Co., 556 F.2d 406, 430 n. 24 (9th Cir. 1977)). “‘[W]here a plaintiff’s claim of personal jurisdiction appears to be both attenuated and based on bare allegations in the face of specific denials made by the defendants, the Court need not permit even limited discovery . . .’” Terracom v. Valley Nat. Bank, 49 F.3d 555, 562 (9th Cir. 1995) (quoting Rich v. KIS Cal., Inc., 121 F.R.D. 254, 259 (M.D. N.C. 1988)). However, “[d]iscovery may be appropriately granted where pertinent facts bearing on the question of jurisdiction are controverted or where a more satisfactory showing of the facts is necessary.” Data Disc, 557 F.2d at 1285 n. 1.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Get Air, LLC contends that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) because Get Air, LLC is a Utah limited liability corporation company whose only business prior to February, 2016 was the operation of a trampoline park (Get Air Roy) in Roy, Utah. (Doc. 97 at 6). Get Air, LLC states that “[g]enerally, it has conducted no business in Arizona and, specifically, it was not involved in the design, construction or operation of the Get Air Tucson trampoline park in any way.” Id. Get Air, LLC further argues that the Employee Handbook Plaintiff relies on to establish specific personal jurisdiction was not created by any agent of Get Air, LLC and that Get Air, LLC had no knowledge or intention that the Employee Handbook was supplied to Get Air Tucson. Id. at 7.

         In its first motion to dismiss, Get Air, LLC included affidavits from Val Iverson and Jacob Goodell stating that the Get Air, LLC Employee Handbook was created by Get Air, LLC through its manager Jessica Bybee and used at Get Air Tucson. (Doc. 43 at 13 ¶11 and at 40 ¶11); (Doc. 102 at 9, n. 3). Get Air, LLC stated that: “[a]lthough there is evidence that the operators of the Get Air Tucson trampoline park adopted and used Get Air Roy’s employee manual as the Get Air Tucson employee manual, there is no evidence that any member of Get Air, LLC knew or intended Get Air Tucson would use its employee manual as Get Air Tucson’s employee manual.” (Doc. 43 at 5).

         In its present Motion to Dismiss, Get Air, LLC argues that it did not create the Employee Handbook upon which Plaintiff relies to establish specific jurisdiction. (Doc. 97 at 7). In Val Iverson’s new affidavit, he states that “[d]uring [Jessica Bybee’s] employment with Get Air, LLC at Get Air Roy, Ms. Bybee’s responsibilities . . . would have included use of the Get Air, LLC Employee Handbook [allegedly created by Amy Iverson].” (Doc. 97 at 13 ¶16). Jacob Goodell’s most recent affidavit states that “[i]n her capacity as manager of Get Air Roy, Jessica Bybee prepared the original Get Air Roy employee handbook and used the Get Air, LLC Employee Handbook.” (Doc. 97 at 21 ¶14).[2]

         Get Air, LLC has also produced an affidavit from Amy Iverson, who claims she was an independent contractor for Trampoline Parks, LLC and served as its Director of Human Resources from autumn 2012-autumn 2013. (Doc. 97-1, at 2 ¶3). Ms. Iverson states that in her capacity as Director of Human Resources for Trampoline Parks she “developed a generic Employee Handbook that could be used at any ...

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