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Lavinia Aircraft Leasing LLC v. Piper Aircraft Inc.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

December 2, 2016

Lavinia Aircraft Leasing, LLC; Thomas McDermott, Plaintiffs,
Piper Aircraft Inc. et al., Defendants.


          David G. Campbell United States District Judge.

         Plaintiffs Lavinia Aircraft Leasing, LLC (“Lavinia”) and Thomas McDermott (“McDermott”) have sued Defendant Piper Aircraft Inc. (“Piper”) and others for the failure of an engine in a Piper aircraft. Piper has moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims against it for lack of personal jurisdiction. Doc. 4. The issues are fully briefed, and the Court determines that oral argument will not aid its decision. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 78(b); Partridge v. Reich, 141 F.3d 920, 926 (9th Cir. 1998). For the following reasons, the Court will deny the motion.

         I. Background.

         Plaintiff Thomas McDermott is an Arizona resident and the sole member of Lavinia. He and Lavinia own a 2001 Piper Meridian aircraft and allege that the aircraft's engine exploded on July 7, 2014. Defendant Piper is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Florida. Doc. 1-1, ¶ 3. Plaintiffs bring product liability claims arising out of the engine failure.

         McDermott has filed a declaration stating that he first learned about the Piper Meridian model aircraft from Piper's website. Doc. 20-1, ¶ 4. McDermott became interested in purchasing such an aircraft, but wanted to make the purchase from an authorized Piper dealer in case the aircraft developed problems. Id., ¶ 5. McDermott learned from Piper's website that Keystone Aviation, located in Utah, was an authorized Piper dealer. Id., ¶¶ 6-7. McDermott arranged to test fly a Keystone Piper Meridian in Arizona, but, to avoid expenses and logistical issues associated with purchasing an aircraft out-of-state, he decided to locate an authorized Piper dealer in Arizona. Id., ¶ 10.

         McDermott located Cutter Southwest Aviation Aircraft Sales, LLC (“Cutter”) using the Piper webpage. Id., ¶ 11. McDermott contacted Cutter and learned that it sells new and used Piper aircraft to Arizona residents. Id., ¶ 12. McDermott also knew there were two authorized Piper service centers in Arizona, and that Piper sells aircraft parts in Arizona through a nationwide distribution network. Id., ¶¶ 16-17.

         On November 7, 2013, McDermott purchased a 2001 Piper Meridian from Cutter. Id., ¶ 15. On July 7, 2014, McDermott was preparing to take off from a Colorado airport when the engine exploded. Doc. 20-1, ¶¶ 18, 21. On July 6, 2016, Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendants under theories of strict product liability, negligence, and breach of warranties. Doc. 1-1. On August 25, 2016, the action was removed to this Court based on diversity of citizenship. Doc. 1.

         II. Legal Standard.

         “When a defendant moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating that the court has jurisdiction over the defendant.” Pebble Beach Co. v. Caddy, 453 F.3d 1151, 1154 (9th Cir. 2006). “Where, as here, the defendant's motion is based on written materials rather than an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts to withstand the motion to dismiss.” Mavrix Photo, Inc. v. Brand Techs., Inc., 647 F.3d 1218, 1223 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing Brayton Purcell LLP v. Recordon & Recordon, 606 F.3d 1124, 1127 (9th Cir. 2010)). “The plaintiff cannot ‘simply rest on the bare allegations of its complaint, ' but uncontroverted allegations in the complaint must be taken as true.” Id. (quoting Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 800 (9th Cir. 2004)). The Court may not assume the truth of allegations that are contradicted by an affidavit, but factual disputes are resolved in Plaintiff's favor. Id.

         III. Analysis.

         Arizona's long-arm statute, Ariz. R. Civ. P. 4.2(a), applies to this diversity action. See Terracom v. Valley Nat'l Bank, 49 F.3d 555, 559 (9th Cir. 1995). Rule 4.2(a) “provides for personal jurisdiction co-extensive with the limits of federal due process.” Doe v. Am. Nat'l Red Cross, 112 F.3d 1048, 1050 (9th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted).

         A corporation “may be subject to personal jurisdiction only when its contacts with the forum state support either specific or general jurisdiction.” Martinez v. Aero Caribbean, 764 F.3d 1062, 1068 (9th Cir. 2014) (citing Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 310 (1945)). General jurisdiction enables a court to entertain any claim against a defendant over which it has subject matter jurisdiction, even claims arising from the defendant's actions in other states. Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 754 (2014). General jurisdiction exists if the defendant's activities in the state are “so continuous and systematic as to render [it] essentially at home in the forum State.” Id. Plaintiffs do not argue that Piper has such contacts with Arizona.

         Rather, Plaintiffs allege that Piper is subject to specific personal jurisdiction. Doc. 20. A court may exercise specific jurisdiction over a foreign defendant if his or her contacts with the forum give rise to the cause of action before the court. Doe v. Unocal Corp., 248 F.3d 915, 923 (9th Cir. 2001). The Ninth Circuit employs a three-prong test to determine whether a party has sufficient minimum contacts for specific jurisdiction:

(1) The non-resident defendant must purposefully direct his activities or consummate some transaction with the forum or resident thereof; or perform some act by which he purposefully avails himself 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 ...

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