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Leon v. Peterbilt Motors Co.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

February 21, 2019

Arturo Leon, Plaintiff,
Peterbilt Motors Company, et al., Defendants.


          Honorable Roslyn O. Silver Senior, United States District Judge

         In 2017, Plaintiff Arturo Leon purchased a truck from a business in Tennessee. Defendants Peterbilt Motors Company (“Peterbilt”) and Cummins, Inc. (“Cummins”), were involved in the manufacture of that truck and its component parts. Peterbilt and Cummins both provided Plaintiff with written warranties regarding the truck's performance. Not long after buying the truck, Plaintiff experienced a variety of problems that could not be repaired to his satisfaction. In 2018, Plaintiff filed the present suit in Maricopa County Superior Court against Peterbilt and Cummins. Plaintiff asserted claims for “breach of factory warranty” and “breach of Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.” (Doc. 1-3 at 15-16). Peterbilt filed a motion to dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction as well as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. Cummins joined the latter motion but did not join the jurisdictional motion. Because “jurisdictional questions ordinarily must precede merits determinations in dispositional order, ” the Court will address the matter of personal jurisdiction first. Sinochem Int'l Co. v. Malaysia Int'l Shipping Corp., 549 U.S. 422, 431 (2007).

         Plaintiff “bear[s] the burden of demonstrating that [personal] jurisdiction is appropriate.” Dole Food Co. v. Watts, 303 F.3d 1104, 1108 (9th Cir. 2002). When, as here, the Court does not hold an evidentiary hearing, Plaintiff need only make “a prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts” establishing personal jurisdiction. Pebble Beach Co. v. Caddy, 453 F.3d 1151, 1154 (9th Cir. 2006). That showing requires the Court accept Plaintiff's version of events where there are disputes. Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 800 (9th Cir. 2004). But the Court can rely on evidence provided by Peterbilt if Plaintiff does not controvert it. Id.

         Here, Peterbilt has offered a variety of facts regarding the manufacture, distribution, and purchase of the relevant truck. Plaintiff has not controverted any of those facts. Accordingly, the following is based on Peterbilt's representations regarding the relevant facts.

         Peterbilt is “an unincorporated division of PACCAR Inc.” (Doc. 9-1 at 2). Accordingly, the proper defendant is PACCAR, not Peterbilt. PACCAR and its various divisions are in the business of designing, manufacturing, and assembling “a variety of vehicles that serve a wide range of commercial applications in the United States.” (Doc. 9-1 at 2). PACCAR is incorporated in Delaware but its “corporate affairs” are managed from its office in Bellevue, Washington. PACCAR “performs design and marketing functions in Denton, Texas.” (Doc. 9-1 at 2). PACCAR has no offices, plants, or facilities in Arizona. Thus, PACCAR does not design or manufacture vehicles in Arizona.

         In March 2016 at its facilities in Texas, PACCAR manufactured and assembled a “glider kit.” As defined by PACCAR, “[a] glider kit is an incomplete vehicle without an engine or transmission and in some instances, a rear axle.” (Doc. 9 at 2). After it was assembled, that glider kit was sold to “Peterbilt of Atlanta, an independent dealer located in Kennesaw, Georgia.” (Doc. 9-1 at 3). The glider kit was subsequently sold to Fitzgerald Truck and Part Sales, LLC (“Fitzgerald Truck”) in Byrdstown, Tennessee. Fitzgerald Truck “is a wholly separate entity unrelated to PACCAR.” Fitzgerald Truck “performed the final stage of manufacturing” by adding the necessary components to the glider kit to create a truck. Fitzgerald Truck then sold the completed truck to Plaintiff in June 2017.[1](Doc. 1-3 at 9). At some point during the assembly process, an engine manufactured by Defendant Cummins, Inc., was incorporated into the truck.

         Shortly after he purchased the truck, Plaintiff experienced a wide variety of problems with it. Plaintiff took the truck to various service providers for repairs under the written warranties provided by PACCAR and Cummins. Some of the problems were minor, such as a rattling door. (Doc. 1-3 at 19). Other problems were much more substantial, such as the speedometer malfunctioning. (Doc. 1-3 at 14). The service providers repaired what they could but Plaintiff was not satisfied. In May 2018, Plaintiff filed the present suit against PACCAR and Cummins in Maricopa County Superior Court. Cummins removed the suit to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction. (Doc. 1 at 3).

         Shortly after removal, PACCAR filed a motion to dismiss arguing personal jurisdiction does not exist. Plaintiff responded by arguing PACCAR “has expressly consented to personal jurisdiction in Arizona” and PACCAR has sufficient minimum contacts with Arizona. (Doc. 15 at 3). Put in terms of the two types of personal jurisdiction courts have recognized, these arguments are that PACCAR has consented to “general personal jurisdiction” in Arizona and that PACCAR has sufficient contacts with Arizona such that “specific personal jurisdiction” exists. Freestream Aircraft (Bermuda) Ltd. v. Aero Law Grp., 905 F.3d 597, 602 (9th Cir. 2018). Plaintiff has not, however, pointed to sufficient facts establishing either type of jurisdiction.

         A. General Jurisdiction

         Usually, general personal jurisdiction requires a defendant's “contacts with the forum state [be] so ‘continuous and systematic' as to render the defendant essentially ‘at home' in that forum.” Id. at 602 n.2 (quoting Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 127 (2014)). For a corporation, those contacts usually exist only in the state where the corporation is incorporated and where it has its principal place of business. Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 137 (2014). General personal jurisdiction for a corporation, however, can also exist if it has affirmatively consented to being sued in a particular forum. See, e.g., King v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co., 632 F.3d 570, 573 (9th Cir. 2011) (discussing general personal jurisdiction through consent). Plaintiff argues PACCAR has consented to general personal jurisdiction in Arizona by appointing and registering an agent for service of process in Arizona.

         Plaintiff has not cited the specific statutes under which PACCAR appointed and registered an agent for service of process but it appears PACCAR did so pursuant to Arizona's statutes regarding foreign corporations who wish to “transact business” in the state. A.R.S. § 10-1501(A). Under those statutes, a foreign corporation wishing to “transact business” in Arizona must be granted authority to do so by the Arizona Corporation Commission. A corporation obtains such permission by submitting an application containing information such as its date of incorporation and the address of its principal office. A.R.S. § 10-1503(A). The Corporation Commission then reviews the application and, if complete, the corporation “is granted authority to transact business in [Arizona].” A.R.S. § 10-1503(C). Under these statutes, each corporation “authorized to transact business” in Arizona must maintain a statutory agent. A.R.S. § 10-1507. And pursuant to A.R.S. § 10-1510, a foreign corporation authorized to transact business in Arizona may be served by serving the corporation's statutory agent.

The statue regarding service on a statutory agent provides, in relevant part:
The statutory agent appointed by a foreign corporation is an agent of the foreign corporation on whom process, notice or demand that is required or permitted by law to be served on the foreign corporation may be served and that, when so served, is lawful personal service on the foreign corporation.

Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. ยง 10-1510. Plaintiff seems to believe this language should be interpreted as PACCAR having consented to ...

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