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Walsh v. LG Chem America

United States District Court, D. Arizona

September 13, 2019

Christopher Walsh, Plaintiff,
LG Chem America, et al., Defendants.


          Honorable Steven P. Logan United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is Defendant LG Chem, Ltd.'s Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 33). Having considered the briefing (Docs. 33, 40, 41), [1] the Court rules as follows.

         I. Background

         On October 28, 2019, Plaintiff purchased two LG HG2 18650 (“HG2”) batteries from retailer Oueis Gas in Mesa, Arizona (Doc. 30 at ¶¶ 8-9). The HG2 batteries were designed, manufactured, tested, marketed, and sold by LG Chem, a company based in Seoul, South Korea (Doc. 30 at ¶ 2, 8).

         On November 18, 2016, while sitting at a table in a restaurant, the subject batteries exploded and set Plaintiff on fire (Doc. 30 at ¶ 10). Plaintiff spent two weeks in a burn unit, underwent physical therapy, missed two months of work, incurred over $170, 000 in medical bills, and ultimately suffered third-degree burns over 8% of his body (Doc. 30 at ¶ 11).

         Plaintiff initiated this product liability action, alleging four causes of action: (1) negligent design, (2) negligent failure to warn, (3) strict liability/design defect, and (4) strict liability/information defect (Docs. 1, 30). Defendant LG Chem now moves to dismiss the claims against it for lack of personal jurisdiction (Doc. 33).

         II. Legal Standard

         A “[p]laintiff bears the burden of establishing personal jurisdiction.” Repwest Ins. Co. v. Praetorian Ins. Co., 890 F.Supp.2d 1168, 1184 (D. Ariz. 2012). When a defendant moves to dismiss a complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction, “the plaintiff is ‘obligated to come forward with facts, by affidavit or otherwise, supporting personal jurisdiction'” over the defendant. Cummings v. W. Trial Lawyers Ass'n, 133 F.Supp.2d 1144, 1151 (D. Ariz. 2001) (citation omitted). “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 a motion to dismiss.” Mavrix Photo, Inc. v. Brand Techs., Inc., 647 F.3d 1218, 1223 (9th Cir. 2011). The Court may not, however, “assume the truth of allegations in a pleading that are controverted by affidavit.” Id. (citation omitted).

         Because no applicable federal statute governing personal jurisdiction exists, Arizona's long-arm statute applies. See Terracom v. Valley Nat'l Bank, 49 F.3d 555, 559 (9th Cir. 1995). Arizona's long-arm statute provides for personal jurisdiction “to the maximum extent permitted by the Arizona Constitution and the United States Constitution.” Ariz. R. Civ. P. 4.2(a). Ultimately, “the jurisdictional analyses under state law and federal due process are the same.” Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 801 (9th Cir. 2004). Absent traditional bases for personal jurisdiction, the Due Process Clause requires that a nonresident have certain minimum contacts with the forum state such that the exercise of personal jurisdiction “does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Id. (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)). “In determining whether a defendant had minimum contacts[, ] . . . courts focus on ‘the relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation.'” Brink v. First Credit Res., 57 F.Supp.2d 848, 860 (D. Ariz. 1999). “Depending on the nature and extent of the defendant's contacts with the forum state, the court may exercise either general or specific jurisdiction over the defendant.” Id.

         Here, Plaintiff does not allege that LG Chem is subject to general jurisdiction (Doc. 40 at 2, § III(A)). Instead, Plaintiff alleges that LG Chem is subject to specific jurisdiction (Doc. 40 at 2, § III(A)-(C)). In determining whether a defendant has contacts with the forum state sufficient to establish specific jurisdiction, courts apply a three-prong test:

(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 exercise of jurisdiction must comport with fair play and substantial justice, i.e. it must be reasonable.

Schwarzenegger, 374 F.3d at 802. Plaintiff bears the burden of satisfying the first two prongs. Id. If Plaintiff succeeds, the burden shifts to Defendant to “present a compelling case” that the exercise of specific jurisdiction would be unreasonable. Id.

         A. Purposeful Availment & Purposeful Direction

         The first prong of the test “may be satisfied by purposeful availment of the privilege of doing business in the forum; by purposeful direction of activities at the forum; or some combination thereof.” Yaoo! Inc. v. La Ligue Contre Le Racisme Et L'Antisemitisme, 433 F.3d 1199, 1206 (9th Cir. 2006). “Purposeful availment requires that the defendant engage in some form of affirmative conduct allowing or promoting the transaction of business within the forum state. This focus upon the affirmative conduct of the defendant is designed to ensure that the defendant is not haled into court as the result of random, fortuitous or attenuated contacts.” Gray & Co. v. Firstenberg Mach. Co., Inc., 913 F.2d 758, 760 (9th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). Ultimately, a defendant is found to have purposefully availed himself of the forum's benefits if he has intentionally “engaged in significant activities within a State or has created ‘continuing obligations' between himself and the residents of the forum.” Id. (quoting Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 476 (1985)). In contrast, purposeful direction is evaluated using the “effects test” articulated in Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783 (1984), which assesses whether the defendant has “(1) committed an intentional act, (2) expressly aimed at the forum state, (3) causing harm that the defendant knows is likely to be suffered in the forum state.” Dole Food Co., Inc. v. Watts, 303 F.3d 1104, 1111 (9th Cir. 2002). “A purposeful availment analysis is most often used in suits sounding in contract. A purposeful direction analysis, on the other hand, is most often used in suits sounding in tort.” Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 802 (9th Cir. 2004) (internal citation omitted). Because the Calder effects test only applies to intentional torts, however, the Court will analyze the first prong using the purposeful availment test. See J. McIntyre Mach., ...

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