United States District Court, D. Arizona
Michael S. Williams, Plaintiff,
Christopher J. Wiggins, et al., Defendants.
HONORABLE STEVEN P. LRFIAN ~ UNITED STATES DISTRICT
the Court is Christopher J. Wiggins and Seldon Wiggins
(together, the “Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss
for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction Under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b), or in the Alternative to Transfer Venue (the
“Motion”). (Doc. 12) The Motion was fully briefed
on July 5, 2019, and oral argument was requested by Plaintiff
Michael S. Williams (the “Plaintiff”). (Docs. 18,
19) Because it would not assist in resolution of the instant
issues, the Court finds the pending motion is suitable for
decision without oral argument. See LRCiv. 7.2(f);
Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b); Partridge v. Reich, 141 F.3d
920, 926 (9th Cir. 1998). The Court's ruling is as
Christopher J. Wiggins (“Wiggins”) is a
co-founder, former chief executive officer, and majority
shareholder of ORhub, Inc. (“ORhub”). (Doc. 1-2
at 3; Doc. 18 at 5) ORhub is incorporated in Nevada and
headquartered in Tempe, Arizona. (Doc. 18 at 26) The
Plaintiff is an investor in ORhub and an Arizona resident.
(Doc. 18 at 26) Frederic Buonincontri
(“Buonincontri”) and Lanny Lang
(“Lang”) are also ORhub investors and Arizona
residents. (Doc. 18 at 26)
October 2018, Buonincontri filed a lawsuit against ORhub in
the Maricopa County Superior Court. (Doc. 18 at 26) On April
4, 2019, Wiggins sent an email (the “April
Email”) to approximately 78 ORhub investors and
stockholders, including Williams, Buonincontri, and Lang,
making statements that the Plaintiff alleges are defamatory.
(Doc. 18 at 27; Doc. 1-2 at 4) The April Email (i) included
statements alleging “collusion and wrongful
behavior” between Williams, Buonincontri, and Lang;
(ii) referred to Williams, Buonincontri, and Lang as
“criminal, ” accusing them of
“intentionally damaging the value of” ORhub; and
(iii) stated that Williams, Buonincontri, and Lang
“have continued to manipulate the truth and mislead
[ORhub's] shareholders.” (Doc. 1-2 at 4-5)
April 17, 2019, the Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit (the
“Complaint”) in the Maricopa County Superior
Court alleging causes of action for defamation and false
light invasion of privacy. (Doc. 1-2) The case was removed to
this Court on May 24, 2019. (Doc. 1) The Defendants filed the
Motion seeking dismissal of the Complaint pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2).
plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating that jurisdiction
is appropriate.” Picot v. Weston, 780 F.3d
1206, 1211 (9th Cir. 2015). Where, as here, a defendant's
motion to dismiss is based on a written record and no
evidentiary hearing is held, “the plaintiff need only
make a prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts.”
Id. “For a court to exercise personal
jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant, that defendant
must have at least ‘minimum contacts' with the
relevant forum such that the exercise of jurisdiction
‘does not offend traditional notions of fair play and
substantial justice.'” Dole Food Co. v.
Watts, 303 F.3d 1104, 1110-11 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting
Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316
(1945)). “In judging minimum contacts, a court properly
focuses on ‘the relationship among the defendant, the
forum, and the litigation.'” Calder v.
Jones, 465 U.S. 781, 788 (1984) (quoting Shaffer v.
Heitner, 433 U.S. 186, 204 (1977)). When no federal
statute specifically defines the extent of personal
jurisdiction, federal courts look to the law of the state
where the district court sits-in this case, Arizona. CE
Distribution, LLC v. New Sensor Corp., 380 F.3d 1107,
1110 (9th Cir. 2004). “Arizona's long-arm rule
permits the exercise of personal jurisdiction to the extent
allowed by the due process clause of the United States
Constitution.” Ochoa v. J.B. Martin & Sons
Farms, Inc., 287 F.3d 1182, 1188 (9th Cir.
jurisdiction may be either general or specific. See
Bancroft & Masters, Inc. v. Augusta Nat'l
Inc., 223 F.3d 1082, 1086 (9th Cir. 2000). General
jurisdiction exists where a non-resident defendant engages in
substantial, continuous or systematic activities within the
forum. Marlyn Nutraceuticals, Inc. v. Improvita Health
Prod., 663 F.Supp.2d 841, 848 (D. Ariz. 2009) (citing
Perkins v. Benguet Consol. Mining, Co., 342 U.S.
437, 445 (1952)).
deciding whether a defendant is subject to specific personal
jurisdiction, federal courts consider whether (1) the
non-resident defendant purposefully directs his activities or
consummates some transaction with the forum or resident
thereof; or performs 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 arises out of or relates to the
defendant's forum-related activities; and (3) the
exercise of jurisdiction comports with fair play and
substantial justice, i.e. it must be reasonable.
Picot, 780 F.3d at 1211 (citing Schwarzenegger
v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 802 (9th Cir.
2004)). The plaintiff has the burden of proving the first two
prongs. CollegeSource, Inc. v. AcademyOne, Inc., 653
F.3d 1066, 1076 (9th Cir. 2011). If he does so, the burden
shifts to the defendant to “set forth a
‘compelling case' that the exercise of jurisdiction
would not be reasonable.” Id. (quoting
Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 477
(1985)). For claims sounding in tort, courts apply a
“purposeful direction” test and look to evidence
that the defendant has directed his actions at the forum
state, even if those actions took place elsewhere.
Schwarzenegger, 374 F.3d at 802.
Defendants seek dismissal of this case because the Court does
not have personal jurisdiction over either of the Defendants.
(Doc. 12 at 6) The Defendants argue that the Plaintiff fails
to establish general or specific personal jurisdiction
through the allegations in the Complaint because (i) the
Defendants are not Arizona residents and (ii) the April Email
was not directed at Arizona residents. (Doc. 12 at 6) In
response, the Plaintiff argues that the Court has personal
jurisdiction over the Defendants because the defamatory
actions taken by the Defendants targeted and impacted persons
and entities residing in Arizona. (Doc. 18 at 5)
Defendants argue that they do not have the requisite minimum
contacts with Arizona for the Court to have general personal
jurisdiction over the parties. The Defendants argue that they
are California residents who do not reside or conduct
business in Arizona. (Doc. 12 at 6) The Defendants also argue
that they do not own any assets in Arizona and do not travel
to Arizona. (Doc. 12 at 8) In response, the Plaintiff argues
that the Defendants conduct business in ...