United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
UMOE SCHAT-HARDING, INC., et al. Plaintiffs,
PT SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC MANUFACTURING BATAM, et al., Defendant.
WILLIAM H. STEELE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the defendant's motion to
dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. (Doc. 23). The
parties have submitted briefs and evidentiary materials in
support of their respective positions, (Docs. 23, 26, 27),
and the motion is ripe for resolution. After careful
consideration, the Court concludes the motion to dismiss is
due to be granted in part and denied in part.
plaintiff in the underlying admiralty action
(“Istre”), which was filed in the Eastern
District of Louisiana, sued the plaintiffs herein
(“UMOE”), and others, including his employer
(“Montco”) for injuries he sustained when a
rescue boat being hoisted aboard a work vessel (“the
Vessel”) fell and struck him. The Vessel was built for
Montco at a Bayou La Batre shipyard; UMOE supplied the davit
system for the Vessel. Istre claimed the davit's cable
snapped due to UMOE's employment of an improper limit
switch (“the Switch”). UMOE filed a third-party
demand against the defendant herein (“Batam”),
the manufacturer of the Switch. Batam successfully pursued a
motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.
all other claims were resolved in Louisiana, Istre and UMOE
had their remnant of the action transferred to this District.
Without objection, the Court severed UMOE's newly
re-asserted third-party claim against Batam and opened this
separate civil action, after UMOE predicted that service of
process would consume more than a year.
plaintiff seeking to establish personal jurisdiction over a
nonresident defendant bears the initial burden of alleging in
the complaint sufficient facts to make out a prima facie case
of jurisdiction.” Louis Vuitton Malletier, S.A. v.
Mosseri, 736 F.3d 1339, 1350 (11th Cir. 2013)
(internal quotes omitted). “When a defendant challenges
personal jurisdiction by submitting affidavit evidence in
support of its position, the burden traditionally shifts back
to the plaintiff to produce evidence supporting jurisdiction,
” unless “the defendant's affidavits contain
only conclusory assertions that the defendant is not subject
to jurisdiction.” Id. (internal quotes
omitted). “Where the plaintiff's complaint and
supporting evidence conflict with the defendant's
affidavits, the court must construe all reasonable inferences
in favor of the plaintiff.” Meier ex rel. Meier v.
Sun International Hotels, Ltd., 288 F.3d 1264, 1269
(11th Cir. 2002); accord Diamond Crystal
Brands, Inc. v. Food Movers International, Inc., 593
F.3d 1249, 1257 (11th Cir. 2010).
evidentiary hearing on a motion to dismiss for lack of
personal jurisdiction is discretionary, not mandatory.
E.g., Snow v. DirecTV, Inc., 450 F.3d 1314, 1317
(11th Cir. 2008). Because the parties have not
requested an evidentiary hearing, the Court exercises its
discretion not to conduct one. Absent such a hearing, the
plaintiff's burden is to present enough evidence,
construed most The facts regarding the Switch, according to
UMOE, are as follows. Batam is an Indonesian subsidiary of
Schneider Electric (“Schneider”), which is a
global enterprise with hundreds of related companies. Batam
manufactured the Switch, a Telemecanique XS7C40FP260, in
Indonesia. Batam produces many such limit switches, which
bear stamps reflecting international and United States
ratings for sealing effectiveness.
individually packaged and bulk shipped over a thousand of
these limit switches, including the Switch, to a Schneider
subsidiary's international distribution center in France.
(Doc. 26-4). The Switch and others were then shipped to a
different Schneider subsidiary's regional distribution
center in Hungary. (Doc. 26-3 at 7-8). This entity sold a
dozen limit switches, including the Switch, to Q-Electrik,
(Doc. 26-5), a retailer apparently located in the Czech
Republic and unaffiliated with Schneider.
UMOE issued drawings for construction of the davit system,
which specified use of Telemecanique XS7C40FP260 limit
switches. In the Czech Republic, an entity related to UMOE
(“UMOE As”) issued a purchase order for same to a
Czech supplier (“ABB”), (Doc. 26-8), which
acquired two limit switches, including the Switch, from
Q-Electrik. The limit switches were invoiced and delivered to
another UMOE entity in the Czech Republic (“UMOE
s.r.o.”), (Doc. 26-9), which then shipped the davit
system, along with the limit switches in their original
packaging, to the shipyard in Bayou La Batre. (Doc. 26-10).
There the switches were incorporated into the davit system
and the davit system into the Vessel.
relies on additional evidence to establish personal
jurisdiction over Batam. Schneider through its subsidiaries
maintains two international distribution centers, one in
France and the other in Singapore. The international
distribution center in France (to which the Switch was
shipped by Batam) receives products from various Schneider
subsidiary manufacturing locations and redistributes them
among a number of Schneider subsidiary regional distribution
centers around the world, including those of a Schneider
subsidiary (“Schneider USA”) in Texas, Ohio and
Pennsylvania. (Doc. 26-3 at 9-12). Batam also ships some
limit switches directly to Schneider USA. (Doc. 23-1 at 2).
Schneider through unidentified subsidiaries maintains two
sales offices in Alabama and services southeast Alabama
through a third office located in Panama City, Florida. (Doc.
26-12). UMOE has not conducted jurisdictional discovery to
determine the volume of actual sales in Alabama, but while
the action was pending in the Eastern District of Louisiana,
UMOE conducted such discovery as to Louisiana and learned
that over 200 Telemecanique XS7C40FP260 limit switches
manufactured by Batam were sold to Louisiana retailers
between 2008 and 2012. (Doc. 26-11 at 9, 24, 37, 50, 61).
state's personal jurisdiction over a defendant may be
either general or specific. “A court may assert general
jurisdiction … to hear any and all claims against
[foreign entities] when their affiliations with the State are
so continuous and systematic as to render them essentially at
home in the forum State.” Goodyear Dunlop Tires
Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011)
(internal quotes omitted). That is, if general jurisdiction
exists, the foreign entity is subject to suit in the forum
state even if the cause of action asserted against it is
wholly unrelated to its activities in the state. Walden
v. Flore, 134 S.Ct. 1115, 1121 n.6 (2014). “But
only a limited set of affiliations with a forum will render a
defendant amenable to general jurisdiction in that
State.” Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior
Court, 137 S.Ct. 1773, 1780 (2017) (internal quotes
omitted). The “at home” limitation means the
defendant's contacts with the forum must be such that it
is “comparable to a domestic enterprise in that
State.” Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746,
758 n.11 (2014). Faced with this daunting burden, UMOE
prudently confines its argument to specific jurisdiction.
(Doc. 26 at 13-25).
State may authorize its courts to exercise personal
jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant if the defendant
has certain minimum contacts with the State such that the
maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions
of fair play and substantial justice.” Goodyear
Dunlop, 564 U.S. at 923. That is, “[a] defendant
is constitutionally amenable to a forum's specific
jurisdiction if it possesses sufficient minimum contacts with
the forum to satisfy due process requirements, and if the
forum's exercise of jurisdiction comports with
traditional notions of fair play and substantial
justice.” Vermeulen v. Renault, U.S.A., Inc.,
985 F.2d 1534, 1545 (11th Cir. 1993) (internal
quotes omitted). The first question is thus whether Batam has
sufficient minimum contacts with Alabama to support the
exercise of specific jurisdiction over it in this forum.
constitute constitutionally minimum contacts, the
defendant's contacts with the applicable forum must
satisfy three criteria. First, the contacts must be related
to the plaintiff's cause of action or have given rise to
it.” Vermeulen, 985 F.2d at 1546.
“Second, the contacts must involve some act by which
the defendant purposefully avails itself of the privilege of
conducting activities within the forum ..., thus invoking the
benefits and protections of its laws.” Id.
(internal quotes omitted). “Third, the defendant's