United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
K. KALLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the court is Bayerische Motoren Werke AG's (“BMW
AG”) motion to dismiss Alejandro Tomas's complaint
for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). Doc. 16. Tomas filed suit against
BMW AG and BMW of North America (“BMW NA”),
alleging that he sustained complete blindness in his right
eye when the airbag in his 2003 BMW 330i unexpectedly
deployed. Doc. 1. The motion fails.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
litigation arises from an incident involving the personal
injury of Tomas when he was riding as a front seat passenger
in his 2003 BMW 300i. Tomas alleges that he sustained
complete blindness in his right eye when the airbags
unexpectedly deployed even though his vehicle made no
“contact with any other vehicle or property.”
Doc. 1 at 1, 5. Tomas filed this suit against BMW NA and its
indirect parent company BMW AG seeking actual and punitive
damages for relief. Doc 1. at 2, 7-18.
maintains that it is a holding company with its principal
place of business in Munich, Germany and, as Tomas conceded,
that it has no direct contacts with Alabama. Docs. 1 at 2; 27
at 8. Accordingly, BMW AG has moved to dismiss for lack of
personal jurisdiction. Doc. 16. Tomas sought jurisdictional
discovery to respond to the motion, doc. 18, which the court
denied. Doc. 24. Thereafter, Tomas responded to the motion
conceding general personal jurisdiction and maintaining that
specific personal jurisdiction exists. Doc. 27 at 8. BMW AG
has filed its reply, doc. 28, and as a result, the motion is
ripe for review.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), “[a]
plaintiff seeking the exercise of 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.” United Techs. Corp. v.
Mazer, 556 F.3d 1260, 1274 (11th Cir. 2009). After the
defendant challenges jurisdiction with 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.” Meier ex rel. Meier v.
Sun Int'l Hotels, Ltd., 288 F.3d 1264, 1269 (11th
Cir. 2002). If, however, “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.” Wolf v. Celebrity
Cruises, Inc., 683 Fed.Appx. 786, 790 (11th Cir. 2017)
(quoting Meier, 288 F.3d at 1269).
federal court sitting in diversity may exercise jurisdiction
over a nonresident defendant to the same extent as a court of
that state.” Ruiz de Molina v. Merritt & Furman
Ins. Agency, Inc., 207 F.3d 1351, 1355 (11th Cir. 2000).
Under its long-arm statute, “Alabama permits its courts
to exercise jurisdiction over nonresidents to the fullest
extent allowed under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment to the Constitution.” Id. at 1355-56
(citing Martin v. Robbins, 628 So.2d 614, 617 (Ala.
1993)); see also Ala. R. Civ. P. 4.2(b). The Due
Process Clause accepts two types of personal
jurisdiction-“general” and “specific”
personal jurisdiction. See Goodyear Dunlop Tires
Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 2853 (2011).
For personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant, the
Due Process Clause “only requires” that the
person or entity has sufficient “minimum
contacts” with that state and the suit does not offend
“traditional notions of fair play and substantial
justice.” World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v.
Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 291 (1980) (citing Int'l
Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)).
here, “[t]he forum State does not exceed its powers
under the Due Process Clause if it asserts personal
jurisdiction over a corporation that delivers its products
into the stream of commerce with the expectation that they
will be purchased by consumers in the forum State.”
World-Wide Volkswagen Corp., 444 U.S. at 297-98.
However, mere knowledge or expectations that a product will
wind up in the forum state is insufficient to create personal
jurisdiction. J. McIntyre Mach., Ltd. v. Nicastro,
564 U.S. 873, 881 (2011). Rather, purposeful availment
generally requires showing that the defendant “targeted
the forum” state. Id. at 882 (finding no
personal jurisdiction over an English manufacturer who
utilized an independent U.S. distributor that distributed
only four machines to the state of New Jersey). In the
Eleventh Circuit, the “stream of commerce test remains
good law” and minimum contacts are likely to exist
where “a high-volume seller puts its products into the
stream of commerce knowing those products would end up in the
forum state, even if that seller had no other contacts with
the forum state.” Smith v. Poly Expert, Inc.,
186 F.Supp.3d 1297, 1303 (N.D. Fla. 2016).
jurisdictional facts here are fairly straightforward and
undisputed. Unlike its American subsidiary company, BMW AG
has no direct dealings with the state of Alabama. Doc. 16-4
at 3-5. It does not own any property, maintain a sales force,
or advertise in the state. Id. Tomas asserts that
BMW AG is nonetheless subject to specific jurisdiction
because it “put[s] its vehicles that it designs, tests,
and manufactures into the ‘stream of commerce' by
selling the vehicles to its wholly owned subsidiary and
exclusive distributor, BMW NA, to distribute to its
dealership network throughout the U.S. market, including
Alabama.” Doc. 27 at 8. Taking all reasonable
inferences in favor of Tomas, the “contemporary
commercial circumstances” and “economic realities
of the market” that BMG AG “seeks to serve”
reveal that this court may exercise jurisdiction.
McIntyre, 564 U.S. at 885, 893.
AG's argument, that no personal jurisdiction exists
because it does not control the distribution and operations
of BMW NA and therefore has no control over where the
vehicles are distributed, see doc. 16 at 3, 6, is
unpersuasive for two reasons. First, BMW AG
“manufacture[s] and design[s] vehicles, ”
including the vehicle in this case, and then sells hundreds
of thousands of BMW branded vehicles to BWM NA each year.
See doc. 16 at 1, 15; doc. 27-4 at 12. BMW NA, in
turn, “sells those vehicles, at wholesale, to its
authorized dealers in Alabama.” Doc. 16 at 2. Thus, BMW
AG obviously contemplates that some of its vehicles will make
their way to Alabama. See King v. Gen. Motors Corp.,
2012 WL 1340066, at *7 (N.D. Ala. Apr. 18, 2012) (“GM
Canada utilized its parent corporation to distribute
hundreds, if not thousands, of vehicles to the state of
Alabama, including the vehicle at issue.”). Second, BMW
AG appended to Tomas's vehicle a sticker with a VIN
number and notice that “this vehicle conforms to all
applicable U.S. federal motor vehicle safety, bumper and
theft prevention standards.” Doc. 27-3 at 2. This court
has found that compliance with federal regulations
“equates manufacturing a product ‘in anticipation
of sales in' Alabama.” King, 2012 WL
1340066, at *7 (quoting Asahi Metal Industry Co. v.
Superior Court of Cal., Solano Cty., 480 U.S. 102, 113
(1987)). Accordingly, BMW AG “seeks to serve” in
Alabama by specifically manufacturing BMW vehicles in
compliance with federal regulations. Id. (quoting
McIntyre, 564 U.S. at 885).
this court recently found that jurisdiction exists where a
foreign auto manufacturer had not:
transacted any business in Alabama; been involved in any
business activities in Alabama; paid any taxes to Alabama,
made any contracts with Alabama; owned, used, or possessed
any real estate situated in Alabama; maintained any offices,
manufacturing plants, or equipment in Alabama; had any
directors, officers, employees, or agents based in Alabama;
had a bank account in Alabama; had a telephone number,
mailing address, or Employee Identification Number
(“EIN”) based in ...