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Stubbs v. Rev Group Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

December 10, 2018

SHAWN STUBBS, Plaintiff,
v.
REV GROUP, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          R. DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on Defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. (Doc. # 13). After careful consideration, and for the reasons explained below, the court concludes the motion is due to be granted.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         This case arises out of injuries sustained by Plaintiff Shawn Stubbs in 2016 when she fell from the deck of a recreational “camper” vehicle while on vacation in Florida. (Doc. # 7 at ¶¶ 17-20). Plaintiff sued REV Group, Inc. and REV Renegade (formerly KIBBI LLC) for her injuries in federal court in Alabama, claiming the companies negligently manufactured the camper. (Id. at ¶¶ 27). She also asserted various products liability and breach of warranty claims against the companies. (Id. at ¶¶ 21-47). Defendants moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2); (Doc. # 13). In response, Plaintiffs requested jurisdictional discovery to establish Defendants' contacts with Alabama. (Doc. # 17). The court granted that request. (Doc. # 20). Following the completion of jurisdictional discovery, Plaintiff renewed her opposition to Defendants' motion to dismiss and filed documents that she claims establish the existence of personal jurisdiction over Defendants. (Doc. # 26). Defendants have also filed evidence in support of their motion to dismiss. (Doc. # 13-1).

         The following facts are undisputed for purposes of Defendants' motion to dismiss. REV Group is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Wisconsin. (Doc. # 13-1 at ¶ 3). It is a holding company and does not design, manufacture, assemble, furnish, sell, or distribute campers. (Id. at ¶ 4). REV Renegade is a limited liability company organized in Delaware with its principal place of business in Indiana. (Doc. # 13-2 at ¶ 3). REV Renegade sells campers through dealers located around the country. (Docs. # 13 at 3; 28 at 3-4). Plaintiff purchased her Renegade camper at a dealership in Missouri and was injured when she fell from the camper's deck while on vacation in Florida. (Docs. # 7 at ¶¶ 18-19; 26-4 at 2).

         II. Standard of Review

         Under 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.” Id.

         III. Analysis

         “A federal district court in [Alabama] may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant to the same extent that [an Alabama] court may, so long as the exercise is consistent with federal due process requirements.” Licciardello v. Lovelady, 544 F.3d 1280, 1283 (11th Cir. 2008). 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.” Ruiz de Molina v. Merritt & Furman Ins. Agency, Inc., 207 F.3d 1351, 1355-56 (11th Cir. 2000) (citing Martin v. Robbins, 628 So.2d 614, 617 (Ala. 1993)); see also Ala. R. Civ. P. 4.2 (permitting jurisdiction over nonresident defendants on any basis “not inconsistent with the constitution of this state or the Constitution of the United States”). Thus, this court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant so long as jurisdiction is consistent with federal due process principles.

         The Supreme Court has recognized two types of personal jurisdiction that are consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause-general jurisdiction and specific jurisdiction. See Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 923-24 (2011). A defendant subject to general jurisdiction in a forum may be sued in that forum on any and all claims against it, even if the claims have no connection to the forum. Id. at 919. By contrast, a court has specific jurisdiction over a defendant only with respect claims that arise out of or relate to the defendant's contacts with the forum. Id. at 923-24. In this case, Plaintiff has established neither general nor specific jurisdiction over Defendants.

         A. Plaintiff Has Not Established General Jurisdiction Over Defendants

         For general jurisdiction to exist, the defendant's “affiliations with the State” must be “so continuous and systematic as to render [it] essentially at home in the forum State.” Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 127 (2014) (internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, individuals are subject to general jurisdiction in the forum where they are domiciled, and corporations are subject to general jurisdiction where they are incorporated and where they have their principal place of business. Id. at 137. And because “the reasoning of Daimler applies with equal force” to LLCs as corporations, LLCs are subject to general jurisdiction in the state of their formation and where they have their principal place of business. Finn v. Great Plains Lending, LLC, No. CV 15-4658, 2016 WL 705242, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 23, 2016).

         Here, it is undisputed that neither REV Group nor REV Renegade has their place of formation or principal place of business in Alabama. (Doc. # 7 at ¶¶ 2-3). Though Daimler left open the possibility that “in an exceptional case” a business's “operations in a forum other than its formal place of incorporation or principal place of business may be so substantial” as to support general jurisdiction in that forum, no facts in this case support such an “exceptional” finding. Daimler, 571 U.S. at 139 n.19. Accordingly, Plaintiff has failed to establish general jurisdiction over either defendant.

         B. Plaintiff Has Not Established Specific ...


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