United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
OWEN BOWDRE, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the court on Defendant High Noon
Productions, LLC's “Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint” and Plaintiff
Melanie Tolbert's motions to strike. Ms. Tolbert's
complaint alleges violations of the Copyright Act (17 U.S.C.
§§ 101 et seq.) and Alabama tort law
against High Noon and Discovery, Inc. High Noon now moves to
dismiss the action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction. (Doc. 37). Ms.
Tolbert moves to strike declarations that High Noon attached
to its reply in support of its motion to dismiss. (Doc. 44,
following reasons, the court will GRANT Defendant High
Noon's motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction and DISMISS High Noon from the case. The court
will DENY Plaintiff's motions to strike.
Standard of Review
High Noon moves to dismiss Ms. Tolbert's complaint
against it for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). When a defendant
moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction,
“the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing a prima
facie case of jurisdiction over the movant, non-resident
defendant.” Morris v. SSE, Inc., 843 F.2d 489,
492 (11th Cir. 1988) (internal citations omitted). In
evaluating a defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of
personal jurisdiction, the court accepts the plaintiff's
allegations as true. Stubbs v. Wyndham Nassau Resort
& Crystal Palace Casino, 447 F.3d 1357, 1360 (11th
Cir. 2006). Where the defendant challenges jurisdiction by
submitting affidavit evidence in support of its position,
“the burden traditionally shifts back to the plaintiff
to produce evidence supporting jurisdiction.”
United Techs. Corp. v. Mazer, 556 F.3d 1260, 1274
(11th Cir. 2009) (quoting Meier ex rel. Meier v. Sun
Int'l Hotels, Ltd., 288 F.3d 1264, 1269 (11th Cir.
2002)). If “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, 288 F.3d at
original complaint, Alabama resident Melanie Tolbert alleged
that, in 2014, she conceived of a then-original idea for a
mother-daughter home renovation television show and reached
out to several television industry contacts about the
possibility of creating such a show. Ms. Tolbert then filmed
a teaser trailer with her mother to help pitch the idea. Ms.
Tolbert disseminated the teaser to several unnamed
individuals and alleges that some or all of those parties
somehow transmitted her trailer to either High Noon or
Discovery, though she did not transmit the information to
High Noon or Discovery directly.
Ms. Tolbert's efforts did not ultimately lead to a
television show, she noticed in 2017 that Discovery-owned
HGTV had its own nationally broadcast mother-daughter home
renovation show called Good Bones, produced by High
Noon. Ms. Tolbert subsequently acquired a copyright on her
initial teaser trailer and brought the instant action against
Discovery and High Noon for copyright infringement.
High Noon is a limited liability company organized in
Colorado, with offices in Colorado and California. High Noon
has produced at least nine television episodes within the
state of Alabama, but none are connected to the instant
action. Despite the fact that High Noon is located in
Colorado and California, Ms. Tolbert alleges that High Noon
has purposefully availed itself of the privileges of
conducting business in Alabama and has purposefully directed
efforts “towards residents of Alabama.” Ms.
Tolbert alleges that Good Bones was broadcast to
Alabama through HGTV, the defendants knew that the show would
be broadcast to Alabama and reach Alabama citizens, and she
suffered injury in Alabama.
Noon and Discovery filed a motion to dismiss Ms.
Tolbert's original complaint, arguing, among other
things, that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over High
Noon. (Doc. 9). Relevant to High Noon's instant motion to
dismiss, the court granted High Noon's first motion to
dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and dismissed Ms.
Tolbert's claims against High Noon without prejudice.
(Doc. 21). The court found that Ms. Tolbert had failed to
sufficiently allege personal jurisdiction under a theory of
general personal jurisdiction because High Noon had not
engaged in enough activities in Alabama to be “at
home” here. The court also found that Ms. Tolbert's
original complaint had not sufficiently alleged specific
personal jurisdiction over High Noon because Ms. Tolbert had
not alleged that High Noon intentionally directed any
tortious behavior toward Alabama.
Tolbert subsequently amended her complaint to add allegations
relevant to whether the court has personal jurisdiction over
High Noon. Ms. Tolbert alleges that the defendants
purposefully infringed on her copyrighted television show
idea and teaser trailer, and further alleges that the
defendants knew when they infringed on her copyright that she
was an Alabama resident and that her potential show was
filmed and set in Alabama. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 55; Doc. 29-1 at
¶¶ 6.1-6.3, 20.1-30.1). Ms. Tolbert did not add any
other allegations of contacts between High Noon and Alabama
related to her copyright infringement case.
on the amended allegations, the court reinstated High Noon as
a defendant in the case. (Doc. 36 at 3). High Noon then filed
the instant motion to dismiss Ms. Tolbert's Second
Amended Complaint, asserting that Ms. Tolbert still had not
sufficiently alleged personal jurisdiction. (Doc. 37).
filings relating to High Noon's motion to dismiss, the
parties spend time discussing whether High Noon actually
received the emails regarding Ms. Tolbert's idea for a
television show, whether High Noon learned of Ms.
Tolbert's idea after Good Bones was already in
production, and whether High Noon actually knew of Ms.
Tolbert's connections to Alabama. (Doc. 37, Doc. 42, Doc.
43). Attached to its reply in support of its motion to
dismiss, High Noon has included declarations from two
employees indicating that High Noon did not receive any
emails from Ms. Tolbert, and that, even if it had, the emails
would have postdated the development of Good Bones.
(Doc. 43-1, Doc. 43-2). Ms. Tolbert has moved to strike the
declarations as inappropriate at this stage because they
relate to issues of fact. (Doc. 44, Doc. 45).
motion to dismiss Ms. Tolbert's second amended complaint,
High Noon argues that Ms. Tolbert failed to show that High
Noon purposefully availed itself of the benefits of
conducting business in Alabama. (Doc. 37). High Noon asserts
that Ms. Tolbert failed to identify any relevant contacts