United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
JACKIE R. SUTTON, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Jhimeric Sutton, Plaintiff,
MOTOR WHEEL CORPORATION, LLC; HAYES LEMMERZ INTERNATIONAL, INC.; CHEETAH CHASSIS CORPORATION; SOUTH ATLANTIC CONSOLIDATED CHASSIS POOL, LLC; CONSOLIDATED CHASSIS MANAGEMENT, INC.; WEIFANG LUYI RUBBER PRODUCTS CO., LTD.; LEOPARD, INC.; HUANGZHOU GENERAL RUBBER FACTORY; and HUANGZHOU ZHONGCE RUBBER CO., LTD., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS'
MOTION TO DISMISS
GEIGER LEWIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an action for negligence, strict liability, and breach of
implied warranty. The Court has jurisdiction over this matter
under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
before the Court is Defendants Huangzhou General Rubber
Factory and Huangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co., Ltd.'s
(collectively HZR) motion to dismiss. ECF No. 40. Having
carefully considered HZR's motion, the response, the
reply, the record, and the applicable law, it is the judgment
of the Court HZR's motion to dismiss will be granted.
case stems out of a death which occurred in June, 2014. ECF
No. 1-1 at 6. According to Plaintiff's Complaint, on June
14, 2014, Jhimeric Sutton (Mr. Sutton) was repairing a tire
allegedly manufactured by HZR when the pieces of the rim on
which the tire was mounted separated with “explosive
force.” Id. The pieces of the rim struck Mr.
Sutton in the head killing him. Id.
March 9, 2017, Plaintiff filed suit in the Court of Common
Pleas for Lexington County, South Carolina. Id. at
14-19. On March 17, 2017, Plaintiff filed an amended
complaint in that court. Id. at 4-9. Plaintiff's
amended complaint brought claims for negligence, strict
liability, and breach of implied warranty. Id.
Defendants removed the action to this Court on May 4, 2017.
ECF No. 1.
filed its motion to dismiss on September 1, 2017. ECF No. 40.
HZR argued Plaintiff's claims against HZR should be
dismissed because Plaintiff failed to properly serve HZR and
because this Court may not exercise personal jurisdiction
over HZR. Id. The Court granted two extensions of
time for Plaintiff to respond to HZR's motion to dismiss.
ECF Nos. 42, 46. On November 20, 2017, the Court issued an
Order granting Plaintiff's motion to stay the deadline to
respond to HZR's motion to dismiss to allow Plaintiff to
conduct jurisdictional discovery. ECF No. 52. The Order
directed Plaintiff to conduct jurisdictional discovery and
respond to HZR's motion to dismiss on or before February
12, 2018. Id. Plaintiff failed to meet that
deadline. On February 16, 2018, the Court issued an Order
directing Plaintiff to file her response by February 20,
2018. ECF No. 57.
February 20, 2018, Plaintiff and HZR stipulated HZR's
claim of improper service is moot and personal jurisdiction
is the sole issue remaining for the Court to decide in
HZR's motion to dismiss. ECF No. 59. Plaintiff responded
to HZR's motion to dismiss on February 20, 2018, ECF No.
61, and HZR replied on March 6, 2018, ECF No. 68. On April
16, the Court noticed an evidentiary hearing on HZR's
motion to dismiss, ECF No. 72; the hearing was held April 25,
2018, ECF No. 76. Following the hearing, at Plaintiff's
request, Defendant Leopard, Inc. (Leopard) filed an affidavit
relevant to the issue of the Court's jurisdiction over
HZR. ECF No. 78. The Court, having been fully briefed on the
relevant issues, is now prepared to discuss the merits of
HZR's motion to dismiss.
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
defendant may bring a motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). Once a defendant
makes such a motion, the plaintiff bears the burden of
showing personal jurisdiction, but the plaintiff's burden
varies depending upon the posture of the case and the
evidence before the court. Grayson v. Anderson, 816
F.3d 262, 267-68 (4th Cir. 2016). When the court evaluates
personal jurisdiction based solely upon the motion papers,
affidavits, memoranda, and complaint, the plaintiff need only
make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction to defeat
the motion to dismiss. Id. at 268 (citing Combs
v. Bakker, 886 F.2d 673, 676 (4th Cir. 1989)). The
court, in such an analysis, must take the relevant
allegations and evidence in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff. Id. at 268.
however, the plaintiff must show the court's personal
jurisdiction over a defendant by a preponderance of the
evidence. Id. (citing Combs v. Bakker, 886
F.2d at 676). Where the court holds the plaintiff to the
preponderance of the evidence standard prior to trial, it
must hold an evidentiary hearing, but such a hearing need not
involve live testimony. Id. at 268-69. Instead, the
court need only “afford the parties a fair opportunity
to present both the relevant jurisdictional evidence and
their legal arguments.” Id. at 268. Once the
court has given such an opportunity, it must hold the
plaintiff to the preponderance of the evidence standard.
Id. At the hearing, the court can receive evidence
in the form of “live testimony . . . depositions,
interrogatory answers, admissions, or other appropriate
forms.” Id. at 269.
federal court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a
non-resident defendant such as HZR: 1) the long-arm statute
of the forum State must allow such jurisdiction, and 2) the
exercise of jurisdiction must be in keeping with the
requirements of Fourteenth Amendment due process. See
Christian Sci. Bd. of Dirs. of First Church of Christ,
Scientist v. Nolan, 259 F.3d 209, 215 (4th Cir. 2001).
South Carolina's long-arm statute reaches to the limits
of due process. Triplett v. R.M. Wade & Co., 200
S.E.2d 375, 378-79 (S.C. 1973). Thus, the two-part inquiry
becomes a single inquiry: whether the exercise of personal
jurisdiction satisfies constitutional due process. See
Nolan, 259 F.3d at 215.
process is met when the defendant has “minimum contacts
with [the forum] such that the maintenance of the suit does
not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and
substantial justice.'” Int'l Shoe Co. v.
State of Wash., Office of Unemployment Compensation and
Placement, 326 U.S. 310 (1945) (quoting Milliken v.
Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463 (1940)). For due process to be
satisfied such that exercising personal jurisdiction is
appropriate, “defendant's conduct and connection
with the forum State [must be] such that he should reasonably
anticipate being haled into court there.”
World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S.
286, 297 (1980). A defendant's ...