United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
ORDER AND OPINION
Richard Mark Gergel United States District Court Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendant Calsonic Kansei North
America, Inc.'s motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction (Dkt. No. 25) and Plaintiffs' opposition and
request for jurisdictional discovery (Dkt. No. 28). For the
reasons set forth below, the Court denies the motion to
dismiss as moot, with leave to refile, and grants the request
for jurisdictional discovery.
September 5, 2015, Plaintiff Gary Holliday was involved in an
accident on 1-95 in Wilson County, North Carolina while
driving his 2011 Nissan Sentra. (Dkt. No. 10 at ¶ 30.)
His vehicle was hit by a tractor trailer, ran off the
highway, and crashed into a tree. (Id.) During the
crash, the vehicle's side airbag allegedly failed to
deploy. (Id. at ¶ 32.) As a result of the
accident, Mr. Holliday was treated at Wake Medical Center in
North Carolina for approximately six weeks, two of which he
spent in a coma. (Id. at ¶ 35.) Mr. Holliday
has required additional rehabilitation since the accident.
(Id. at ¶ 36.) Mr. Holliday lives in Berkeley
County, South Carolina with his wife, Plaintiff Soinya
Holliday. (Id. at ¶¶ 7 - 8.) Together,
they bring claims against Defendants Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.,
Nissan North America, Inc., Calsonic Kansei North America,
Inc., and Calsonic Kansei Corporation, the developers,
manufacturers and sellers of the occupant restraint system
that allegedly failed to deploy during the accident.
(Id. at ¶¶ 37 - 42.)
Calsonic Kansei North America ("CKNA") is a foreign
company registered in Tennessee with its principal place of
business in Shelbyville, Tennessee. (Dkt. No. 10 at ¶
15.) CKNA allegedly sells vehicle parts to multiple car
companies who do business in South Carolina. (Dkt. No. 10 at
¶ 21.) CKNA, however, alleges that it (1) does not own
property or have any facility in South Carolina, (2) does not
pay taxes in South Carolina, (3) has no registered agent in
South Carolina, (4) has no employees in South Carolina, (5)
does not advertise or solicit business in South Carolina, and
(6) is not authorized to do business in South Carolina. (Dkt.
Nos. 25-1 at 2; 25-2.) CKNA, however, does acknowledge that
it purchases parts from four suppliers based in South
Carolina that comprise 3.11% of its annual purchases. (Dkt.
No. 25-1 at 7; 25-2.)
CKNA filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction. (Dkt. No. 25.) Plaintiffs oppose the motion and
seek jurisdictional discovery. (Dkt. No. 28.)
personal jurisdiction is challenged, the burden is on the
plaintiff to establish jurisdiction. Combs v.
Bakker, 886 F.2d 673, 676 (4th Cir. 1989). When resolved
on written submissions, the plaintiff must make a "prima
facie showing of a sufficient jurisdictional basis."
Id. The plaintiffs showing must be based on facts
set forth in the record, taken in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff. Magic Toyota, Inc. v. Se. Toyota
Distribs., Inc., 784 F.Supp. 306, 310 (D.S.C. 1992);
Sonoco Prods. Co. v. ACE INA Ins., 877 F.Supp.2d
398, 404-05 (D.S.C. 2012) (internal quotation and alteration
marks omitted). However, a court "need not credit
conclusory allegations or draw farfetched inferences."
Sonoco, 877 F.Supp.2d at 405 (citations omitted).
their burden, a plaintiff must show (1) that South
Carolina's long-arm statute authorizes jurisdiction, and
(2) that the exercise of personal jurisdiction complies with
constitutional due process requirements. See, e.g.
Christian Sci. Bd. of Dirs. of First Church of Christ,
Scientist v. Nolan, 259 F.3d 209, 215 (4th Cir. 2001).
Since South Carolina's long-arm statute extends to the
constitutional limits of due process, the only inquiry is
whether due process requirements are met. ESAB Group,
Inc. v. Centricut, LLC, 34 F.Supp.2d 323, 328 (D.S.C.
1999); S Plastics Co. v. S Commerce Bank, 423 S.E.2d
128 (S.C. 1992).
process requires that a defendant have sufficient
"minimum contacts with [the forum] such that the
maintenance of the suit does not offend 'traditional
notions of fair play and substantial justice.'"
Int 7 Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310,
316 (1945) (citations omitted). This can be met by showing
either general or specific personal jurisdiction. ALS
Scan, Inc. v. Digital Serv. Consultants, Inc., 293 F.3d
707, 711-12 (4th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted). To assert
general jurisdiction, a defendant's contacts must be
"so 'continuous and systematic' as to render
them essentially at home in the forum State."
Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 127, 134 S.Ct.
746, 754 (2014) (citations omitted). For a corporation, that
traditionally renders them subject to general jurisdiction in
its state of incorporation or principal place of business.
Id. at 137.
determine whether specific jurisdiction exists, the Court
considers "(1) the extent to which the defendant has
purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting
activities in the state; (2) whether the plaintiffs'
claims arise out of those activities directed at the state;
and (3) whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction would
be constitutionally 'reasonable.'" Carefirst
of Maryland, Inc. v. Carefirst Pregnancy Centers, Inc.,
334 F.3d 390, 397 (4th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted). In
other words, the defendant must have "minimum
contacts" with the forum, the cause of action must arise
from those contacts, and the exercise of personal
jurisdiction must be reasonable. Burger King Corp. v.
Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472 - 476 (1985). Courts
evaluate the reasonableness of personal jurisdiction by
considering "(a) the burden on the defendant, (b) the
interests of the forum state, (c) the plaintiffs interest in
obtaining relief, (d) the efficient resolution of
controversies as between states, and (e) the shared interests
of the several states in furthering substantive social
policies." Lesnick v. Hollingsworth & Vose
Co., 35 F.3d 939, 946 (4th Cir. 1994). "Minimum
contacts" and "reasonableness" are not
independent requirements; rather, they are both aspects of
due process, and thus "considerations sometimes serve to
establish the reasonableness of jurisdiction upon a lesser
showing of minimum contacts than would otherwise be
required." Burger King, 471 U.S. at 477.
Court does not have general jurisdiction over CKNA. CKNA is
not incorporated in South Carolina, nor does it have its
principal place of business (or any place of business) in
South Carolina. Furthermore, while CKNA sells to car
companies and purchases from four parts suppliers in South
Carolina, these minimal financial transactions cannot support
general jurisdiction. See Helicopteros Nacionales de
Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 418, 104 S.Ct.
1868, 1874 (1984) ("mere purchases, even if occurring at
regular intervals, are not enough to warrant a State's
assertion of in personam jurisdiction over a
nonresident corporation in a cause of action not related to
those purchase transactions."); ESAB Grp., Inc. v.
Centricut, Inc., 126 F.3d 617, 621 (4th Cir. 1997)
(finding no general jurisdiction over company that had 26
customers in South Carolina constituting 1% of all
customers). Therefore, CKNA is not effectively "at
home" in the State, and the Court does not have general
jurisdiction over CKNA.
specific personal jurisdiction, Defendant argues that
Plaintiff cannot show that CKNA has purposefully availed
itself of the privilege of doing business in South Carolina.
CKNA argues that the Plaintiffs only showed that CKNA placed
its parts in the stream of commerce by selling its parts to
car companies who do business in South Carolina, and that
this alone cannot confer specific personal jurisdiction on
this Court. The Supreme Court is split over what a plaintiff
must show to support specific personal jurisdiction on a
stream of commerce theory. In Asahi Metal Indus. Co. v.
Superior Court of California, Solano Cty.,480 U.S. 102
(1987), Justice O'Connor, in a plurality opinion, stated
that "[t]he placement of a product into the stream of
commerce, without more, is not an act of the defendant
purposefully directed toward the forum State[, ]" and
instead held that "[a]dditional conduct of the defendant
may indicate an intent or purpose to serve the market in the
forum State."Id. at 111 - 113. See also
World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson,444 U.S. 286,
295 (1980) ("'foreseeability' alone has never
been a sufficient benchmark for personal jurisdiction under
the Due Process Clause."). Though that position did not
command a majority of the Court, the "stream of commerce
plus" test was again determinative in the plurality
opinion of J. Mclntyre Mack, Ltd. v. Nicastro, 564
U.S. 873, 131 S.Ct. 2780 (2011). In the absence of a clear
Supreme Court majority, the Fourth Circuit endorsed the
"stream of commerce plus" test, and it ...