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 renewed motion to dismiss for lack of
personal jurisdiction (Dkt. No. 52). For the reasons set
forth below, the Court denies the motion to dismiss.
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.) On November 11, 2018, CKNA initially moved to dismiss
for lack of personal jurisdiction. (Dkt. No. 25.) On December
26, 2018, the Court denied the motion as moot and ordered
jurisdictional discovery to resolve the personal jurisdiction
issues raised by the Parties. (Dkt. No. 37.) Jurisdictional
discovery ended March 24, 2019, and CKNA has now renewed
their motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.
(Dkt. No. 52.) CKNA reiterates that it is a Tennessee
corporation without any property, agents, subsidiaries,
employees or agents in South Carolina, and states that it has
never specifically designed or distributed its products in
South Carolina. (Dkt. No. 52-2.) Plaintiffs oppose the
motion, pointing to numerous documents produced during
jurisdictional discovery indicating that CKNA has previously
sold automotive components to a company in South Carolina,
Honda, and has recently solicited business in South Carolina
from Volvo. (Dkt. No. 61 at 4 - 5.) CKNA filed a Reply. (Dkt.
burden is on the plaintiff to establish personal
jurisdiction. Combs v. Bakker, 886 F.2d 673, 676
(4th Cir. 1989). After jurisdictional discovery, a Plaintiff
must prove personal jurisdiction by a preponderance of the
evidence. See Gourdine v. Karl Storz Endoscopy-Am.,
Inc., 223 F.Supp.3d 475, 482 (D.S.C. 2016). See also
Brown v. Geha-Werke GmbH, 69 F.Supp.2d 770, 774 (D.S.C.
1999) ("Although this court decided the issue of
personal jurisdiction without an evidentiary hearing...the
parties have engaged in jurisdictional discovery and offered
evidence beyond the pleadings and affidavits... [therefore]
Plaintiff must establish personal jurisdiction by a
preponderance of the evidence.").
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'l 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
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 previously held (Dkt. No. 37), the Court does not have
general jurisdiction over CKNA. Therefore, the Court focuses
solely on whether specific personal jurisdiction exists.
nature and facts of CKNA's contacts with South Carolina
are undisputed. CKNA is a supplier of automotive parts to
automobile manufacturers. (Dkt. No. 52-1 at 2.) Of note, CKNA
produces and sell electronic controller integration to
automobile manufacturers, which includes safety systems such
as the airbags at issue here. (Dkt. No. 61-1 at 3.) Until
April 1, 2016, Nissan held, at least, an approximately 40%
share of CKNA's parent company, Calsonic Cansei
Corporation. (Id.; Dkt. No. 55 at 3 n.2.) CKNA
conducts the overwhelming majority of their sales to Nissan,
and delivers parts to two Nissan assembly plants outside of
South Carolina. (Id.; Dkt. No. 52-3.) Nissan,
notably, sells its cars nationwide, has car dealerships in
South Carolina, and sells tens of thousands of Nissan Sentras
in the United States every year. (Id.)
however, has other contacts with companies in South Carolina
as well. First, from at least the early 2000s until 2016,
CKNA sold meter assembles to Honda of South Carolina. (Dkt.
Nos. 55 at 4; 61 at 3.) The sale agreements acknowledged that
CKNA sold parts to a South Carolina company and CKNA agreed
for the agreements to be governed, at least in part, by South
Carolina law. (Dkt. No. 61-2.) CKNA has also continued to
solicit business in South Carolina after the relationship
with Honda ended, and CKNA made a marketing trip to