United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division
C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
following matter is before the court on defendant Ford Motor
Company’s (“Ford”) motion to dismiss, ECF
No. 9, and motion to stay discovery, ECF No. 10. For the
reasons set forth below, the court grants Ford’s motion
to dismiss. Because the court grants Ford’s motion to
dismiss, Ford’s motion to stay is moot.
a products liability action that arose from a car accident in
which plaintiffs Stanley and Margorie Schmitigal
(collectively, “plaintiffs”) were injured. On
February 16, 2018, plaintiffs were restrained passengers in
their 2014 Ford Edge, which was driven by their daughter.
Stanley sat in the front passenger seat and Marjorie sat in
the rear passenger seat behind Stanley. While stopped at an
intersection on U.S. Highway 278, plaintiffs’ vehicle
was struck from behind by defendant Paul Twohig’s
(“Twohig”) BMW sedan. Upon impact,
plaintiffs’ vehicle’s front passenger seat
deformed rearward causing Stanley to travel into the back
passenger compartment and strike Marjorie, injuring them
brought the instant action on May 5, 2019, asserting a
negligence claim against Twohig and products liability claims
against Ford. Relevant to the motion to dismiss, plaintiffs
have asserted against Ford: (1) a strict liability claim, (2)
a negligence claim, and (3) a breach of warranty claim, all
sounding in products liability and alleging a manufacturing
or design defect in the front passenger seat of the 2014 Ford
Edge. Ford filed a motion to dismiss on June 25, 2019, ECF
No. 9, claiming that the court lacks the constitutional
authority to exercise personal jurisdiction over it.
Plaintiffs responded to Ford’s motion to dismiss on
July 7, 2019, ECF No. 15, and Ford replied to
plaintiffs’ response on July 15, 2019, ECF No. 17. The
court held a hearing on September 18, 2019. The motion is now
ripe for review.
the defendant challenges personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff
has the burden of showing that jurisdiction exists. See
In re Celotex Corp., 124 F.3d 619, 628 (4th Cir. 1997).
When the court decides a personal jurisdiction challenge
without an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff must prove a
prima facie case of personal jurisdiction. See Mylan
Labs., Inc. v. Akzo, N.V., 2 F.3d 56, 60 (4th Cir.
1993). “In considering the challenge on such a record,
the court must construe all relevant pleading allegations in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff, assume
credibility, and draw the most favorable inferences for the
existence of jurisdiction.” In re Celotex
Corp., 124 F.3d at 628 (quoting Combs v.
Bakker, 886 F.2d 673, 676 (4th Cir. 1989)). However, the
court need not “credit conclusory allegations or draw
farfetched inferences.” Masselli & Lane, PC v.
Miller & Schuh, PA, 2000 WL 691100, at *1 (4th Cir.
May 30, 2000) (quoting Ticketmaster-New York, Inc. v.
Alioto, 26 F.3d 201, 203 (1st Cir. 1994)).
Ford’s Motion to Dismiss
argues that plaintiffs cannot show that the court has
personal jurisdiction over it. In their response, plaintiffs
concede that the court does not have general personal
jurisdiction over Ford, but contend that the court may
exercise specific personal jurisdiction over Ford.
Consequently, resolution of the instant motion requires an
analysis of the court’s ability to exercise specific
personal jurisdiction over Ford under South Carolina’s
long-arm statute and in consideration of Ford’s
protections under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution.
Plaintiffs also request the opportunity to conduct
jurisdictional discovery if the court is inclined to find a
lack of personal jurisdiction.
evaluating a challenge to personal jurisdiction under a
state’s long-arm statute, the court engages in a
two-step analysis. Ellicott Mach. Corp. v. John Holland
Party Ltd., 995 F.2d 474, 477 (4th Cir. 1993). First,
the long-arm statute must authorize the exercise of
jurisdiction under the facts presented. Id. Second,
if the statute does authorize jurisdiction, then the court
must determine if the statutory assertion of personal
jurisdiction is consistent with due process. Id.
South Carolina’s long-arm statute extends its reach to
the outer limits allowed by the Due Process Clause.
Foster v. Arletty 3 Sarl, 278 F.3d 409, 414 (4th
Cir. 2002). Consequently, the only question before the court
is whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction would
violate due process. ESAB Grp., Inc. v. Centricut,
LLC, 34 F.Supp.2d 323, 328 (D.S.C. 1999).
process test for personal jurisdiction involves two
components: minimum contacts and fairness. See World-Wide
Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286 (1980). Under
the minimum contacts test, a nonresident defendant must have
certain minimum contacts such that 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, 316 (1945). Due process is satisfied if the court
asserts personal jurisdiction over a defendant who
“purposefully avails itself of the privilege of
conducting activities within the forum state, ”
Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253 (1958), such
that it “should reasonably anticipate being haled into
court there, ” World-Wide Volkswagen, 444 U.S.
at 297. After a showing of the defendant’s purposeful
availment, the reasonableness inquiry balances any burden on
the defendant against countervailing concerns such as the
plaintiff’s interest in obtaining relief and the forum
state’s interest in the controversy. See id.
jurisdiction arises when a cause of action is related to the
defendant's activities within the forum state.
See S.C. Code Ann. § 36-2-803; Helicopteros
Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414
(1984). The Fourth Circuit applies a three-part test when
evaluating the propriety of exercising specific jurisdiction:
(1) whether and to what extent the defendant purposely
availed itself of the privileges of conducting activities in
the forum state, and thus invoked the benefits and
protections of its laws; (2) whether the plaintiff’s
claims arise out of those forum-related activities; and (3)
whether the exercise of jurisdiction is constitutionally
“reasonable.” Christian Sci. Bd. of Dirs. of