United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division
NIYA S. WALLACE, Plaintiff,
YAMAHA MOTORS CORP., U.S.A., Defendant.
C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
following matter is before the court on defendant Yamaha
Motors Corp., U.S.A.'s (“Yamaha”) motion to
dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, ECF No. 4. For the
reasons set forth below, the court grants the motion.
products liability action arose from a car accident in
Daytona Beach, Florida. On March 26, 2016, plaintiff Niya S.
Wallace (“Wallace”) was driving a Yamaha YZF R6
motorcycle when she was allegedly struck from the
rear by a Nissan sedan driven by Debra J. Clark, who is not a
party to this action. Wallace was ejected from the
motorcycle, and she alleges that the fuel tank also separated
from the motorcycle upon impact. Wallace further alleges that
the Nissan sedan continued forward, dragging her and the
motorcycle a short distance when the motorcycle “burst
into flames and continued to burn until after the vehicles
came to rest” a short time later. ECF No. 1-1 at ¶
12. Wallace suffered severe burns as a result of exposure to
February 1, 2019, Wallace filed this action in the Hampton
County Court of Common Pleas, asserting claims for
negligence, breach of warranty, and strict liability on a
defective design theory based on the motorcycle's alleged
uncrashworthiness. ECF No. 1-1. On March 11, 2019, Yamaha
removed the case to the district court on the basis of
diversity jurisdiction. ECF No. 1. The next day, Yamaha filed
the instant motion to dismiss based on a lack of personal
jurisdiction. ECF No. 4. On June 4, 2019, the court granted
Wallace's motion to conduct jurisdictional discovery and
stayed the deadline for Wallace to respond to Yamaha's
motion to dismiss. ECF No. 21. On September 10, 2019, Wallace
responded to the motion to dismiss, ECF No. 26, to which
Yamaha replied on September 17, 2019, ECF No. 27. On
September 29, Wallace filed a motion for leave to file
sur-reply, ECF No. 29, which this court granted, ECF No. 32.
Yamaha responded to Wallace's sur-reply, ECF No. 33. On
November 1, 2019, the court held a hearing on the motion. As
such, this matter is ripe for the court's 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)).
contends that the court cannot exercise personal jurisdiction
over it. The parties agree that Yamaha's contacts with
South Carolina, while extensive, are insufficient to subject
Yamaha to general personal jurisdiction in the
state. Instead, Wallace contends that the court
can exercise specific jurisdiction over Yamaha based on
Yamaha's suit-related contacts with the forum state.
Consequently, resolution of the instant motion requires an
analysis of the court's ability to exercise specific
jurisdiction over Yamaha under South Carolina's long-arm
statute and in consideration of Yamaha's protections
under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution. For the
reasons discussed below, the court does not have specific
jurisdiction over Yamaha.
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. at
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
the First Church of Christ v. Nolan, 259 F.3d 209,
215-16 (4th Cir. 2001) (citing Helicopteros, 466
U.S. at 414-16; Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471
U.S. 462, 472, 476-77 (1985)). To show that an exercise of
specific jurisdiction over a defendant comports with due
process, a plaintiff “must prevail on each
prong.” Perdue Foods LLC v. BRF S.A., 814 F.3d
185, 189 (4th Cir. 2016).
Supreme Court has made clear that the second prong of the
test for specific jurisdiction-the “arises out
of” requirement-is a necessary element, not a factor
that leaves room for discretion: “In order for a state
court to exercise specific jurisdiction, the suit
must aris[e] out of or relat[e] to the
defendant's contacts with the forum.”
Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California,
San Francisco Cty., 137 S.Ct. 1773, 1780 (2017) (quoting
and citing Daimler, 571 U.S. at 117; Burger
King, 471 U.S. at 472- 473; Helicopteros, 466
U.S. at 414) (internal quotation marks omitted) (emphasis
added). “When there is no such connection [between the
plaintiffs' claims and the defendant's contacts with
the forum], specific jurisdiction is lacking regardless of
the extent of a defendant's unconnected activities in the
State.” Bristol-Myers, 137 S.Ct. at 1781.
Further, claims to which specific jurisdiction will attach
“must arise out of contacts that the
‘defendant himself' ...