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Turnage v. Messersmith Manufacturing, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division

January 14, 2015

JONATHAN DAVIS TURNAGE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
MESSERSMITH MANUFACTURING, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

KEITH STARRETT, District Judge.

For the reasons stated below, the Court grants Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [4], denies Plaintiffs' Motion [12] for jurisdictional discovery, and grants Plaintiffs' Motion [11] for leave to amend the complaint.

I. BACKGROUND

This is a product liability case. Plaintiff Jonathan Davis Turnage worked in a lumber plant in Silver Creek, Mississippi, cleaning and maintaining an auger which conveys wood materials to a heating system. Plaintiff alleges that the auger turned despite being shut down and secured, and that it severed fingers from each of his hands. He further alleges that Defendant, Messersmith Manufacturing, Inc., manufactured, sold, and installed the auger.

Plaintiff and his wife filed this suit, alleging design, manufacturing, and warning defect claims under the Mississippi Product Liability Act.[1] Defendant is a manufacturing company out of Michigan that designs, fabricates, and installs custom biomass boiler systems. It filed a Motion to Dismiss [4], arguing that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over it. Plaintiffs responded with a Motion for Leave to File [11] an Amended Complaint and a Motion for Jurisdictional Discovery [12]. The motions are ripe for review.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Personal Jurisdiction

Plaintiffs have the burden of making a prima facie showing that the Court has jurisdiction over Defendant. Pervasive Software, Inc. v. Lexware GMBH & Co. KG, 688 F.3d 214, 219 (5th Cir. 2012). "In determining whether personal jurisdiction exists, the trial court is not restricted to a review of the plaintiff's pleadings. It may... determine the jurisdictional issue by receiving affidavits, interrogatories, depositions, oral testimony, or any combination of the recognized methods of discovery." Jobe v. ATR Mktg., 87 F.3d 751, 753 (5th Cir. 1996). However, the Court must accept Plaintiffs' undisputed allegations as true and resolve all factual disputes in Plaintiff's favor. Pervasive Software, 688 F.3d at 219-20; McFadin v. Gerber, 587 F.3d 753, 758 (5th Cir. 2009).

"A federal court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant if (1) the forum state's long-arm statute confers personal jurisdiction over that defendant; and (2) the exercise of personal jurisdiction comports with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." McFadin, 587 F.3d at 759. Defendant's motion only addresses the due process clause. The Court's analysis varies depending on the type of jurisdiction asserted. "Jurisdiction may be general or specific, depending on the nature of the defendant's forum-related contacts." Jackson v. Tanfoglio Giuseppe S.R.L., 615 F.3d 579, 584 (5th Cir. 2010).

1. General Jurisdiction

"General jurisdiction may be found when the defendant's contacts with the forum state are substantial, continuous, and systematic." Id. This test "is a difficult one to meet, requiring extensive contacts between a defendant and a forum. To confer general jurisdiction, a defendant must have a business presence in the forum state. Injecting a product, even in substantial volume, into a forum state's stream of commerce, ' without more, does not support general jurisdiction." Id. (citations and punctuation omitted).

Plaintiffs have not offered any evidence, and the allegations of the Amended Complaint [1-2] are insufficient to demonstrate that Defendant has "substantial, continuous, and systematic" contacts with the state of Mississippi. Plaintiffs only alleged that Defendant manufactured the auger that injured him.

Defendant offered the declaration [4-1] of Gailyn Messersmith, its owner. Messersmith declared that Defendant has no plant, offices, real or personal property, employees, bank accounts, or any other assets in Mississippi. He declared that Defendant conducts no business in Mississippi, that it has no contracts with Mississippi residents, and that it has never availed itself of the protection of Mississippi's laws or court system. He declared that Defendant has never designed or fabricated a boiler system to be installed in Mississippi, nor has it ever installed or sold a boiler system in Mississippi.

Plaintiffs have offered nothing to dispute Defendant's evidence. Therefore, they have not carried their prima facie burden to demonstrate "substantial, continuous, and systematic" contacts with the state of Mississippi. Id. at 584-85 (defendant had no office, bank accounts, employees, address, property in forum state; it had not registered to do ...


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