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Skin Consultants, LLC v. Textron Aviation, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

September 26, 2018

SKIN CONSULTANTS, LLC, and J&K MANAGEMENT, LLC PLAINTIFFS
v.
TEXTRON AVIATION, INC., TEXTRON, INC., TEXTRON AVIATION RHODE ISLAND, INC., and WILLIAMS INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          SHARION AYCOCK UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Plaintiffs Skin Consultants, LLC, and J&K Management, LLC originally filed this case in the Circuit Court of Washington County, Mississippi. Defendants, Textron Aviation, Inc., Textron, Inc., and Textron Aviation Rhode Island, Inc. removed the case to this Court premising federal jurisdiction on the basis of diversity of citizenship. See Notice of Removal [1]. Defendant Williams International Corporation joined in the removal. See Joinder [4].

         Now before the Court are two separate Motions to Dismiss, or in the alternative, to Compel Arbitration [6, 13] brought by Williams, and the Textron Defendants respectively. In their Motions the Defendants request that the Court dismiss the Plaintiffs' Complaint [2], arguing that the Court does not have personal jurisdiction over them. In the alternative, the Defendants request that the Court stay this case and compel the Parties to arbitrate their claims. These issues are fully briefed and ripe for review.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Skin Consultants owns a Cessna Model 525 airplane based at the Mid-Delta Regional Airport in Washington County, Mississippi. J&K Management is the lessee and management company for the airplane. On December 11, 2014 the Plaintiffs entered into a contract with Williams for airplane maintenance on the Cessna. Around the same time, the Plaintiffs entered into a second service contract with Textron for airplane parts.

         In early August of 2017 the Plaintiffs' pilot noticed that the Cessna's right engine was consuming more oil than usual. The Pilot contacted Textron to inquire about the oil consumption and repair options. Textron instructed the Pilot to bring the Cessna to their service center in Wichita Kansas, which he did. According to the Plaintiff, Textron and Williams performed repairs and installed new parts on the Cessna and released the aircraft back to the Plaintiffs. While flying back to Mississippi the Pilot noticed some smoke and an unusual odor in the cockpit but was able to complete the return trip without incident and parked the plane in its hangar.

         The next morning the Pilot noticed oil leakage from the right engine and contacted the Defendants to report his finding. The Defendants sent a repair team to the airport in Washington County. According to the Plaintiffs, the repair team discovered that a seal was installed backwards during the recent repairs in Kansas. The backwards seal caused additional problems and the entire engine was removed from the plane, shipped to the Defendants' repair center in Michigan for further repairs, and after several weeks, returned and reinstalled. The Cessna was then returned to regular service.

         The Plaintiffs, both Mississippi citizens, filed this case in the Circuit Court of Washington County, Mississippi alleging various causes of action against the Defendants including negligent repairs, gross negligence, failure to properly train and supervise employees, and violations of the implied warranty of merchantability. The Defendants, both citizens of states other than Mississippi, removed the case to this court premising jurisdiction on diversity of citizenship. The Defendants now seek dismissal of all of the Plaintiffs' claims arguing that this Court does not have personal jurisdiction over them. In the alternative, the Defendants request that the Court compel the Parties to arbitrate their disputes. The Court will take up the jurisdictional issue first, and then proceed to the arbitration issue if necessary.

         Personal Jurisdiction

         When determining whether a defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction, the Court must accept as true the uncontroverted factual allegations in the plaintiff's complaint, a prima facie showing is all that is required. Companion Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Palermo, 723 F.3d 557, 559 (5th Cir. 2013) (citing Luv N' Care, Ltd. v. Insta-Mix, Inc., 438 F.3d 465, 469 (5th Cir. 2006). In diversity cases, the exercise of personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant must comport with both the long-arm statute of the state in which the district court is located, and federal constitutional due process requirements. Companion, 723 F.3d at 559 (citing Paz v. Brush Engineered Materials, Inc., 445 F.3d 809, 812 (5th Cir. 2006).

         Mississippi's long-arm statute provides that the courts shall have jurisdiction over a nonresident who: (1) “make[s] a contract with a resident of this state to be performed in whole or in part by any party in this state, ” (2) “commit[s] a tort in whole or in part in this state against a resident or nonresident”, or (3) “do[es] any business or perform[s] any character of work or service in this state.” Miss. Code Ann. § 13-3-57.

         “Personal jurisdiction comports with due process when first, the defendant has the requisite minimum contacts with the forum state and second, requiring the defendant to submit to jurisdiction in the forum state would not infringe on ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'” Companion, 723 F.3d at 559 (citing Asahi Metal Indus. Co. v. Superior Court, 480 U.S. 102, 105, 107 S.Ct. 1026, 94 L.Ed.2d 92 (1987); International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945)). “A non-resident defendant establishes such minimum contacts by purposefully availing himself of the benefits of the forum state, so that he ‘should reasonably anticipate being haled into court' there.” Companion, 723 F.3d at 559 (citing Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. at 475, 105 S.Ct. 2174; World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297, 100 S.Ct. 559, 62 L.Ed.2d 490 (1980)).

         Personal jurisdiction may be “specific” or “general”. For specific personal jurisdiction, a plaintiff makes a prima facie showing of minimum contacts when his claim arises from the defendant's contact with the forum. Companion, 723 F.3d at 559 (citing Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 104 S.Ct. 1868, 80 L.Ed.2d 404 (1984)). For general personal jurisdiction, a plaintiff makes the requisite showing when that defendant's contacts are “continuous and systematic, ” so that the exercise of jurisdiction is proper irrespective of the relationship between the claim and the defendant's contact with the forum. Companion, 723 F.3d at 559 (citing Perkins v. Benguet Consol. Mining Co., 342 U.S. 437, 72 S.Ct. 413, 96 L.Ed. 485 (1952)).

         Discussion ...


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