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Wise v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP

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

August 9, 2019

CHRISTOPHER WISE PLAINTIFF
v.
WAL-MART STORES EAST, LP, et al. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          DEBRA M. BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This personal injury case is before the Court on the motion to dismiss of Wal-Mart Stores East, LP and Sam's East, Inc. Doc. #9.

         I

         Procedural History

         On November 20, 2018, Christopher Wise filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi against “Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, ” and “Sams East LP.”[1] Doc. #1. The complaint asserted claims for negligence arising from a fall Wise suffered while attempting to enter a Sam's Club store located in Memphis, Tennessee. Id. at ¶ 5.

         On January 14, 2019, Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P., [2] and Sam's East, Inc.[3] filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, improper venue, insufficient process, and insufficient service of process. Doc. #9 at 1. Wise responded in opposition to the motion to dismiss on February 11, 2019.[4] Doc. #20. No reply was filed.

         II

          Analysis

         Where, as here, a defendant raises the threshold defense of personal jurisdiction (or the related issues of sufficiency and service of process)[5] and venue, “[t]he question of personal jurisdiction, which goes to the court's power to exercise control over the parties, is typically decided in advance of venue, which is primarily a matter of choosing a convenient forum.” Leroy v. Great W. United Corp., 443 U.S. 173, 180 (1979). The Court, therefore, will consider the issue of personal jurisdiction first.

         Under Rule 12(b)(2), the “plaintiff bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction, but need only present prima facie evidence.” Patterson v. Aker Sols. Inc., 826 F.3d 231, 233 (5th Cir. 2016) (emphasis omitted). To determine whether a plaintiff has made a prima facie case, the court “must accept the plaintiff's uncontroverted allegations, and resolve in his favor all conflicts between the facts contained in the parties' affidavits and other documentation.” Id. (alteration omitted). “[A]llegations in a … brief or legal memorandum are insufficient, even under the relatively relaxed prima facie standard, to establish jurisdictional facts.” Barrett v. Lombardi, 239 F.3d 23, 27 (1st Cir. 2001).

         “In a federal diversity suit, the reach of federal [personal] jurisdiction over nonresident defendants is measured by a two-step inquiry.” Jobe v. ATR Mktg., Inc., 87 F.3d 751, 753 (5th Cir. 1996). “First, the law of the forum state must provide for the assertion of such jurisdiction; and, second, the exercise of jurisdiction under state law must comport with the dictates of the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause.” Id. At the second step, a court asks whether the defendant is subject to either general or specific personal jurisdiction. In re DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., Pinnacle Hip Implant Prod. Liab. Litig, 888 F.3d 753, 778 (5th Cir. 2018). General jurisdiction requires “continuous and systematic forum contacts and allows for jurisdiction over all claims against the defendant, no matter their connection to the forum.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Specific jurisdiction, in contrast, requires only that the defendant have “purposefully direct[ed] his activities toward the state” and that the plaintiff's claim “arises out of or is related to the defendant's forum contacts.” Id. (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted).

         Wise argues that general jurisdiction exists here because:

In Gulf Coast Bank & Tr. Co. v. Designed Conveyour Sys, LLC, [717 Fed.Appx. 394 (5th Cir. 2017)], the Fifth Circuit held that a corporation could consent to personal jurisdiction and in turn venue if the state's highest court had previously construed registration to constitute to consent to personal jurisdiction. In Estate of Jones v. Phillips, 992 [So.2d] 1131, n4. (Miss. 2008), the Mississippi Supreme Court held that registering to ...

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