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Boudreaux v. U.S. Framing

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division

August 23, 2018

HARRY LEE BOUDREAUX
v.
U.S. FRAMING, ET AL.

          ROBERT G. JAMES JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          CAROL B. WHITEHURST LILTED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court, on referral from the district judge, is the Rule 12(b)(2) Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction [Doc. 116] filed by defendant Javier Hernandez (Hernandez). Plaintiff Harry Lee Boudreaux (“plaintiff”) opposes the motion [Doc. 122], as does the intervenor Louisiana Construction & Industry Self-Insurers Fund (“The Fund”), which seeks to assert its rights as Boudreaux's workers compensation carrier [Doc. 124].[1] Hernandez filed a reply brief [Doc. 134]. For the reasons that follow, the undersigned recommends that the motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction be GRANTED, and that the claims of the plaintiff and the intervenor against Javier Hernandez be DENIED AND DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The instant lawsuit arises out of a construction site accident wherein plaintiff Harry Lee Boudreaux allegedly sustained injuries while working on an apartment building project in Lafayette, Louisiana on August 22, 2016. In his original Complaint, Boudreaux alleged he was working in his capacity as an employee of DeMar Staffing and was assisting a co-worker with making repairs to a fence at the apartment complex, while employees of U.S. Framing were installing roof decking at the same apartment complex. Plaintiff alleges that while he was working, a piece of oriented strand board fell from the roof of Building 5, striking him in the back and injuring him.

         The plaintiff sued U.S. Framing, Inc. (“U.S. Framing”) in the Fifteenth Judicial District Court for the State of Louisiana. U.S Framing removed the matter to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction on April 11, 2017. Thereafter, on June 9, 2017, Boudreaux amended his complaint to add CJR Framing, along with CJR's alleged insurer, Rockingham Ins. Co., and Grange Mutual Casualty Co., the alleged insurer of U.S. Framing. In his First Amended Complaint, Boudreaux alleges CJR Framing was one of U.S. Framing's subcontractors that was installing the roof decking at Building 5 that allegedly injured him. Subsequently, Louisiana Construction & Industry Self Insurers Fund (“the Fund”) filed a Complaint of Intervention, seeking to assert its rights, if any, as Boudreaux's workers' compensation carrier.

         Thereafter, on February 8, 2018, the plaintiff amended his Complaint again, to add as defendants Raul Hernandez, Javier Hernandez, Carmen Hernandez, and Humberto Hernandez, all corporate officers and/or construction site supervisors of the defendant corporation CJR Framing, Inc.[2] The motion before the Court was filed by Javier Hernandez, who has been sued for his direct negligence and in his capacity as the Secretary and member of the Board of Directors of CJR Framing, Inc. Hernandez now seeks to dismiss the claims against him on grounds this Court does not have personal jurisdiction over him.

         II. LAW AND DISCUSSION

         “Where a defendant challenges personal jurisdiction, the party seeking to invoke the power of the court bears the burden of proving that jurisdiction exists.” Luv N'care, Ltd. v. Insta-Mix, Inc., 438 F.3d 465, 469 (5th Cir. 2006). The plaintiff bears the burden in the instant case of establishing the personal jurisdiction of this Court over Hernandez.

         When a court rules on a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction without holding an evidentiary hearing, as in this case, the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction. Guidry v. U.S. Tobacco, Co., Inc., 188 F.3d 619, 625 (5th Cir. 1999). “The allegations of the complaint, except insofar as controverted by opposing affidavits, must be taken as true, and all conflicts in the facts must be resolved in favor of the plaintiff[ ] for purposes of determining whether a prima facie case for personal jurisdiction has been established.” Thompson v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 755 F.2d 1162, 1165 (5th Cir. 1985). “In determining whether personal jurisdiction exists, the trial court is not restricted to a review of the plaintiff's pleadings.” Jobe v. ATR Mktg., Inc., 87 F.3d 751, 753 (5th Cir. 1996). The Court may consider matters outside the complaint, including affidavits, interrogatories, depositions, or any combination of the recognized methods of discovery. Id.

         “Jurisdiction may be general or specific.” Mullins v. Testamerica, Inc., 564 F.3d 386, 398 (5th Cir. 2009), citing Stroman Realty, Inc. v. Wercinski, 513 F.3d 476, 484 (5th Cir.2008). Specific jurisdiction exists when the plaintiff's claim against the non-resident defendant arises out of or relates to activities that the defendant purposefully directed at the forum state. Alpine View Co. v. Atlas Copco AB, 205 F.3d 208, 215 (5th Cir.2000), quoting Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472, 105 S.Ct. 2174, 85 L.Ed.2d 528 (1985). In contrast, general jurisdiction requires the defendant to have maintained “continuous and systematic” contacts with the forum state. Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 415-16, 104 S.Ct. 1868, 80 L.Ed.2d 404 (1984).

         Jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant is proper when (1) the defendant is amenable to service of process under the long-arm statute of the forum state and (2) the exercise of personal jurisdiction is consistent with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Dalton v. R&W Marine, Inc., 897 F.2d 1359, 1361 (5th Cir. 1990). In the instant case, “these two inquiries merge into one because Louisiana's long-arm statute permits service of process coterminous with the scope of the due process clause.” Nuovo Pignone, SpA v. STORMAN ASIA M/V, 310 F.3d 374, 378 (5thCir. 2002) (reversed in part on other grounds), citing La. R.S. 13:3201(B). “The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects a corporation, as it does an individual, against being made subject to “the binding judgments of a forum with which it has established no meaningful ‘contacts, ties, or relations.'” Pervasive Software Inc. v. Lexware GmbH & Co. KG, 688 F.3d 214, 2205th Cir. 2012).

         A court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant when “(1) that defendant has purposefully availed itself of the benefits and protections of the forum state by establishing ‘minimum contacts' with the forum state and (2) the exercise of personal jurisdiction over that defendant does not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'” Latshaw v. Johnston, 167 F.3d 208, 211 (5th Cir. 1999) quoting Int'l Shoe, 326 U.S. at 316.

         “Minimum contacts” can be established through specific jurisdiction or general jurisdiction. Alpine View Co. Ltd. v. Atlas Copco AB, 205 F.3d 208, 215 (5th Cir. 2000). Specific personal jurisdiction exists (1) when a defendant has purposely directed its activities, or availed itself of the privileges of conducting its activities, toward the forum state; (2) the controversy arises out of or is related to those activities; and (3) the exercise of jurisdiction is fair, just, and reasonable. Nuovo Pignone, SpA, 310 F.3d 378, citing Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472 (1985). General personal jurisdiction exists when the defendant has engaged in continuous and systematic activities in the forum state, regardless of whether such activity is related to the plaintiff's cause of action. Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 415 (1984).

         “If a nonresident defendant has sufficient related or unrelated minimum contacts with the forum, we must then consider whether the ‘fairness' prong of the jurisdictional inquiry is satisfied.” Wilson v. Belin, 20 F.3d 644, 647 (5th Cir. 1994). The fairness inquiry is determined by analyzing several factors: (1) the burden upon the nonresident defendant of litigating in the forum state; (2) the interests of the forum state; (3) the plaintiff's interest in securing relief; (4) the judicial system's interest in obtaining an efficient resolution of controversies; and (5) the shared interest of the states in furthering fundamental substantive social policies. Bullion v. Gillespie, 895 F.2d 213, 216 n.5 (5th Cir. 1990).

         A. Specific jurisdiction analysis

         Specific personal jurisdiction exists (1) when a defendant has purposely directed its activities, or availed itself of the privileges of conducting its activities, toward the forum state; (2) the controversy arises out of or is related to those activities; and (3) the exercise of jurisdiction is fair, just, and reasonable. Nuovo Pignone, SpA, 310 F.3d 378, citing Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472 (1985). As the Court stated in Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 2851, 180 L.Ed.2d 796 (U.S. 2011):

Specific jurisdiction . . . depends on an “affiliatio[n] between the forum and the underlying controversy, ” principally, activity or an occurrence that takes place in the forum State and is therefore subject to the State's regulation. In contrast to general, all-purpose jurisdiction, specific jurisdiction is confined to adjudication of “issues deriving from, or connected with, the very controversy that establishes jurisdiction.”

(internal citations omitted).

         After careful analysis of the arguments and record in this matter, the undersigned concludes that plaintiff fails to establish that this Court has specific jurisdiction over Hernandez. Hernandez has not purposefully directed his activities toward Louisiana or purposefully availed himself of the privileges of conducting activities in Louisiana. Plaintiff does not dispute that Hernandez lives and works in Texas. Additionally, there are no allegations that Hernandez maintains any residences in Louisiana, maintains any financial accounts in Louisiana, receives mail in Louisiana, travels to Louisiana, or otherwise personally conducts any business in Louisiana.

         A close look at the allegations contained in the Second Amended Complaint reveals that such allegations do not precisely state a connection between Hernandez and the state ...


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