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Lake Air Service LLC v. Kansas Aviation of Independence LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division

July 11, 2019





         Before the court is a Motion to Dismiss [doc. 42] filed by third-party defendant Woodward, Inc. (''Woodward") under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) and relating to the third-party complaint filed against it by defendant/third-party plaintiff Kansas Aviation of Independence, LLC ("Kansas Aviation"). Kansas Aviation opposes the motion [doc. 46], which is now ripe for review.

         I. Background

         This action began on May 3, 2017, with a complaint filed by Lake Air Service, LLC ("Lake Air") in the 31st Judicial District, Jefferson Davis Parish, Louisiana, against Kansas Aviation and its insurer. Doc. 1. att. 2. Lake Air alleged that in January 2016, Kansas Aviation had overhauled the fuel control unit for the engine of Lake Air's airplane and issued an "'Airworthiness Approval Tag," followed by a certification in February 2016 releasing the part to service. Id. at 3. Lake Air maintains that Kansas Aviation negligently performed this work, causing a power surge that damaged the engine during a flight leaving from Lake Arthur, Louisiana, on May 4, 2016. Id. at 3-5.

         Kansas Aviation removed the matter to this court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Doc. 1. It then moved for dismissal of all claims under Rule 12(b)(2), asserting a lack of personal jurisdiction. Doc. 6. The court disagreed, finding sufficient minimum contacts under a stream of commerce theory between Kansas Aviation and this state, based on Kansas Aviation's contract to perform maintenance/overhaul on parts provided by Enemy Aircraft, LLC, an Arkansas aviation repair facility; and its work under that contract on the fuel control unit that is the subject of this action. Docs. 16, 19.

         Lake Air amended its complaint on January 16, 2019, to add a claim against Kansas Aviation under the Louisiana Products Liability Act ("LPLA"), Louisiana Revised Statute § 9:2800.51 el seq. Doc. 34. Specifically, Lake Air asserts that Kansas Aviation's overhaul work on the fuel control unit renders it the manufacturer of that part under Louisiana law and that it is therefore liable for the part's allegedly dangerous condition. Id. Kansas Aviation then filed a third-party complaint against Woodward, Inc., a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Fort Collins, Colorado. Doc. 36; see doc. 42, att. 3 (correcting principal place of business). Kansas Aviation alleges that (1) Woodward is the manufacturer of the fuel control unit and its component parts, (2) its own work on the fuel control unit was strictly limited to overhauling that part in accordance with Woodward's guidelines, and (3) it (Kansas Aviation) is therefore entitled to indemnity from Woodward based on any finding of fault under the LPLA. Id.

         Woodward now moves to dismiss this claim for lack of personal jurisdiction. Doc, 42. Kansas Aviation opposes the motion, arguing that the court has specific personal jurisdiction over Woodward under the same stream of commerce theory used to support its jurisdiction over Kansas Aviation in the previous motion. Doc. 46.

         II. Legal Standards

         A parly seeking lo invoke the power of the court bears the burden of proving that jurisdiction exists, and so the plaintiff carries the burden on the defendant's challenge to personal jurisdiction. Lav N' Care, Ltd. v. Insta-Mix, Inc., 438 F.3d 465, 469 (5th Cir. 2006) (citing Wyail v. Kaplan, 686 F.2d 276, 280 (5th Cir. 1982)). However, the plaintiff is only required to make a prima facie showing and the court must resolve all undisputed facts submitted by the plaintiff, as well as all facts contested in the affidavit, in favor of jurisdiction, Id.

         Two conditions must be satisfied before this court will assert personal jurisdiction: (1) the defendant must be amenable to service under the forum state's long-arm statute, and (2) the assertion of jurisdiction must comport with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Jones v. Petty-Ray Geophysical Geosoitrce, Inc., 954 F.2d 1061, 1067 (5th Cir. 1992), The Louisiana long-arm statute is coextensive with the limits of due process. E.g., Laird v. Deep Marine Technology. Inc., 2004 WL 2984282, *1 (E.D, La. Dec. 7, 2004). Therefore the requirements are combined for the purpose of this analysis. Id.

         In order for personal jurisdiction to comport with constitutional standards of due process, the plaintiff must show that (1) the defendant purposefully availed itself of the benefits and protections of the forum state by establishing "minimum contacts" with that state; and (2) exercising jurisdiction over the defendant would not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. Jones, 954 F.2d at 1068. The "minimum contacts" prong may be met through contacts giving rise to either general or specific jurisdiction. Gundle Lining Constr. Corp. v. Adams Cnty. Asphalt, Inc., 85 F.3d 201, 205 (5th Cir. 1996). Specific jurisdiction, which is asserted here, exists when a nonresident defendant "has purposefully directed its activities at the forum slate and the litigation results from alleged injuries that arise out of or relate to those activities." Walk Haydel & Assocs.. Inc. v. Coastal Power Prod Co., 517 F.3d 235, 243 (5th Cir. 2008). Due process thus requires (1) minimum contacts purposefully directed at the forum state, (2) a nexus between the contacts and the claims, and (3) that the exercise of jurisdiction will be fair and reasonable (the second prong described above). McFadin v. Gerber, 587 F.3d 753, 759-60 (5th Cir. 2009); see also ITL Int'l, Inc. v. Comtenla, S.A., 669 F.3d 493, 498 (5th Cir. 2012).

         It is the plaintiffs burden to satisfy the first two prongs, with the burden then shifting to the movant to show that an exercise of jurisdiction would be unfair or unreasonable. Seiferlh v. Helicopteros Atuneros, Inc., 472 F.3d 266, 271 (5th Cir. 2006). To determine whether the "fair play" prong is met, the courts look to five factors: "(1) the burden on the nonresident defendant, (2) the forum state's interest, (3) the plaintiffs interest in securing relief, (4) the interest of the interstate judicial system in the efficient administration of justice, and (5) the shared interest of the several states in furthering fundamental social policies," McFadin, 587 F.3d at 759-60. "It is rare to say the assertion ...

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