United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division
ELIZABETH ERNY FOOTE, UNITED STATES DISTORT JUDGE
before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal
Jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(2) and a Request for Oral Argument filed by Defendant
Louisiana Motor Vehicle Commission ("the LMVC").
[Record Document 6]. Plaintiff SkyRunner, LLC
("SkyRunner") has filed an opposition. [Record
Document 10]. For the reasons discussed below, the LMVC's
motion to dismiss and request for oral argument are
DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE to refiling.
SkyRunner is given leave to amend its complaint by
Monday, December 2, 2019.
case arises out of the LMVC's attempts to regulate
SkyRunner. According to its first amended complaint,
SkyRunner is a Louisiana Limited Liability Company that
manufactures and distributes aircrafts that are certified by
the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA"). Record
Document 5, ¶s 2 & 7. SkyRunner makes a product
called the MK 3.2, which it describes as an FAA certified
special light-sport aircraft. Id. at ¶ 8.
SkyRunner states that the MK 3.2 is "designed to become
airborne to traverse peaks, rivers, lakes, canyons, trees and
cliffs, while being capable of traversing sand, dirt, snow,
and asphalt." Id.
of 2018, the LMVC informed SkyRunner that it needed to
register with the LMVC and that it needed to obtain a
recreational manufacturer and dealer's license.
Id. at ¶s 9 & 10. SkyRunner told the LMVC
that it is already regulated by the FAA and that being
regulated by both entities could result in inconsistency and
overlapping regulations. Id. at ¶s 11 & 12.
The LMVC responded that it "will regulate the portion of
the aircraft that turns into an ATV." Id. at
¶s 12 & 13. On November 29, 2018, the LMVC
threatened to impose penalties and/or other sanctions on
SkyRunner if SkyRunner did not comply with the LMVC's
attempts at regulation. Id. at ¶ 14.
to SkyRunner, the LMVC has no constitutional authority to
regulate it because the LMVC's legal authority only
allows it to regulate motor vehicles and recreational
products and not aircrafts such as the MK 3.2. Id.
at ¶s 15-21. Specifically, SkyRunner contends that the
MK 3.2 does not fall within the legal definition of an ATV
set forth in Louisiana Revised Statute § 32:1251.
Id. at ¶s 15-18. SkyRunner claims that the FAA
is the only entity authorized to regulate aircrafts and that,
as a result, the LMVC is federally preempted from attempting
to regulate SkyRunner. Id. at ¶ 25.
seeks a judgment declaring that (1) the FAA is the only
entity authorized to regulate SkyRunner and the MK 3.2; (2)
Louisiana Revised Statute § 32:1251, et
seq., is preempted by federal law; (3) any attempts
by the LMVC to regulate SkyRunner and/or the MK 3.2 are
preempted or not authorized by existing legislation; and (4)
any attempts by the LMVC to impose fines, penalties, and/or
other sanctions against SkyRunner are preempted or not
authorized by existing legislation. Id. at pp. 8-9.
SkyRunner also requests that the LMVC be required to pay all
of the costs associated with these proceedings. Id.
ARGUMENTS OF THE PARTIES
response to SkyRunner's complaint, the LMVC filed a
motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant
to Rule 12(b)(2). Record Document 6. The LMVC claims that
this lawsuit is barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity, also
known as state sovereign immunity. Record Document 6-1, p. 8.
The Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution prohibits federal
courts from exercising jurisdiction over a non-consenting
state sued by its own citizen or a citizen of any other
state. Id. The LMVC claims that it is entitled to
this immunity because it is an arm of the State of Louisiana.
opposition, SkyRunner acknowledges that the Eleventh
Amendment typically prevents suits against state agencies but
argues that it does not apply to this case. Record Document
10, p. 3. SkyRunner asserts that the Federal Aviation Act
preempts the LMVC from regulating aircrafts and that a state
court should not be allowed to interpret the Act because it
is federal statute. Id. at 3-4. Finally, SkyRunner
requests that, if the Court determine that the LMVC is
entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity, it be allowed to
amend its complaint in accordance with the Ex Parte
Young doctrine and name an acting state official with
the LMVC as a defendant. Id. at 6.
reply, the LMVC asserts that SkyRunner has failed to show
that this Court has personal jurisdiction over it. Record
Document 11, pp. 1-2. As such, the LMVC argues that it has an
unqualified right to a dismissal of this case. Id.
at 1. Finally, the LMVC claims that allowing SkyRunner to
amend its complaint in accordance with the Ex Parte
Young doctrine would only cure a deficiency of subject
matter jurisdiction, not personal jurisdiction. Id.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
LMVC frames its motion as a motion to dismiss for lack of
personal jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2). Record
Document 6, p. 1. However, the Fifth Circuit generally
regards a dismissal based on state sovereign immunity as a
dismissal based on a lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Cantu Servs., Inc. v. Roberie, 535 Fed.Appx. 342,
346 n.3 (5th Cir. 2013). Accordingly, the Court will construe
the instant motion as a motion to dismiss for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1). Motions filed
under Rule 12(b)(1) allow a defendant to challenge the
subject matter jurisdiction of the court to hear a case.
Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th
Cir. 2001). "A case is properly dismissed for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction when the court lacks the
statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the
case." Home Builders Ass'n of Miss., Inc. v.
City of Madison, Miss., 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir.
1998) (quoting Nowak v. Ironworkers Local 6 Pension
Fund, 81 F.3d 1182, 1187 (2d Cir. 1996)). As the party
asserting jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of
proving that jurisdiction exists. Ramming, 281 F.3d
Eleventh Amendment Immunity
court jurisdiction is limited by the Eleventh Amendment to
the Constitution, which bars suits in federal court brought
by a citizen against a state, unless the state consents to
suit or Congress has abrogated the states' Eleventh
Amendment immunity by statute. U.S. Const, amend. XI;
Freimanis v. Sea-LandServ., Inc., 654 F.2d 1155,
1157 (5th Cir. Unit A Sept. 1981); Vogt v. Bd. of
Comm'rs of the Orleans Levee Dist., 294 F.3d 684,
688 (5th Cir. 2002). Even when a state is not named as a
defendant in a federal lawsuit, "[t]he State's
Eleventh Amendment immunity will extend to any state agency
or other political entity that is deemed the 'alter
ego' or an 'arm' of the State."
Vogt, 294 F.3d at 688-89 (citing Regents of the
Univ. of California v. Doe, 519 U.S. 425, 429 (1997)).
In order to determine whether Eleventh Amendment immunity
bars the instant lawsuit, the Court must first determine
whether the LMVC is an arm of the state that is entitled to
the protections of the Eleventh Amendment.
Arm of the State Factors
is no bright-line test for determining whether an entity is
an arm of the state. Id. at 689. The decision
focuses on whether a lawsuit, "despite the presence of a
state agency as the nominal defendant, is effectively against
the sovereign state." Id. (quoting Earles
v. State Bd. ofCertified Public Accountants of
La.,139 F.3d 1033, 1037 (5th Cir. ...