Law Office of William R. Brenske and William R. Brenske, Las Vegas; Raleigh & Hunt, P.C., and John A. Hunt, Anastasia L. Noe, and Bert E. Wuester, Jr., Las Vegas, for Appellants.
Barron & Pruitt, LLP, and Peter A. Mazzeo and Jared G. Christensen, North Las Vegas; Lewis & Roca, LLP, and Daniel F. Polsenberg, Las Vegas, for Respondent.
BEFORE THE COURT EN BANC.
This case arises from a personal injury action filed by appellants Melinda and Jagdish Dogra. They sued respondent Jane H. Liles and her daughter Susan Liles, both California residents, for damages stemming from a car accident in Nevada. The accident occurred when Susan was driving Jane's car.
The central issue in this appeal is whether Jane, a nonresident defendant, is subject to personal jurisdiction in Nevada by virtue of the accident. Additionally, we address whether Jane's filing of a motion to consolidate in a Nevada court waived her right to object to the court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over her. Finally, we examine whether an interpleader action filed by Jane's insurance company subjects its insured— here, Jane— to personal jurisdiction in Nevada.
We hold that a nonresident defendant is not subject to personal jurisdiction in Nevada when the sole basis asserted is his or her adult child's unilateral act of driving the defendant's vehicle in Nevada. Secondly, because the consolidation motion did not implicate the parties' substantive legal rights, we conclude Jane's filing of it did not amount to a request for affirmative relief sufficient to constitute a waiver of the right to object to the court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over her. Finally, we conclude that the interpleader action could subject Jane to jurisdiction in Nevada courts if the insurance company was acting as Jane's agent in filing the action. But because the issue surrounding the interpleader action was not adequately addressed in the district court, we remand so that it can be analyzed under principles of agency.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Jane, a California resident, purchased and registered, in California, a Scion for her daughter Susan to use as Susan's primary means of transportation while attending high school and college in that state. Jane made all of the payments on the vehicle, registered it in California in her own name, and placed it on her insurance policy. On the policy, Jane named Susan as the primary driver.
While in college, Susan drove the Scion to Nevada for a weekend trip. While traveling in Nevada on Interstate 15, she lost control of the vehicle and swerved in front of another car. The second car swerved to avoid a collision but crashed into the interstate's median, which caused it to flip over the median and land on the Dogras' car.
As a result of the accident, Jane's insurance company filed an interpleader action in Nevada, leaving the injured parties to settle their respective rights to any money due under the insurance policy. Thereafter, the Dogras and three other sets of plaintiffs separately sued Susan and Jane for negligence and negligent entrustment for damages caused during the accident. In the Dogras' action, Jane moved under NRCP 12(b)(2) to dismiss the complaint due to lack of personal jurisdiction. The Dogras opposed Jane's motion, arguing that Nevada could properly exercise personal jurisdiction over Jane because she had sufficient contacts with Nevada. The district court scheduled a hearing for the parties to present their arguments.
Following the hearing, the district court granted Jane's motion to dismiss. Six days later, Jane and Susan moved to consolidate all lawsuits stemming from the accident, including the Dogras' action. The Dogras then asserted that, by filing the motion to consolidate, Jane became subject to Nevada's jurisdiction. The district court granted the consolidation motion and concluded that the motion did not subject Jane to Nevada's jurisdiction.
Susan and Jane were subsequently deposed. At Susan's deposition, she testified that Jane did not prohibit her from driving the Scion to Nevada. At Jane's deposition, she testified similarly about the no-restrictions policy. She also testified that she did not remember whether she knew about Susan's trip to Las Vegas before the accident. After obtaining the transcript of Susan's deposition testimony, the Dogras filed a motion for reconsideration and, alternatively, a motion to certify the dismissal order as final pursuant to NRCP 54(b). The Dogras
claimed that Susan's deposition testimony constituted new and previously unavailable evidence proving that Jane was subject to Nevada's jurisdiction because she placed no restrictions on Susan's use of the vehicle. After full briefing and a hearing, the district court denied the Dogras' motion for reconsideration, determining the statements Susan made in her deposition were not new and substantially different evidence. The district court granted the Dogras' motion to certify the dismissal order as final pursuant to NRCP 54(b), and this appeal followed.
On appeal, the Dogras contend that the district court erred in determining it lacked personal jurisdiction over Jane. They assert three theories in support of their position: (1) Jane has sufficient minimum contacts with Nevada to subject her to suit here based on the fact that she let Susan use her car in this state; (2) Jane sought affirmative relief in Nevada courts by filing the motion to consolidate, which subjects her to suit here; and (3) Jane acquiesced to the jurisdiction of Nevada courts over this matter when, through her insurer, she filed an interpleader action here.
We review a district court's order regarding jurisdictional issues de novo when the facts are undisputed. Baker v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court, 116 Nev. 527, 531, 999 P.2d 1020, 1023 (2000). We review a district court's factual findings regarding a personal jurisdiction issue for clear error. Ogawa v. Ogawa, 125 Nev. 660, 668, 221 P.3d 699, 704 (2009).
The Dogras assert that Susan's act of driving the Scion in Nevada subjected Jane to Nevada's jurisdiction because she entrusted the vehicle to Susan and did not place any restrictions on Susan's use of the vehicle, which resulted in injury in Nevada. Put more directly, the Dogras argue that Jane, by placing no restrictions on Susan's use of the Scion, specifically authorized Susan to drive to Nevada, thereby ...