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Couvillier v. Dillingham & Associates

United States District Court, D. Nevada

July 23, 2014

MAXIMILIANO COUVILLIER III, Plaintiff,
v.
DILLINGHAM & ASSOCIATES, Defendant.

ORDER

ROBERT C. JONES, District Judge.

This case arises out of an attempt to collect delinquent homeowner association ("HOA") dues. Pending before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 13) for lack of personal jurisdiction. For the reasons given herein, the Court denies the motion.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Sometime before February 2014, Plaintiff Maximiliano Couvillier III incurred debt for unpaid HOA dues for a property located in California. ( See Compl. ¶ 19, Apr. 1, 2014, ECF No. 1). That debt, the validity of which Plaintiff does not admit or deny, was later transferred to Defendant Dillingham & Associates ("Dillingham") for collection. ( See id. ¶¶ 20-21). On or about February 6, 2014, Dillingham sent Couvillier a letter to Couvillier's Nevada address in an attempt to collect the debt. ( Id. ¶ 22-23). Couvillier sued Dillingham in this Court, alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., and the Nevada Deceptive Trade Practices Act ("NDTPA"), Nev. Rev. Stat. ch. 598. Couvillier has styled the action as a class action. Dillingham has moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A defendant may move to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). Jurisdiction exists if: (1) provided for by law; and (2) the exercise of jurisdiction comports with due process. See Greenspun v. Del E. Webb Corp., 634 F.2d 1204, 1207 (9th Cir. 1980). When no federal statute governs personal jurisdiction, a federal court applies the law of the forum state. See Boschetto v. Hansing, 539 F.3d 1011, 1015 (9th Cir. 2008). Where a forum state's long-arm statute provides its courts jurisdiction to the fullest extent of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, such as Nevada's does, see Arbella Mut. Ins. Co. v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court, 134 P.3d 710, 712 (Nev. 2006) (citing Nev. Rev. Stat. § 14.065), a court need only apply federal due process standards, see Boschetto, 539 F.3d at 1015.[1]

There are two categories of personal jurisdiction: general jurisdiction and specific jurisdiction. Traditionally, general jurisdiction exists over a defendant who has "substantial" or "continuous and systematic" contacts with the forum state such that the assertion of personal jurisdiction over her is constitutionally fair even where the claims are unrelated to those contacts. See Tuazon v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 433 F.3d 1163, 1171 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 415 (1984)). A state court has general jurisdiction over the state's own residents, for example.

The Supreme Court recently clarified that general personal jurisdiction exists only where a company is at "home" in the forum state. See Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 760-62 (2014). The Court noted that "continuous and systematic" contacts alone are not enough in-andof-themselves to create general jurisdiction. See id. The quoted phrase was in fact first used in the context of specific jurisdiction as conjunctive with the "arises-out-of" requirement. See id. at 761 (citing Int'l Shoe Co. v. State of Wash., Office of Unemployment Comp. & Placement, 326 U.S. 310, 317 (1945)). "Accordingly, the inquiry under Goodyear is not whether a foreign corporation's in-forum contacts can be said to be in some sense continuous and systematic, ' it is whether that corporation's affiliations with the State are so "continuous and systematic" as to render [it] essentially at home in the forum State.'" Id. (quoting Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations S.A. v. Brown, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 2851 (2011)) (alteration in original). So the company must be at "home" in the forum state for there to be general jurisdiction. Where this is not the case, a plaintiff must rely on specific jurisdiction, i.e., the action must have arisen out of contacts with the forum state.

Even where there is no general jurisdiction over a defendant, specific jurisdiction exists when there are sufficient minimal contacts with the forum state such that the assertion of personal jurisdiction "does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'" Int'l Shoe Co. v. State of Wash., Office of Unemployment Comp. & Placement, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (quoting Milliken, 311 U.S. at 463). The standard has been restated using different verbiage. See Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253 (1958) ("[I]t is essential in each case that there be some act by which the defendant purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws." (citing Int'l Shoe Co., 326 U.S. at 319)); World-wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297 (1980) ("[T]he foreseeability that is critical to due process analysis is not the mere likelihood that a product will find its way into the forum State. Rather, it is that the defendant's conduct and connection with the forum State are such that he should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there." (citing Kulko v. Superior Court of Cal., 436 U.S. 84, 97-98 (1978))). From these cases and others, the Ninth Circuit has developed a three-part test for specific jurisdiction:

(1) The non-resident defendant must purposefully direct his activities or consummate some transaction with the forum or resident thereof; or perform some act by which he purposefully avails himself of the privilege of conducting activities in the forum, thereby invoking the benefits and protections of its laws;
(2) the claim must be one which arises out of or relates to the defendant's forum-related activities; and
(3) the exercise of jurisdiction must comport with fair play and substantial justice, i.e. it must be reasonable.

Boschetto, 539 F.3d at 1016 (quoting Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 802 (9th Cir. 2004)).

The plaintiff bears the burden on the first two prongs. If the plaintiff establishes both prongs one and two, the defendant must come forward with a "compelling case" that the exercise of jurisdiction would not be reasonable. But if the plaintiff fails at the first ...

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