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Davis v. Koontz

United States District Court, D. Nevada

February 23, 2017

RAYMOND DAVIS, an individual, Plaintiff,
DEAN KOONTZ, an individual; DOE Individuals I through X; and ROE CORPORATIONS and ORGANIZATIONS I through X, inclusive, Defendants.


          Gloria M. Navarro, Chief Judge.

         Pending before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 8), filed by Defendant Dean Koontz (“Defendant”) to which Plaintiff Raymond Davis (“Plaintiff”) filed a Response, (ECF No. 11).[1] Defendant did not file a reply, and the deadline to do so has passed. For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion. I.BACKGROUND This case arises from an alleged breach of contract. Plaintiff is a Nevada resident, and Defendant, a California resident, is a prominent author. (Compl. ¶¶ 1-2, ECF No. 1-1). Both Plaintiff and Defendant knew John Paul Bodner (“Bodner”), who is now deceased. (Id. ¶¶ 6- 10). Bodner owned a “large collection of literary works written by Defendant” with many of the works “personally signed by Defendant.” (Id. ¶¶ 7-8).

         In late 2012, before passing away, Bodner gave Plaintiff his collection of works written and signed by Defendant. (Id. ¶¶ 9-10). After accepting the collection, Plaintiff received a letter from Defendant (the “Letter”) stating, “I'll try to make sure that you're able to get as much as possible out of these books, but as I said, it will probably be on a consignment basis and take awhile [sic].” (Ex. 1 to Resp. at 2, ECF No. 11-1). Thereafter, Defendant instructed Plaintiff to ship the books to his California address so that Defendant could sell the books for him. (Id.).

         In 2013, Plaintiff sent the collection to Defendant in California, and Defendant began attempting to sell the books. (Compl. ¶ 13). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant successfully sold some of the books and issued Plaintiff a share of the proceeds. (Id. ¶ 14). Despite this initial success, Plaintiff ultimately asked Defendant to return the books to Plaintiff, but Defendant refused. (Id. ¶ 15-16).

         In 2016, Plaintiff filed suit in state court against Defendant alleging breach of contract, fraud, conversion, and unjust enrichment. (See generally id.). Defendant removed the action to this Court, (see Pet. for Removal, ECF No. 1), and now seeks dismissal pursuant to a lack of personal jurisdiction, (see Mot. to Dismiss (“MTD”), ECF No. 8).


         Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a defendant may move to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). Once a defendant raises the defense, the burden then falls on the plaintiff to prove sufficient facts to establish that jurisdiction is proper. Boschetto v. Hansing, 539 F.3d 1011, 1015 (9th Cir. 2008). A plaintiff can carry this burden only by presenting sufficient evidence to establish that (1) personal jurisdiction is proper under the laws of the state where it is asserted; and (2) the exercise of jurisdiction does not violate the defendant's right to due process secured by the United States Constitution. Ziegler v. Indian River County, 64 F.3d 470, 473 (9th Cir. 1995); Chan v. Soc'y Expeditions, Inc., 39 F.3d 1398, 1404-05 (9th Cir. 1994). To survive a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, a plaintiff need only make “a prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts.” Pebble Beach Co. v. Caddy, 453 F.3d 1151, 1154 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Doe v. Unocal, 248 F.3d 915, 922 (9th Cir. 2001)). Furthermore, when analyzing such a motion to dismiss, “the court resolves all disputed facts in favor of the plaintiff.” Id.

         When no federal statute governs personal jurisdiction, the district court applies the law of the forum state. See Panavision Int'l L.P. v. Toeppen, 141 F.3d 1316, 1320 (9th Cir. 1998). Nevada has authorized its courts to exercise jurisdiction over persons “on any basis not inconsistent with . . . the Constitution of the United States.” Nev. Rev. Stat. § 14.065. Thus, the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is the relevant constraint on Nevada's authority to bind a nonresident defendant to a judgment of its courts. World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 291 (1980). In order to exercise jurisdiction, the nonresident must have “certain minimum contacts . . . such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'” International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463 (1940)).


         In the instant Motion, Defendant argues that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over him because Defendant does not have sufficient relevant contacts in Nevada. (MTD 3:11-13). Plaintiff, on the other hand, asserts that the Court has personal jurisdiction over Defendant pursuant to both general jurisdiction and specific jurisdiction based off of Defendant's profession and Defendant's Letter. (See Resp. 5:2-24, 6:19-23, ECF No. 11); (see also Ex. 1 to Resp.).

         A personal jurisdiction analysis is governed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which limits the power of a state's courts over defendants who do not consent to jurisdiction. Martinez v. Aero Caribbean, 764 F.3d 1062, 1066 (9th Cir. 2014). Personal jurisdiction has been limited under the Constitution to defendants that have “certain minimum contacts with [a state] such that the maintenance of a suit does not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'” Core-Vent Corp. v. Nobel Indus. AB, 11 F.3d 1482, 1485 (9th Cir. 1993) (quoting Int l. Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)). Moreover, the contacts must arise out of relationships that the “defendant himself created with the forum state. Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 475 (1985). The “minimum contacts” inquiry is defendant-focused and is not satisfied by demonstrating contacts between the plaintiff and the forum state. See Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 417 (1984) (“[The] unilateral activity of another party or a third person is not an appropriate consideration when determining whether a defendant has sufficient contacts with a forum [s]tate to justify an assertion of jurisdiction.”).

         Further, the defendant must have “minimum contacts” with the forum state itself, rather than mere contacts with persons who reside there. See Burger King, 471 U.S. at 478 (“If the question is whether an individual's contract with an out-of-state party alone can automatically establish sufficient minimum contacts in the other party's home forum, we believe the answer clearly is that it cannot.”); Kulko v. Superior Court of Cal, City and Cnty. of San Francisco, 436 U.S. 84, 93 (1978) (declining to “find personal jurisdiction in a state . . . merely because [the plaintiff in a child support action] was residing there”). The defendant's contacts with the forum state may be intertwined with his transactions or interactions with the plaintiff or other parties, but a defendant's relationship with a plaintiff or third party, standing alone, is an insufficient basis for jurisdiction. See Rush v. Savchuk, 444 U.S. 320, 332 (1980).

         A court determines sufficient minimum contacts either through specific jurisdiction, where the specific interaction with the forum relating to the cause of action gives rise to the contacts, or through general jurisdiction, where the contacts with the forum are systematic and continuous, warranting the exercise of personal jurisdiction. See, e.g., Int'l Shoe Co., 326 U.S. at 316. If such contacts are established, a court must still determine that exercising personal jurisdiction would not offend the “traditional notions of fair play and justice.” Id. The Court first addresses general jurisdiction and then addresses specific jurisdiction.

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