United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Central Division
NORA PATRICIA RUIZ, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF HECTOR RUIZ, DECEASED; AND HECTOR A. RUIZ, BIOLOGICAL SON, Plaintiffs,
TRW VEHICLE SAFETY SYSTEMS, INC., Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS AND
DENYING JURISDICTIONAL DISCOVERY
ROBERTO A. LANGE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Nora Patricia Ruiz, individually and as representative of the
Estate of Hector Ruiz, and Hector A. Ruiz as the biological
son (Plaintiffs) sued Defendant TRW Vehicle Safety Systems,
Inc. (TRW) alleging products liability, negligence, and
wrongful death of Hector Ruiz. Doc. 26. TRW moved to dismiss
the action for lack of personal jurisdiction, Doc. 13, and
Plaintiffs opposed that motion, Doc. 27. For the reasons
stated below, this Court will grant TRW's motion to
dismiss or, if Plaintiffs request, transfer the case to a
district with jurisdiction.
are the surviving wife and son of Hector Ruiz. Doc. 27 at
¶¶ 1-2. They are residents of Jacksonville, Texas.
Doc. 27 at ¶¶ 1-2. Defendant TRW is a Delaware
corporation with its principal place of business in Michigan.
Doc. 14-1 at ¶ 5. TRW designs and manufactures original
equipment automotive seat belt assemblies for its customers,
most of which are motor vehicle manufacturers. Doc. 14-1 at
January 21, 2015, Ruiz was driving a 2006 Ford F-250
southbound on Highway 47 in Gregory County, South Dakota,
when his vehicle hit a patch of black ice and rolled. Doc. 26
at ¶¶ 24, 28. During the rollover, Ruiz was ejected
from the vehicle, sustaining fatal injuries. Doc. 26 at
¶ 30. The Plaintiffs allege that at the time of the
rollover, Ruiz was wearing his seat belt, and that the seat
belt buckle became unlatched because it was defective. Doc.
26 at ¶¶ 29-30.
seat belt assembly in Ruiz's truck was manufactured by
TRW. Doc. 14-1 at ¶ 9. TRW manufactured the seat belt
assembly in Mexico and shipped the subject belt and retractor
and buckle assemblies to a facility of Johnson Controls,
Inc., a seat supplier to Ford Motor Company (Ford), in
Shelbyville, Kentucky. Doc. 14-1 at ¶ 9. Ruiz's Ford
F-250 was assembled in Kentucky at Ford's Kentucky truck
plant in 2006, and then sold by Ford to All Star
Ford-Palestine, a Ford dealership in Texas. Doc. 14-2 at
¶ 4. It appears from the title history of the pickup
that it was sold and resold to several different parties in
Texas. Doc. 14-3 at 10, 12. On December 12, 2013, Hector and
Nora Ruiz bought the pickup. Doc. 14-3 at 6.
TRW delivers its seat belt assemblies to a seat supplier or
motor vehicle manufacturer, it has no further control over
the assembly or where it goes. Doc. 14-1 at ¶ 11. TRW
did not sell the seat belt assembly in South Dakota, does not
advertise in South Dakota, does not conduct any business in
South Dakota, is not licensed to conduct business in South
Dakota, does not pay taxes in South Dakota, does not own
property in South Dakota, and does not have any employees,
management personnel, officers, or directors that reside in,
or are located in, South Dakota. Doc. 14-1 at¶¶
Plaintiffs made a number of allegations regarding TRW's
"significant business" in South Dakota: 1) TRW
supplies automotive parts and safety systems to a global
market and has been doing so for almost six decades; 2) TRW
designs and manufactures component parts for millions of
vehicles which are bound for every state in the United
States, including South Dakota; 3) TRW places component parts
into the stream of commerce; 4) TRW component parts and
seatbelt systems are found in tens of thousands of vehicles
in South Dakota; 5) TRW does not restrict its seat belt
systems from being distributed, sold, or used in South
Dakota; 6) TRW has contracts with companies like Ford and
knows those companies sell their products in South Dakota; 7)
TRW holds a significant quantity of intellectual property,
such as patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets,
which it demands be honored in South Dakota; 8) employees,
officers, and directors of TRW may have visited, lived,
conducted business, and worked in South Dakota; 9) TRW
manufactures and designs its products to comply with United
States standards, including the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety
Standards (FMVSS); and 10) TRW works with the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on safety
issues for products in vehicles owned and used by South
Dakota residents. Doc. 26 at 2-3; Doc. 27 at ¶ 33.
showing a plaintiff must make when the defendant contests
personal jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(2) depends on the
stage of the case and the method the court employs to resolve
the jurisdictional dispute. See K-V Pharm. Co. v. J.
Uriach & CIA, S.A., 648 F.3d 588, 591-92 (8th Cir.
2011); Dakota Indus., Inc. v. Dakota Sportswear.
Inc., 946 F.2d 1384, 1387 (8th Cir. 1991). At trial or
after an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff must prove
personal jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence.
Creative Calling Sols.. Inc. v. LF Beauty Ltd., 799
F.3d 975, 979 (8th Cir. 2015); Epps v. Stewart Info.
Servs. Corp., 327 F.3d 642, 647 (8th Cir. 2003). But
when, as here, the court limits its review of a Rule 12(b)(2)
motion solely to affidavits and other written evidence, the
plaintiff "need only make a prima facie showing of
[personal] jurisdiction." Dakota Indus., 946
F.2d at 1387. "Although the evidentiary showing required
at the prima facie stage is minimal, the showing must be
tested, not by the pleadings alone, but by the affidavits and
exhibits supporting or opposing the motion." K-V
Pharm. Co., 648 F.3d at 592 (internal marks and
citations omitted). This Court construes the materials filed
in the light most favorable to the Ruiz Plaintiffs and
resolves all factual disputes on jurisdictional issues
against TRW at this time. Therefore, discovery on
jurisdictional issues would be of no benefit to these
federal court sitting in diversity may exercise jurisdiction
over nonresident defendants only if both the forum
state's long-arm statute and the Fourteenth
Amendment's Due Process Clause are satisfied. Morris
v. Barkbuster. Inc., 923 F.2d 1277, 1280 (8th Cir.
1991). Because South Dakota's long-arm statute confers
jurisdiction to the full extent permissible under the Due
Process Clause, the question here is whether asserting
personal jurisdiction over TRW comports with due process.
Bell Paper Box. Inc. v. U.S. Kids. Inc.. 22 F.3d
816, 818 (8th Cir. 1994) (applying South Dakota law).
jurisdiction under the Due Process Clause may be either
general or specific. Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations.
S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 924-25 (2011). Courts with
general jurisdiction over a defendant may hear "any and
all claims" against the defendant, even if those claims
are unrelated to the defendant's contacts with the forum
state. Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 754
(2014) (quoting Goodyear. 564 U.S. at 919). For
general jurisdiction to exist, the defendant's contacts
with the forum state must be "so 'continuous and
systematic'" that the defendant is "essentially
at home" there. Goodyear, 564 U.S. at 919
(quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S.
310, 316 (1945)). TRW's contacts with South Dakota fall
far short of the sort of continuous and systematic presence
necessary for general jurisdiction. Specific jurisdiction, by
contrast, may be based on a defendant's solitary or
irregular contact with the forum state. Daimler, 134
S.Ct. at 754. Unlike general jurisdiction, however, specific
jurisdiction is limited to suits arising out of or relating
to the defendant's contact with the forum state.
Goodyear, 564 U.S. at 919.
may exercise specific jurisdiction over an out-of-state
defendant if the defendant has "certain minimum
contacts" with the state such that having to defend a
lawsuit there "does not offend traditional notions of
fair play and substantial justice." Int'l Shoe
Co., 326 U.S. at 316 (quotation omitted). These minimum
contacts must be based on "some act by which the
defendant purposefully avails" himself of the forum
state "such that he, should reasonably anticipate being
haled into court there." Burger King Corp. v.
Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 474-75 (1985) (quotations
omitted). It is the defendant, rather than the plaintiff or a
third party, who must establish the minimum contacts in the
forum state. Walden v. Fiore, 134 S.Ct. 1115, 1122
(2014). Moreover, the defendant's contacts must be
"with the forum State itself, not . . . with persons who
reside there." Id.; see alsoId. at 1123 ("Due process requires that a
defendant be haled into court in a forum State based on his