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Sheehan v. Southern Foods Group, LLC

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

October 22, 2019

DOUGLAS M. SHEEHAN Plaintiff,
v.
SOUTHERN FOODS GROUP, LLC; DEAN FOODS COMPANY, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING, IN PART, AND DENYING, IN PART, DEFENDANT DEAN FOODS COMPANY'S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION (ECF NO. 23) WITHOUT PREJUDICE

          HELEN GILLMOR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Douglas M. Sheehan filed a Complaint asserting claims of employment discrimination against Defendants Southern Foods Group, LLC and Dean Foods Company. Plaintiff alleges that from 1998 until his termination in 2017 he was the plant manager of Meadow Gold Dairies. He claims that during his employment the Dean Foods Company purchased Southern Foods Group, LLC. He claims he was jointly employed by both Southern Foods Group, LLC and Dean Foods Company.

         Defendant Dean Foods Company filed a Motion to Dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Dean Foods Company submitted evidence that it is incorporated in Delaware with its principal place of business in Texas.

         Dean Foods Company claims that Southern Foods Group, LLC is its subsidiary and that Southern Foods Group, LLC operates Meadow Gold Dairies, the location where Plaintiff performed his work.

         There is no general personal jurisdiction over Dean Foods Company.

         There are questions of fact as to whether there is specific jurisdiction over Dean Foods Company based on the claims asserted in the Complaint and the evidence available at this stage in the proceedings.

         Defendant Dean Foods Company's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction (ECF No. 23) is GRANTED, IN PART, AND DENIED, IN PART, WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

         Plaintiff is permitted to conduct jurisdictional discovery to establish specific personal jurisdiction over Dean Foods Company exists.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On October 22, 2018, Plaintiff Douglas M. Sheehan filed a Complaint against Southern Foods Group, LLC and Dean Foods Company. (ECF No. 1).

         On June 19, 2019, Defendant Dean Foods Company filed a MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION. (ECF No. 23).

         On June 27, 2019, Defendant Southern Foods Group, LLC filed a Statement of No Opposition. (ECF No. 25)

         On July 18, 2019, Plaintiff Sheehan filed his MEMORANDUM IN OPPOSITION. (ECF No. 26).

         On August 9, 2019, Defendant Dean Foods Company filed its REPLY. (ECF No. 27).

         On August 30, 2019, the Court held a hearing on Defendant Dean Foods Company's Motion to Dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. (ECF No. 28).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), a defendant may seek dismissal of an action for lack of personal jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). In determining whether personal jurisdiction exists, courts may consider evidence presented in affidavits and declarations. Doe v. Unocal Corp., 248 F.3d 915, 922 (9th Cir. 2001), abrogated on other grounds in Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117 (2014).

         Plaintiff bears the burden of showing that the court has personal jurisdiction over a defendant. Pebble Beach Co. v. Caddy, 453 F.3d 1151, 1154 (9th Cir. 2006). Absent formal discovery or an evidentiary hearing, the determination requires that the plaintiff make only a prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts to withstand the motion to dismiss. Id. To make this prima facie showing, a plaintiff may not simply rest on the bare allegations of its complaint. Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 800 (9th Cir. 2004).

         Uncontroverted allegations in the complaint, however, must be taken as true and any conflicts between the parties over statements contained in affidavits must be resolved in the plaintiff's favor. Bancroft & Masters, Inc. v. Augusta Nat'l, Inc., 223 F.3d 1082, 1087 (9th Cir. 2000).

         ANALYSIS

         The general rule is that personal jurisdiction over a defendant is proper if it is permitted by a long-arm statute and if the exercise of that jurisdiction does not violate federal due process. Fireman's Fund Ins. Co. v. Nat. Bank of Coops., 103 F.3d 888, 893 (9th Cir. 1996).

         Where there is no applicable federal statute governing personal jurisdiction, the district court applies the law of the state in which the district court sits. Panavision Int'l, L.P. v. Toeppen, 141 F.3d 1316, 1320 (9th Cir. 1998). Hawaii's long-arm statute, Hawaii Revised Statutes § 634-35, authorizes the exercise of personal jurisdiction to the extent permitted by the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Barranco v. 3D Sys. Corp., 6 F.Supp.3d 1068, 1077 (D. Haw. 2014).

         Due Process requires that a defendant have minimum contacts with the forum state such that the maintenance of the suit 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).

         There are two types of personal jurisdiction: general jurisdiction and specific jurisdiction. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Ct. of Cal., 137 S.Ct. 1773, 1779-80 (2017).

         I. General Jurisdiction

         A. Paradigm Test For Determining General Jurisdiction Over A Corporation Is The Corporation's Place Of Incorporation And Principal Place Of Business

         General jurisdiction refers to jurisdiction to adjudicate any claim against the defendant, including claims unrelated to the defendant's contacts with the forum state. Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414 (1984). General jurisdiction ordinarily exists over a corporation when it is incorporated in the forum state or its principal place of business is located in the forum state. Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 760-61 (2014) (quoting Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 924 (2011)).

         Defendant Dean Foods Company (“Dean Foods”) is incorporated in the State of Delaware and its principal place of business is in Dallas, Texas. (Declaration of Andrea Bettis (“Bettis Decl.”) at ¶ 2, ECF No. 23-2). Dean Foods is not incorporated in Hawaii. It does not maintain its principal place of business in Hawaii.

         Plaintiff must demonstrate that an exception to the “paradigm” of general jurisdiction analysis applies to Defendant Dean Foods that would allow this Court to exercise ...


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