United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
RONALD W. BASSETT, BASSETT GUTTERS AND MORE, INC., a North Carolina Corporation, BR RACING, LLC, a North Carolina Limited Liability Company, and LISA BASSETT, Plaintiffs,
STRICKLAND'S AUTO & TRUCK REPAIRS, INC., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
OSTEEN, JR., DISTRICT JUDGE
before this court is a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant
Strickland's Auto & Truck Repairs, Inc.
(“Defendant”). (Doc. 5.) This motion is made
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2) and alleges that this court lacks
personal jurisdiction over Defendant. Plaintiffs responded to the
motion (Doc. 11) and filed a memorandum in support of their
response (Pls.' Mem. (Doc. 12)). Plaintiffs also filed an
amended motion requesting limited jurisdictional discovery.
(Doc. 14.) That motion was granted by the Magistrate Judge
and discovery was allowed on the issue of personal
jurisdiction. (Doc. 15.) The timetable set forth in the order
suggests that discovery should be completed within thirty
days. On December 6, 2017, approximately fifty days after the
discovery order was entered, Plaintiffs filed a supplemental
brief addressing additional facts found during discovery.
(Doc. 16.) Defendant has not filed a further response. The
motion to dismiss, (Doc. 5), is ripe for ruling. For the
following reasons, this court finds Defendant's motion
should be denied.
The Complaint and Jurisdictional Facts
to the Complaint and admitted in the Answer, Plaintiffs are
all residents of North Carolina. (Complaint
(“Compl.”) (Doc. 1) ¶¶ 1-3; Answer
(Doc. 7) at 2.) Plaintiffs Ronald and Lisa Bassett are
residents of Forsyth County, North Carolina; Plaintiff
Bassett Gutters and More, Inc., is a North Carolina
corporation with a principal place of business in Davidson
County; and Plaintiff BR Racing, LLC, is a North Carolina
limited liability company with a principal place of business
in Forsyth County. (Compl. (Doc. 1) ¶¶ 1-3.)
Defendant is a Virginia corporation with a principal place of
business in Cana, Virginia. (Id. ¶ 4.)
allege in the Complaint that they sought to have a
replacement engine installed in a 2005 Freightliner tractor.
(Id. ¶ 10.) Defendant operates a truck repair
business in Cana, Virginia. (Id. ¶ 20.)
Defendant towed Plaintiffs' Freightliner tractor to
Defendant's business in Virginia and Defendant installed
a replacement engine. (Id. ¶¶ 35-36, 41.)
Plaintiffs paid for repairs and picked up the tractor.
(Id. ¶ 43.) Plaintiffs allege that they moved
the tractor to their garage and thereafter the garage caught
fire, causing damage to the garage, machines, and tools
stored in the garage. (Id. ¶¶ 47-48,
52-54.) Plaintiffs contend, generally as the basis of their
claims, that the origin of the fire was the tractor,
(id. ¶ 58), and the fire in the tractor's
engine resulted from improper installation of electrical
wiring of the replacement engine. (Id. ¶¶
59-60.) Plaintiffs assert claims of negligence and breach of
an express warranty. (See generally Compl. (Doc.
support of its motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction, Defendant has filed the affidavit of Kristie
Strickland (“Strickland”), the current owner of
Defendant. (Aff. of Kristie Strickland (“Strickland
Aff.”) (Doc. 6) ¶ 1.) Strickland states in her
affidavit that Defendant does not solicit business in North
Carolina and “all work is performed in Virginia at
Strickland's place of business.” (Id.
¶¶ 3, 6.) Strickland states that its customers are
primarily from Virginia but that they also have customers in
other states including North Carolina. (Id.
¶¶ 5-6.) Strickland candidly acknowledges that it
does on occasion receive calls for auto services in North
Carolina, (id. ¶ 7), and that Defendant does
travel to North Carolina occasionally to pick up cars or
trucks for jobs that it performs in Virginia, (id.
¶ 10). Defendant advertises in the Carolina/Virginia
Truck Trader, distributed in North Carolina and Virginia.
(Id. ¶ 8; see also Pls.' Suppl.
Br., Ex. A, Limited Interrogs. (“Interrogs.”)
(Doc. 16-1) at 3.) With respect to the work on the tractor
for Plaintiffs, Strickland states that Defendant traveled to
North Carolina, towed the tractor back to its business in
Cana, Virginia, and performed the work in Virginia.
(Strickland Aff. (Doc. 6) ¶ 11.) Plaintiffs picked up
the tractor in Virginia. (Id. ¶ 12.)
jurisdictional discovery, Plaintiffs submitted additional
facts obtained from Defendant through interrogatories and
document production. (Pls.' Suppl. Br. (Doc. 16) at 2;
Ex. A, Interrogs. (Doc. 16-1).) Those invoices submitted show
that in the last three years, forty-nine of seventy-nine
invoices were billed to customers in North Carolina.
(Pls.' Suppl. Br. (Doc. 16) at 2; Ex. A, N.C. Invoices
attached to Interrogs. (“Invoices”) (Doc. 16-1)
at 8-88.) Four invoices reflect that Defendant towed the
vehicle from North Carolina to its garage in Virginia.
(Pls.' Suppl. Br. (Doc. 16) at 2; Invoices (Doc. 16-1) at
8-88.) Defendant did not file a supplemental brief following
LEGAL STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule 12(b)(2), a defendant must affirmatively raise a
personal jurisdiction challenge, but the plaintiff bears the
burden of demonstrating personal jurisdiction at every stage
following such a challenge.” Grayson v.
Anderson, 816 F.3d 262, 267 (4th Cir. 2016) (citation
omitted); Combs v. Bakker, 886 F.2d 673, 676 (4th
Cir. 1989). Such a challenge may be resolved by the court as
a preliminary matter. Grayson, 816 F.3d. At 267.
While this burden varies depending on the procedural posture
of the case,
when the court addresses the personal jurisdiction question
by reviewing only the parties' motion papers, affidavits
attached to the motion, supporting legal memoranda, and the
allegations in the complaint, a plaintiff need only make a
prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction to
survive the jurisdictional challenge. When determining
whether a plaintiff has made the requisite prima
facie showing, the court must take the allegations and
available evidence relating to personal jurisdiction in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Id. at 268 (citations omitted). “A plaintiff
makes a prima facie showing in this context when it
‘present[s] evidence sufficient to defeat a motion for
judgment as a matter of law.'”
Debbie's Staffing Servs., Inc. v. Highpoint
Risk Servs., LLC, No. 1:17CV657, 2018 WL 1918603, at *2
(M.D. N.C. Apr. 20, 2018) (citations omitted).
the defendant has provided evidence, however, that denies
facts essential for jurisdiction, the plaintiff must present
sufficient evidence to create a factual dispute on each
jurisdictional element that has been denied by the defendant
and on which the defendant has presented evidence.”
Vogel v. Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc., 630 F.Supp.2d
585, 594 (M.D. N.C. 2008); see also Wolf v. Richmond
Cnty. Hosp. Auth., 745 F.2d 904, 908 (4th Cir. 1984)
(“In ruling on a motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction, the allegations of the complaint, except
insofar as controverted by the defendant's affidavit,
must be taken as true.” (internal quotation marks
federal district court may only assert personal jurisdiction
over a nonresident defendant when two conditions are
satisfied: “First, the exercise of jurisdiction must be
authorized by the long-arm statute of the forum state, and,
second, the exercise of personal jurisdiction must also
comport with Fourteenth Amendment due process
requirements.” Christian Sci. Bd. of Dirs. of First
Church of Christ, Scientist v. Nolan, 259 F.3d 209, 215
(4th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted). North Carolina's
long-arm statute, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-75.4(1)d, is
construed “to extend jurisdiction over nonresident
defendants to the full extent permitted by the Due Process
Clause.” Christian Sci. Bd. of Dirs., 259 F.3d
at 215 (citing Century Data Sys., Inc. v. McDonald,
109 N.C.App. 425, 427, 428 S.E.2d 190, 191 (1993)).
“Thus, the dual jurisdictional requirements collapse
into a single inquiry as to whether the defendant has such
‘minimal contacts' with the forum state that
‘maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional
notions of fair play and substantial justice.'”
Id. (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v.
Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)).
contacts sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction over a
nonresident defendant may exist by virtue of either specific
jurisdiction or general jurisdiction. See Carefirst of
Md., Inc. v. Carefirst Pregnancy Ctrs., Inc., 334 F.3d
390, 397 (4th Cir. 2003). Specific jurisdiction considers
instances where the nonresident defendant's
“contacts with the forum also provide the basis for the
suit” whereas general jurisdiction considers instances
where the defendant's contacts with the forum are so
“continuous and systematic” as to provide support
for jurisdiction over any cause of action. See Id.
(citation omitted). A defendant's conduct and connection