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Weisner v. Flir Systems, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

October 5, 2019

JOHN B. WEISNER and RONIA WEISNER, Plaintiffs,
v.
FLIR SYSTEMS, INC. and JACK G. BLAKELY Defendants.

          ORDER

          TERRENCE W. BOYLE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This cause comes before the Court on defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction or, in the alternative, for forum non conveniens. [DE 13]. Plaintiffs filed a motion for extension of time for their response in opposition. [DE 25]. Plaintiffs' motion for extension of time [DE 25] is GRANTED. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion to dismiss [DE 13] is GRANTED. This action is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE for lack of personal jurisdiction.

         BACKGROUND

         The following relevant factual allegations are taken primarily from plaintiffs' complaint, DE 1, and Mr. Weisner's affidavit, DE 23.

         Defendant, FLIR Systems, Inc. ("FLIR), is an Oregon corporation headquartered in Wilsonville, Oregon that specializes in the design and production of thermal imaging cameras and component parts. DE 1, ¶ 2. Defendant Jack Blakely lives in Saudi Arabia and has been a year-round resident in that country since August 2012. DE 16, ¶ 4. Mr. Blakely is Regional Director of Business Development for FLIR's Surveillance Middle East & Africa business group and is also the General Manager of FLIR's Riyadh office. Id. ¶ 2.

         Plaintiffs John Weisner and Ronia Weisner are residents of Fayetteville, North Carolina, where they have maintained a permanent residence since 2005. DE 1, ¶ 1; DE 23, ¶ 4.

         In late 2016, Mr. Weisner saw an advertisement on LinkedIn for a program management position with FLIR in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. DE 23, ¶ 5. In December 2016, he applied for the position online. Id. Mr. Weisner was in Saudi Arabia in My 2017 visiting his wife Ronia- who was working in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia at that time-when he received a call from Mr. Blakely about his application. Id. After a couple telephone conversations, Mr. Blakely arranged for Mr. and Ms. Weisner to fly to Riyadh for an interview. Id. ¶ 6. During this first meeting, the Weisners explained to Mr. Blakely that were they to move to Riyadh, Ms. Weisner would be giving up an excellent job in Jeddah and would lose her residence permit. Id. The Weisners stressed that it was therefore a non-negotiable condition that both he and his wife be able to obtain residence permits and Iqamas (Saudi Arabian work visa and residence permits). Id. Mr. Blakely assured them that they would receive the required permits. Id.

         While Mr. Weisner was in Saudi Arabia visiting his wife, Mr. Blakely contacted him on numerous occasions via telephone, and at some point during this period, Mr. Blakely offered him the position. Id. ¶ 7. Mr. Blakely requested the Mr. Weisner begin work immediately. Id. Mr. Weisner advised that he did not have the required permits to work, to which Mr. Blakely assured him that he would start the process of getting the permits and again requested that, in the meantime, Mr. Weisner start working. Id.

         During the contract negotiations, defendants made specific representations to induce Mr. Weisner to enter into the contract. DE 1, ¶ 10. These included promises to cover costs for travel, for moving Ms. Weisner from Jeddah to Riyadh, for personal travel back to the United States, medical insurance coverage, housing, bonuses, and a vehicle allowance. Id. The parties also specifically discussed the benefits needed to move Mr. Weisner from North Carolina and Mr. Blakely knew the Weisners were relying on his representations. Id. ¶ 11.

         A formal offer letter addressed to Mr. Weisner's North Carolina home is dated August 10, 2017 and a contract was entered into on September 20, 2017. DE 1-1, Ex. A. The contract was made retroactive, stating that Mr. Weisner's employment would start on September 3, 2017. Id. According to the contract, FLIR would apply for and obtain a block/visa for the program manager position, which FLIR represented would be used to obtain the necessary work and residence permits. DEI, ¶ 14.

         Mr. Weisner began work on September 3, 2017 under the belief that FLIR was in the process of obtaining the work permits. DE 23, ¶ 9. He returned home to North Carolina in November 2017 to obtain a temporary work visa, meet with the FLIR offices in Oregon, and provide information to the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Business Council. Mr. Blakely and Mr. Weisner talked on the phone repeatedly during this period, and payments were made by FLIR to Mr. Weisner's bank account identified with his North Carolina address. Id. ¶¶ 9-12.

         Despite repeated representations that the permit process was underway, Mr. Weisner never obtained his work visa/Iqama and, in fact, later learned that Mr. Blakely and NLIR had not been working actively to secure the permits. Id. ¶¶ 15, 23-29. Plaintiffs learned that even prior to contract formation, Blakely and FLIR knew they would be unable to obtain the block/work visa, and that the Weisners had relied on their representations. Id. ¶ 16. In addition, FLIR refused to pay the substantial relocation costs the Weisners incurred while moving their jobs and residence to Riyadh. Id. ¶ 24.

         As a result of not receiving the required permits and incurring substantial monetary damages during the relocation process, and for other breaches of the employment contract, Mr. Weisner terminated the contract with FLIR in August 2018. Id. ¶ 25. Mr. Weisner demanded return of $55, 000 withheld by FLIR for tax purposes without his consent, which was refused. Id. ¶ 2.

         Plaintiffs filed this action in May 2019 against Mr. Blakely and FLIR alleging breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation, unfair and deceptive trade practices, and conversion. DE 1, ¶¶ 27-47. ...


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