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Seiffert v. Qwest Corp.

United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division

December 14, 2018



          Brian Morris United States District Court fudge.

         Plaintiff Jordan Seiffert, on behalf of himself, and all others similarly situated, brings a collective action against Defendant Quest Corporation d/b/a/ CenturyLink QC and Defendant CenturyLink Communications, LLC (collectively “CenturyLink” or “Defendants”). Defendants move to dismiss out-of-state Plaintiffs and putative Plaintiffs, or, in the alternative, transfer the case to the Western District of Louisiana where CenturyLink is headquartered. (Doc. 31.) Plaintiff Seiffert opposes the motion. (Doc. 36.)


         I. This Court Possesses Personal Jurisdiction Over CenturyLink with Respect to the Claims of Non-Montana Opt-In Plaintiffs.

         CenturyLink first alleges that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over the out-of-state Opt-in Plaintiffs' claims. (Doc. 31 at 11.) The Court must determine whether its exercise of personal jurisdiction would comport with (1) Montana's long-arm statute, and (2) constitutional due process requirements. Mattel, Inc. v. Greiner and Hausser GmbH, 354 F.3d 857, 863 (9th Cir. 2003).

         Personal jurisdiction exists if a corporation maintains certain minimum contacts with the forum state such that maintenance of the suit does not offend “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 918-19 (2011). Personal jurisdiction exists either generally or specifically. Montana's long-arm statute “permit[s] the exercise of personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendants to the maximum extent permitted by federal due process.” King v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co., 632 F.3d 570, 578 (9th Cir. 2011); Mont. R. Civ. P. 4(b)(1). The Court thus applies the same analysis of its jurisdiction under Montana law and federal due process requirements.

         Specific personal jurisdiction exists under federal law if the following elements are met: (1) the non-resident defendant purposefully directs his activities, or performs some act that purposefully avails the defendant of the forum's privileges; (2) the claim arises out of, or relates to, the defendant's forum-related activities; and (3) the exercise of jurisdiction comports with fair play and substantial justice (i.e. is reasonable). King v. American Family Mut. Ins. Co., 632 F.3d 570, 579 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing Brayton Purcell LLP v. Recordon & Recordon, 606 F.3d 1124, 1128 (9th Cir. 2010)).

         Plaintiff Seiffert meets all three elements required for the Court to exercise specific personal jurisdiction over CenturyLink. CenturyLink purposefully directed its business activities to Montana via the internet and other media. Seiffert's claim arises out of CenturyLink's alleged conduct in Montana, where the employment relationship between CenturyLink and him existed. And third, the Court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over CenturyLink for the allegations against it in Montana proves reasonable in light of the fact that it has offices, conducts business, and can be found in this District, and the causes of action arise, in part, in this District.

         Defendants rely on Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of Cal., San Francisco Cnty., 137 S.Ct. 1773 (2017), to assert that the Court lacks specific personal jurisdiction over the out-of-state Plaintiffs. A group of plaintiffs brought a mass tort action against Bristol-Myers Squibb in California state court in which they alleged state law claims. Id. at 1779. The plaintiffs included 86 people who resided in California, and 592 people who resided in 33 other states. Id. The United States Supreme Court determined that the California state court lacked personal jurisdiction over the state claims brought by the out-of-state plaintiffs as no connection existed between the forum in California and the claims. Id. at 1782-83.

         Plaintiffs premised the California state-based tort claims upon alleged injuries from a drug manufactured by Bristol-Meyers Squibb. Id. at 1281. The out-of-state plaintiffs were not prescribed the drug in California, did not purchase the drug in California, did not ingest the drug in California, and did not suffer injuries in California. Id. The mere fact that out-of-state plaintiffs suffered the same injuries as the California resident plaintiffs did not extend the state court's exercise of specific personal jurisdiction to the out-of-state plaintiffs' claims. Id. The complaint lacked a connection between the forum and the specific claims at issue. Id. The Supreme Court noted, however, that its decision in Bristol-Meyers did not usurp “settled principles” of personal jurisdiction. Id. at 1283. The Supreme Court “[left] open the question whether the Fifth Amendment imposes the same restrictions on the exercise of personal jurisdiction by a federal court.” Id. at 1784.

         Defendants assert, similar to Bristol-Myers, that no connection exists between the out-of-state Plaintiffs and Montana. Defendants point out that each out-of-state Plaintiff resided and worked outside of Montana. (Doc. 31 at 18.) Bristol-Myers addressed personal jurisdiction in the context of state law claims. The putative out-of-state plaintiffs did not live in California, did not work in California, and did not suffer their injuries in California. Bristol-Myers, 137 S.Ct. at 1779. Each putative out-of-state plaintiff suffered their injury in the state in which they resided. Id.

         Defendants ask the Court to extend Bristol-Meyers's reasoning to a putative FLSA collective action. Unlike the claims at issue in Bristol-Meyers, however, the FLSA claims before the Court arise from a federal statute designed to address employment practices nationwide. See 29 U.S.C. §§ 202, 207(a). The FLSA collective action provision allows employees to bring claims on behalf of themselves and other employees “similarly situated.” 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). The FLSA does not limit claims to in-state plaintiffs. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). An analysis of a district court's exercise of personal jurisdiction in the context of an FLSA claim proves more germane to the Court's decision.

         The district court in Swamy v. Title Source, Inc., 2017 WL 5196780 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 10, 2017), recently examined the scope of personal jurisdiction in FLSA collective actions. Swamy involved the named plaintiff, an appraiser employed by defendant, who allegedly had been misclassified as an exempt employee and not paid overtime wages. Id. at *1. The named plaintiff brought a putative collective action under the FLSA. Id.

         The named plaintiff sought conditional certification of his FLSA collective action on behalf of all “staff appraisers” that he alleged similarly had been misclassified as exempt from overtime pay. Id. The claim defined the class as “all staff appraisers that worked for defendant at any time from three years prior to the date the Court authorizes notice to the present.” Id. Defendants opposed conditional certification of the class on the basis that the district court lacked jurisdiction over ...

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