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Allt v. George

United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division

September 17, 2019

THOMAS ALLT and ADRIANA ALLT, husband and wife, Plaintiffs,
v.
TIM J. GEORGE, dba MONTANA MOBILE TRUCK & TRAILER REPAIR; EUGENE TRUCK HAVEN, INC., dba TRUCK N TRAVEL; TA OPERATING MONTANA LLC, dba TRAVEL CENTERS OF AMERICA; and BUSINESS ENTITIES I through X, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Dana L. Christensen, Chief United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is Defendant Eugene Truck Haven, Inc., dba Truck N Travel's ("Eugene") Motion to Dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). (Doc. 13.) Eugene claims that this Court lacks both general and specific jurisdiction over his claim. Plaintiffs Thomas and Adriana Allt contest the motion only as it applies to specific jurisdiction. For the reason explained below, the Court grants the motion.

         Background

         On May 12, 2018 Thomas Allt was driving southbound on U.S. 95 near Marsing, Idaho when a brake canister from a trailer travelling in the northbound lane broke free and flew through the window of Mr. Allt's truck, striking him in the face.[1] Mr. Allt lost consciousness, his truck overturned, and he was found with severe head and facial injuries. (Doc. 1 at 3.)

         An investigation conducted at the scene of the accident revealed that the trailer's fourth right axel chamber had become disconnected from its mounting on the support beam, likely due to rust. Subsequently, Mr. Allt learned that the brake chamber had been improperly repaired. (Id. at 5.)

         All three Defendants were involved in some manner in repairing the brake canister in the months' prior to the accident. Defendant Montana Mobile Truck & Trailer welded the canister first on August 30, 2016. This weld failed in Oregon, causing Oregon-based Defendant Eugene to make a temporary repair to the canister on June 9, 2017. This second weld failed in Montana. Finally, Defendant TA Operating Montana LLC welded the canister on October 24, 2017, which failed in Idaho, injuring Mr. Allt. (Id.)

         Standard of Review

         "Where a defendant moves to dismiss a complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating that jurisdiction is appropriate." Schwarzenegger, 374 F.3d at 800 (citing Sher v. Johnson, 911 F.2d 1357, 1361 (9th Cir. 1990)). The plaintiffs pleading and affidavits "need only make a prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts." Id.

         Discussion

         Personal jurisdiction is an individual liberty protected by the due process clause. Ins. Corp. of lr. v. Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee, 456 U.S. 694, 702 (1982). For a federal court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, two requirements must be met: jurisdiction must be proper under the state's long arm statute, and jurisdiction must satisfy the constitutional standard. Schwarzenegger, 374 F.3d at 800.

         Eugene claims that Montana court's construe its long arm statute to the limits of the federal constitution, and correspondingly does not brief whether jurisdiction is proper under Montana's long arm statute. (Doc. 14 at 7.) Plaintiffs argue that this Court's exercise of personal jurisdiction is constitutional, but its brief is silent on Montana's long arm statute, leaving the Court without the benefit of any briefing on the subject. (See Doc. 18 at 3-7.)

         The first question is whether Montana's long arm statute is coextensive with federal limits. In 2011, the Ninth Circuit "recognized that Mont. R. Civ. P. 4(b)(1), which serves as the state'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. Fam. Mut. Ins. Co., 632 F.3d 570, 578-79 (9th Cir. 2011). However, since that time, the Montana Supreme Court has shifted gear. Montana Trucks LLC v. UD Trucks N. Am. Inc, No. CV 12-23-M-DWM, 2016 WL 7388303, at *2 (D. Mont. Dec. 20, 2016).

         In Tackett v. Duncan,334 P.3d 920, 925 (Mont. 2014), the Montana Supreme Court addressed, for the first time, the relationship between Montana's long arm statute and the Federal Constitution. After discussing the difference between general and specific personal jurisdiction, the Court explained that "Rule 4(b)(1) of the Montana Rules of Civil Procedure incorporates these principles of general and specific jurisdiction." Id. It explained that "[t]he first sentence of the Rule provides for general jurisdiction" while the remainder of the rule provides for specific jurisdiction. Id. Parts (A) through (G) of the rule enumerate seven instances where a Montana court may exercise specific personal ...


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