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Meeks v. Nutramax Laboratories Veterinary Sciences, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division

November 21, 2019

MICHELLE MEEKS, Plaintiff,
v.
NUTRAMAX LABORATORIES VETERINARY SCIENCES, INC. d/b/a DASUQUIN; JACK VAUGHN d/b/a WINNING IMAGES, INC.; IPROMOTEU.COM, INC.; and JOHN DOES 1-10, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Dana L. Christensen, Chief Judge

         Before the Court is iPROMOTEu.com, Inc.'s ("IPU") Motion to Dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). (Doc. 24). IPU argues that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction under Montana's long-arm statute because IPU did not transact any business in Montana nor did the tort accrue in Montana. (Doc. 25 at 4.) For the reasons explained below, the motion is denied.

         Background

         In the spring of 2017, Plaintiff Michelle Meeks was an employee of the Missoula Veterinary Clinic. Through her work, Meeks won a solar charger as a promotional prize. For the next year, Meeks used her solar charger to charge her cell phone without incident and often left it on the dashboard of 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche.[1]

         On June 8, 2018, Meeks was at work when she noticed a flash in the parking lot. Upon second glance, Meeks noticed that her car was ablaze. Meeks immediately grabbed two nearby fire extinguishers. By the time she got outside, the flames had engulfed the front half of her vehicle. Using the fire extinguisher, Meeks successfully put out the fire but sustained personal injuries from smoke inhalation, stress, and vexation. When the Missoula Fire Department arrived on scene, its investigation determined that the probable cause of the fire was the solar charger.

         The solar charger ended up in Meeks' possession when four of these chargers were given to her employer, Missoula Veterinary Clinic by Nutramax, a company that sells animal health products. Nutramax purchased these chargers from Defendant Jack Vaughn who acted as a middleman for IPU. Vaughn shipped the chargers directly to the vet clinic and Nutramax sent payment directly to IPU. Meeks now brings claims for strict products liability, negligence, breach of warranty, and punitive damages against Nutramax, Vaughn, and IPU.

         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 v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 800 (9th Cir. 2004) (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. The first is a question of state law; the second is a question of federal law.

         A. Whether jurisdiction is proper under Montana's long-arm statute.

         Under Montana's long-arm statute, there are two kinds of personal jurisdiction: general and specific. Tackett v. Duncan, 334 P.3d 920, 925 (Mont. 2014). First, an individual may be subject to general personal jurisdiction where they are "found" in Montana.[2] Mont. R. Civ. P. 4(b)(1). Alternatively, Montana courts may exercise specific personal jurisdiction "as to any claim for relief arising from the doing personally, or through an employee or agent, of any of the following acts":

(A) the transaction of any business within Montana;
(B) the commission of any act resulting in accrual within Montana ...

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