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George v. Shadow Ridge Properties, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

January 22, 2015

MICHAEL GEORGE, Plaintiff,
v.
SHADOW RIDGE PROPERTIES, LLC, and JACK E. ROBINSON, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

CAROL E. JACKSON, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on defendants' motion to dismiss the amended complaint for (i) lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1); (ii) lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2); improper venue pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3); and (iv) pursuant to the doctrine of forum non conveniens. Also before the Court is plaintiff's motion for leave to file a second amended complaint and alternative motion to transfer venue. The issues are fully briefed.

I. Background

Plaintiff Michael George signed a contract with defendant Shadow Ridge Properties, LLC to lease property in Naples, Florida. According to the complaint, on July 1, 2012, while George was moving furniture into the property, his shoe adhered to adhesive material left on the kitchen floor by agents or employees of Shadow Ridge. With his shoe stuck in place, George stopped moving forward in unison with a person helping him carry a glass table-top into the kitchen. The other person lost grip on the table, causing it to fall to the floor and shatter. Broken glass from the table lacerated George's left leg. He was transported to a hospital where he underwent surgery on the injured leg. On June 30, 2014, George brought this action against Shadow Ridge and Jack E. Robinson, alleging negligence based on premises liability and failure to comply with a Florida statute requiring disclosure of liability insurance coverage to a claimant.

In the proposed second amended complaint, plaintiff alleges that Robinson is a citizen of Connecticut and is "the sole member, managing member, and general manager" of Shadow Ridge. Second Amended Complaint at ¶ 4. Plaintiff further alleges that in June 2012, Robinson "knowingly and willfully transacted business within the state of Missouri by negotiating a contract for lease in Missouri, signing a contract for lease in Missouri, emailing and calling Missouri, and demanding and receiving a payment under the contract for lease via a wire transfer of $4, 690.00 from a bank located in the City of St. Louis, state of Missouri." Id. at ¶ 8. There is no allegation as to the location of the property that was the subject of the contract for lease, nor does plaintiff allege that he was a party to the contract. According to the second amended complaint, Shadow Ridge is a Delaware-organized limited liability company, with Connecticut citizenship and a Florida registered agent, that owned and operated the property in Florida where plaintiff was injured. Id. at ¶ 6.

II. Discussion

A. Second Amended Complaint

Defendants moved to dismiss the first amended complaint for (i) lack of subject matter jurisdiction, (ii) lack of personal jurisdiction, (iii) improper venue, and (iv) pursuant to the doctrine of forum non conveniens. Instead of filing a response to defendants' motion, plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint, along with the proposed amendment, purportedly addressing the alleged deficiencies defendants highlighted. In their response to plaintiff's motion to amend, defendants concede that the amendment would solve the previous pleading deficiencies regarding diversity of citizenship and subject matter jurisdiction. However, defendants argue that plaintiff's motion to amend should be denied for futility, because the second amended complaint fails to address the issues of personal jurisdiction, venue, and forum non conveniens.

Rule 15(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure instructs courts to freely give leave to amend when justice so requires. Because the amended allegations properly plead the citizenship of each of the parties so as to provide the Court with the requisite subject matter jurisdiction to proceed with consideration of the other bases for defendants' instant motion, [1] plaintiff's motion to file a second amended complaint will be granted. In the discussion below, thus, the Court will consider the motion to dismiss as directed to the second amended complaint.

B. Personal Jurisdiction

"To survive a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, a plaintiff must make a prima facie showing that personal jurisdiction exists, which is accomplished by pleading sufficient facts to support a reasonable inference that the defendant[s] can be subjected to jurisdiction within the state.'" K-V Pharm. Co. v. J. Uriach & CIA, S.A. , 648 F.3d 588, 591-92 (8th Cir. 2011) (quoting Dever v. Hentzen Coatings, Inc. , 380 F.3d 1070, 1072 (8th Cir. 2004)). Personal jurisdiction can be specific or general. Viasystems, Inc. v. EBM-Papst St. Georgen GmbH & Co., KG , 646 F.3d 589, 593 (8th Cir. 2011). "Specific jurisdiction refers to jurisdiction over causes of action arising from or related to a defendant's actions within the forum state, while general jurisdiction refers to the power of a state to adjudicate any cause of action involving a particular defendant, regardless of where the cause of action arose." Miller v. Nippon Carbon Co., Ltd. , 528 F.3d 1087, 1091 (8th Cir. 2008) (alterations in original) (quoting Bell Paper Box, Inc. v. U.S. Kids, Inc. , 22 F.3d 816, 819 (8th Cir. 1994)).

1. Specific Personal Jurisdiction

"Specific personal jurisdiction can be exercised by a federal court in a diversity suit only if authorized by the forum state's long-arm statute and permitted by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Dairy Farmers of Am., Inc. v. Bassett & Walker Intern., Inc. , 702 F.3d 472, 475 (8th Cir. 2012). Although some courts collapse the analysis, these inquiries are separate. Id . (citing Bryant v. Smith Interior Design Grp., Inc. , 310 S.W.3d 227, 231-32 (Mo. banc 2010) (analyzing the statutory and constitutional questions separately)). "The reach of a state long arm statute is a question of state law, " while "the extent to which the reach of a long arm statute is limited by due process is a question of federal law." Inst. Food Mktg. Assocs., Ltd. v. Golden State Strawberries, Inc. , 747 F.2d 448, 455 (8th Cir. 1984).

Missouri's long-arm statute authorizes personal jurisdiction over defendants who, inter alia, transact business or make a contract within the state. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 506.500.1(1), (2). In the second amended complaint, plaintiff asserts that Shadow Ridge conducts all of its business through Robinson, and Robinson transacted business in Missouri by negotiating and entering into a contract in Missouri, emailing and calling to Missouri, and receiving a wire transfer from a Missouri bank. Missouri courts construe "transaction of any business" broadly. State ex rel. Metal Serv. Ctr. of Ga., Inc. v. Gaertner , 677 S.W.2d 325, 327 (Mo. banc 1984). Reading the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to plaintiff, therefore, the exercise of jurisdiction over defendants is consistent with ...


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