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State ex rel. Cedar Crest Apartments, LLC v. Grate

Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc

July 16, 2019

STATE OF MISSOURI ex rel. CEDAR CREST APARTMENTS, LLC and PETERSON PROPERTIES, INC. d/b/a THE PETERSON COMPANIES, Relators,
v.
THE HONORABLE JACK GRATE, Respondent.

          ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN PROHIBITION

          PAUL C. WILSON, JUDGE

         Lincoln Rene Aguiriano Martinez ("Martinez") filed a lawsuit in the circuit court of Jackson County, alleging personal injury sustained while working at an apartment complex in Overland Park, Kansas. Two of the defendants, Cedar Crest Apartments, LLC ("Cedar Crest"), and Peterson Properties, Inc. d/b/a The Peterson Companies ("Peterson Properties," and, collectively with Cedar Crest, "Relators"), are Kansas business entities. Relators seek a writ of prohibition directing the circuit court to dismiss Martinez's claims against them for lack of personal jurisdiction. Because Martinez failed to show that Relators are "at home" in Missouri and failed to identify any conduct by Relators in this state out of which his claims arise, the preliminary writ of prohibition is now made permanent.

         Background

         On August 31, 2015, Martinez, a Kansas resident, alleges he was working at an apartment complex in Overland Park, Kansas. He was electrocuted and seriously injured when he touched a ladder that had become charged due to arcing from or contact with an overhead power line. On August 25, 2017, Martinez filed a lawsuit for damages in the circuit court of Jackson County.

         Martinez alleges Relators "owned and/or controlled and/or maintained" the Kansas property on which he was injured and, therefore, are liable to him under various theories including premises liability. Relators are Kansas business entities, [1] with Kansas employees, and their principal places of business are in Kansas. Nevertheless, Martinez claims Peterson Properties has been registered to do business in Missouri since 1979, that it has solicited business here during that period, that it has filed (unrelated) lawsuits in this state, and that it owns (unrelated) rental property here.

         Martinez also named as a defendant J.A. Peterson Enterprises, Inc. ("Peterson Enterprises"). Peterson Enterprises is a Missouri corporation, it is the managing member of Cedar Crest, and it owns (through a subsidiary) Peterson Properties.

         Relators filed a motion to dismiss on the ground the circuit court lacked personal jurisdiction over them. Respondent overruled Relators' motion. Relators sought - and were denied - a writ of prohibition in the court of appeals and now petition this Court for the same relief. This Court has the authority to issue and determine original remedial writs, Mo. Const. art. V, § 4.1, and the preliminary writ is now made permanent.

         Analysis

         "Prohibition is an original proceeding brought to confine a lower court to the proper exercise of its jurisdiction." State ex rel. Bayer Corp. v. Moriarty, 536 S.W.3d 227, 230 (Mo. banc 2017) (quotation omitted). In particular, "[p]rohibition is the proper remedy to prevent further action of the trial court where personal jurisdiction of the defendant is lacking." State ex rel. Norfolk S. Ry. Co. v. Dolan, 512 S.W.3d 41, 45 (Mo. banc 2017) (quotation omitted). "However, prohibition is only proper when usurpation of jurisdiction is clearly evident." Id. (quotation and alteration omitted).

         "Personal jurisdiction refers quite simply to the power of a court to require a person to respond to a legal proceeding that may affect the person's rights or interests." Bayer, 536 S.W.3d at 230-31 (quotation and alteration omitted). To exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident corporation, such an assertion of jurisdiction must be authorized by Missouri's long-arm statute, § 506.500, RSMo 2016, and it must not offend due process. "It is a due process requirement limiting the power of courts over litigants." Id. at 231. Due process is satisfied when a court possesses "general - that is, all-purpose jurisdiction" - or "specific - that is, conduct-linked jurisdiction." Norfolk, 512 S.W.3d at 46 (citing Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 121-22 (2014)).

         General Jurisdiction

         "When a [s]tate exercises personal jurisdiction over a defendant in a suit not arising out of or related to the defendant's contacts with the forum, the [s]tate has been said to be exercising 'general jurisdiction' over the defendant." Id. (quoting Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 415 n.9 (1984)). "A court normally can exercise general jurisdiction over a corporation only when the corporation's place of incorporation or its principal place of business is in the forum state." Id. (citing Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011); Daimler, 571 U.S. at 126-27).

         However, "[i]n 'exceptional cases,' general jurisdiction may exist in an additional state if the corporation's activities in that other state are 'so substantial and of such a nature as to render the corporation at home in that [s]tate.'" Id. (quoting Daimler, 571 U.S. at 139 n.19). The Supreme Court's decision in Perkins v. Benguet Consolidated Mining Co., 342 U.S. 437 (1952) - in which general jurisdiction was found to exist in Ohio state court over a Philippine mining company that conducted business out of necessity from an office in Ohio during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II - "remains the textbook case of general ...


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