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Emiabata v. Progressive Insurance

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

February 21, 2018

PROGRESSIVE INSURANCE, et al., Defendants.



         I. Introduction

         This matter comes before the court[1] on the motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction filed by defendant P.A.M. Transport, Inc. (“P.A.M.”). ECF Doc. 14. Because Ohio's long-arm statute does not confer personal jurisdiction over P.A.M. Transport, Inc. in this court, its motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction must be GRANTED.

         II. Facts

         Plaintiff, Philip Emiabata, (“Emiabata”) owns a commercial tractor that was damaged while parked at a gas station in Kentucky on May 11, 2016. ECF Doc. 1, ¶¶ 1, 6, 7. Emiabata did not witness the accident and the tortfeasor left the scene without taking responsibility for his or her actions. ECF Doc. 1, ¶ 8. However, a witness saw P.A.M. Transportation truck number 34776 leaving the scene of the accident. Id. Emiabata contacted P.A.M., an Arkansas Corporation, [2] and demanded compensation for the damages to his tractor. ECF Doc. 1, ¶¶ 3, 9. He also submitted a claim to Progressive Insurance for the damages to his tractor. ECF Doc. 1, ¶¶ 9, 10. Emiabata brings this action against both P.A.M. Transportation and Progressive Insurance seeking recovery for the damages to his commercial tractor. ECF Doc. 1.

         Emiabata alleges that P.A.M. Transportation is “a Corporate defendant is Arkansas Corporation. That maintains it principal place of business in Ohio State. Where it has its headquarters, and where it engages in extensive Transportation business.” ECF 1, ¶ 3.

         III. Standard of Review

         Federal courts “sitting in diversity may not exercise jurisdiction over a defendant unless courts of the forum state[3] would be authorized to do so by state law - and any such exercise of jurisdiction must be compatible with the due process requirements of the United States Constitution.” Int'l Techs. Consultants v. Euroglas S.A., 107 F.3d 386, 391 (6th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted). Deciding whether jurisdiction exists is not an idle or perfunctory inquiry; due process demands that parties have sufficient contacts with the forum state so that it is fair to subject them to jurisdiction. See Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 475, 105 S.Ct. 2174, 85 L.Ed.2d 528 (1985) (“[T]he Due Process Clause gives a degree of predictability to the legal system that allows potential defendants to structure their primary conduct with some minimum assurance as to where that conduct will and will not render them liable to suit.” (Internal quotation marks and citations omitted)). The court's jurisdiction accordingly extends only to those parties who have in some fashion placed themselves in the hands of the tribunal. See, e.g., Kerry Steel, Inc. v. Paragon Indus., Inc., 106 F.3d 147, 150 (6th Cir. 1997) (“To be subject to in personam jurisdiction . . . a defendant must purposefully avail[ ] itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws.” (internal quotation marks and citation omitted) (alteration in the original)). Practically speaking, plaintiffs always concede personal jurisdiction, so the inquiry is typically restricted to defendants; because defendants who reside in the forum state will always be subject to the personal jurisdiction of the court, the inquiry is in most cases further restricted to non-resident defendants. Conn v. Zakharov, 667 F.3d 705, 711 (6th Cir. 2012).

         Presented with a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and opposition thereto, “a court has three procedural alternatives: it may decide the motion upon the affidavits alone; it may permit discovery in aid of deciding the motion; or it may conduct an evidentiary hearing to resolve any apparent factual questions.” Theunissen v. Matthews, 935 F.2d 1454, 1458 (6th Cir. 1991). The court has discretion to decide which method it will follow. Id. However the court handles the motion, the plaintiff always bears the burden of establishing that jurisdiction exists. Serras v. First Tennessee Bank National Ass'n, 875 F.2d 1212, 1214 (6th Cir. 1989). If the defendant supports his motion to dismiss with affidavits, the plaintiff may not stand on his pleadings but must, by affidavit or otherwise, set forth specific facts showing that the court has jurisdiction. Theunissen, 935 F.2d at 1458 (citing Weller v. Cromwell Oil Co., 504 F.2d 927, 930 (6th Cir. 1974).

         Here, the court found that neither P.A.M. nor Emiabata had supported their initial memoranda concerning P.A.M.'s motion to dismiss with affidavits. In an order issued on January 29, 2018, the court required the parties to file affidavits supporting the factual statements made in P.A.M.'s motion to dismiss (ECF Doc. 14) and Emiabata's opposition. (ECF Doc. 21) Having now reviewed the affidavits, (ECF Docs. 26 & 27) the court finds it unnecessary to conduct an evidentiary hearing, and the court will decide P.A.M.'s motion on the affidavits alone.

         IV. Law & Analysis

         Under Ohio law, personal jurisdiction over non-resident defendants is available only if (1) the long-arm statute confers jurisdiction and (2) jurisdiction is proper under the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. See Kauffman Racing Equip., L.L.C. v. Roberts, 126 Ohio St.3d 81, 2010-Ohio-2551, 930 N.E.2d 784, 790 (Ohio 2010); Goldstein v. Christiansen, 70 Ohio St.3d 232, 1994-Ohio-229, 638 N.E.2d 541, 543 (Ohio 1994). Ohio's long-arm statute is more restrictive than what has been found permissible under the due process clause in the U.S. Constitution. U.S. Const. amend. V. The analysis of Ohio's long-arm statute involves a particularized inquiry wholly separate from the analysis of federal due process law. Conn, 667 F.3d at 712. Ohio's long-arm statute grants Ohio courts personal jurisdiction over a non-resident if his conduct falls within the nine grounds for asserting jurisdiction listed in the statute. See Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2307.382(A), (C) (1988). Id. The statute makes clear that “[w]hen jurisdiction over a person is based solely upon this section, only a cause of action arising from acts enumerated in this section may be asserted against” the non-resident defendant. Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2307.382(C). If plaintiff fails to identify at least one of the grounds for claiming personal jurisdiction under Ohio's long-arm statute, the court is not required to also evaluate whether an assertion of personal jurisdiction over the defendant satisfies the U.S. Constitution's due process requirements. Dupee v. Playtika Santa Monica, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25026, *14 (N.D. Ohio 2016).

         Ohio's Long-Arm Statute, Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2308.382 (A), provides:

A court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a person who acts directly or by an agent, as to a cause of action ...

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