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Lawson v. Simmons Sporting Goods, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Divisions IV & I

June 6, 2018

CAROLYN LAWSON APPELLANT
v.
SIMMONS SPORTING GOODS, INC. APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE ASHLEY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 02CV-15-51] HONORABLE DON GLOVER, JUDGE

          Gibson & Keith, PLLC, by: Paul W. Keith, for appellant.

          Hudson, Potts & Bernstein, LLP, by: G. Adam Cossey, for appellee.

          RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, JUDGE

         This is the second time this case has been before us. We initially reversed the Ashley County Circuit Court's dismissal of Carolyn Lawson's suit against Simmons Sporting Goods, Inc. (Simmons), for lack of personal jurisdiction. See Lawson v. Simmons Sporting Goods, Inc., 2017 Ark.App. 44, 511 S.W.3d 883, reh'g denied (Mar. 1, 2017) (Lawson I). Following our reversal, Simmons filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court vacated our opinion and remanded the case in light of its decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California, San Francisco Cty., 137 S.Ct. 1773 (2017). See Simmons Sporting Goods, Inc. v. Lawson, 138 S.Ct. 237 (Mem.) (2017). Having considered Bristol-Myers, we now affirm the circuit court's dismissal of the case for lack of personal jurisdiction.

         We first briefly reiterate the facts of this case as discussed in Lawson I. This lawsuit stems from a premises-liability suit. Lawson is a resident of Ashley County, Arkansas. Simmons operates a retail sporting-goods store located in Bastrop, Louisiana. This is the corporation's only store, and it has never operated a store in Arkansas. It is a Louisiana corporation with its principal place of business, registered office, and registered agent in Bastrop, Louisiana. The corporation has only two shareholders, both of whom are Louisiana residents.

         Simmons advertises in Arkansas. Its advertising efforts include inserting promotional catalogs and display advertisements into various Arkansas newspapers, running promotional advertisements on television, and running advertisements online with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The advertisements state that customers can get the same deals by "shopping from home" on its website. Simmons also hosts a "Big Buck Contest" in which the store awards a prize for the largest deer harvested in Arkansas. To qualify, one must bring the deer to the store in Louisiana and must live within 200 miles of Bastrop, Louisiana.

         On August 3, 2013, Lawson traveled from her home in Arkansas to the Simmons store in Louisiana to shop at the "Annual Tent Sale" event. Lawson stated that she did not visit Simmons based on its advertisements but went because her daughter wanted to attend the tent sale that she had learned about by "word of mouth." Upon entering the store, she fell on a rug located in the foyer and broke her arm.

         Lawson then filed suit against Simmons in the Ashley County Circuit Court seeking damages for her pain and suffering, past and future medical expenses associated with care and treatment of the injuries sustained, and current and future restrictions upon her activities imposed by her injuries. In response, Simmons filed its motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. A hearing was held on the matter, and the circuit court issued an order granting the motion to dismiss. Lawson appealed the order to this court.

         On appeal, we reversed the circuit court and held that Simmons's contacts with Arkansas created specific jurisdiction. Lawson I, 2017 Ark.App. 44, 511 S.W.3d 883. We noted that the Arkansas Supreme Court had recently reiterated its adoption of the Eighth Circuit five-factor test for determining minimum contacts over nonresident corporations in Hotfoot Logistics, LLC v. Shipping Point Marketing, Inc., 2014 Ark. 460, 447 S.W.3d 592, and we applied that test. Id. Those five factors are (1) the nature and quality of contacts with the forum state; (2) the quantity of such contacts; (3) the relation of the cause of action to the contacts; (4) the interest of the forum state in providing a forum for its residents; and (5) convenience of the parties. Id. We held that Simmons's contacts with Arkansas created specific jurisdiction. Id. Specifically, we stated that

the facts demonstrating contacts between the parties are explained as follows. From 2012 to 2015, Simmons printed and distributed catalogs in the State of Arkansas, and purchased newspaper advertising in Arkansas newspapers, as well as television advertisements. Importantly, Simmons hosted a contest that targeted Arkansas residents for the largest deer harvested in Arkansas. Simmons circulated a total of 483, 700 print advertisements and a total of 1, 696, 704 copies of the catalog. However, the relation of the cause of action to the contacts is weak. This cause of action arises out of a premises-liability suit that occurred in Louisiana; it is not directly connected to Simmons's advertisements. As discussed above, however, the proper question is not where the plaintiff experienced a particular injury or effect, but whether the defendant's conduct connects him to the forum in a meaningful way. Walden [v. Fiore, 134 S.Ct. 1115 (2014)]. Moreover, Arkansas does have a strong interest in providing a forum for its residents, particularly for those residents who act in response to solicitation from outside states. Lastly, Simmons is located roughly thirty miles away from the forum, so the argument regarding an inconvenient forum is weak.

Id. at 7, 511 S.W.3d at 887-88 (footnote omitted). Accordingly, we held that even though the relationship between Simmons's contacts with Arkansas and the cause of action was weak, the other four factors weighed in favor of exercising specific jurisdiction over Simmons.

         As earlier stated, following the issuance of Lawson I, Simmons filed a petition for review with our supreme court, and our supreme court denied it. Simmons then filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court vacated our opinion in light of its decision in Bristol-Myers. See Simmons Sporting Goods, Inc. v. Lawson, 138 S.Ct. 237 (Mem.) (2017).[1]

         In Bristol-Myers, a group of plaintiffs consisting of 86 California residents and 592 residents from 33 other States brought a mass tort action in California state court against Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), a large pharmaceutical company. 137 S.Ct. 1773. The plaintiffs asserted a variety of state-law claims based on injuries allegedly caused by Plavix, a drug manufactured by BMS. Id. BMS is incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in New York. Id. Five of the company's research and laboratory facilities, which employ around 160 employees, are located ...


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