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Lawson v. Simmons Sporting Goods, Inc.

Supreme Court of Arkansas

March 28, 2019

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

          APPEAL FROM THE ASHLEY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. CV-2015-151-4] HONORABLE DON E. GLOVER, JUDGE

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

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

          OPINION

          RHONDA K. WOOD, Associate Justice.

         Appellant Carolyn Lawson appeals the circuit court's dismissal of her premises-liability suit against appellee Simmons Sporting Goods, Inc., for lack of personal jurisdiction. We affirm because Arkansas courts do not have jurisdiction to entertain Lawson's claims against Simmons.

         I. Facts and Procedural Background

         Simmons operates a retail-sporting-goods store in Bastrop, Louisiana. It is incorporated in Louisiana with its principal place of business in Louisiana. Simmons has never operated a store in Arkansas. However, Simmons advertises in Arkansas through promotional catalog inserts and display ads in Arkansas newspapers, promotional television ads, and online ads with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. It contracts with an Arkansas printing company to produce its print ads. Simmons also hosts a "Big Buck Contest," which awards a prize for the largest deer killed in Arkansas.

         Lawson is a resident of Hamburg, Arkansas. In August 2012, she traveled with her daughter from Hamburg to Bastrop to attend Simmons's "Annual Tent Sale." Upon entering the store, she tripped on a rug in the foyer, fell, and broke her arm.

         In March 2015, Lawson filed suit against Simmons in the Ashley County Circuit Court. Simmons moved to dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). In response, Lawson argued that personal jurisdiction existed because Simmons (1) advertised in Arkansas; (2) held an annual "Big Buck Contest" in Arkansas; and (3) used an Arkansas printing company to produce advertisements for its store. Following a hearing, the circuit court found that Arkansas lacked personal jurisdiction over Simmons and dismissed the case.

         Lawson appealed to the Arkansas Court of Appeals, which reversed, holding that Simmons's contacts with Arkansas were sufficient to warrant personal jurisdiction over Simmons. Lawson v. Simmons Sporting Goods, Inc., 2017 Ark.App. 44, 511 S.W.3d 883, cert. granted, judgment vacated, 138 S.Ct. 237 (2017) (Mem.). We denied Simmons's petition for review. Simmons then filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court granted the petition, vacated the judgment of the court of appeals, and remanded the case for further consideration in light of its recent decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of Cal., San Francisco Cty., 582 U.S. ___, 137 S.Ct. 1773 (2017).

         On remand, the court of appeals affirmed the circuit court's dismissal of Lawson's complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. Lawson v. Simmons Sporting Goods, Inc., 2018 Ark.App. 343, 553 S.W.3d 190. It concluded that because there was no affiliation between Arkansas and the underlying controversy, which the Supreme Court in Bristol-Myers requires, there was no specific personal jurisdiction over Simmons. Id. Lawson then petitioned this court for review, and we granted the petition. When we grant a petition for review, we consider the appeal as though it had originally been filed in this court. James Tree & Crane Serv. v. Fought, 2017 Ark. 173, 518 S.W.3d 678.

         II. Standard of Review

         We first clarify our standard of review on a motion challenging personal jurisdiction. Rule 12(b)(2) motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction are commonly founded on the parties' pleadings. However, the court may also consider matters outside the pleadings when ruling on a Rule 12(b)(2) motion. See, e.g., Davis v. St. John's Health Sys., Inc., 348 Ark. 17, 71 S.W.3d 55 (2002). In past cases, we have stated that consideration of facts beyond the pleadings converts a Rule 12(b)(2) motion to a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment. See, e.g., Ganey v. Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A., 366 Ark. 238, 234 S.W.3d 838 (2006); Payne v. France, 373 Ark. 175, 282 S.W.3d 760 (2008); Hotfoot Logistics, LLC v. Shipping Point Mktg., Inc., 2013 Ark. 130, 426 S.W.3d 448. And in those cases, we reviewed the ruling under the summary judgment standard of review. Id. We now conclude that this practice was incorrect.

         Rule 12(b) does not provide for this conversion. Rule 12(b) requires that Rule 56 standards be applied to motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) when "matters outside the pleading are presented to and not excluded by the court." Ark. R. Civ. P. 12 (2018); Ark. R. Civ. P. 56. But Rule 12 does not prescribe ...


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