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Honda Jet Ltd., L.L.C. v. Honda Aircraft Co., LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division

August 21, 2019

HONDA JET LIMITED, L.L.C. PLAINTIFF
v.
HONDA AIRCRAFT COMPANY, LLC DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          TIMOTHY L. BROOKS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Currently before the Court are Defendant Honda Aircraft Company, LLC's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction (Doc. 25); Plaintiff Honda Jet Limited, L.L.C.'s Response (Doc. 26) and Memorandum Brief in Support (Doc. 27); Defendant's Supplement (Doc. 30) and Reply (Doc. 31); and Plaintiffs Supplements (Docs. 32, 34). For the reasons given below, the Court will GRANT Defendant's Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant is an aircraft manufacturer. Back in 2006, Plaintiff signed a purchase agreement ("the Purchase Agreement") with Defendant, for the purchase of a small twin-engine private aircraft ("the Jet"). The model that Plaintiff agreed to purchase from Defendant (Model HA-420) was still in development at that time-which is to say, Plaintiff agreed to purchase the Jet before it came to market. Over the next eleven years, Defendant continued to develop and manufacture the aircraft, and in 2017 the Jet was finally delivered to Plaintiff.

         Plaintiff alleges that the Jet was delivered with various defects that have required extensive and expensive diagnostics and repairs. Those alleged defects are the subject of this lawsuit, which Plaintiff filed on March 7, 2019, in the Circuit Court of Baxter County, Arkansas. A month and a half later, Defendant removed the lawsuit to this Court. Plaintiffs operative complaint asserts one count against Defendant for breach of the Purchase Agreement's warranty. Plaintiff seeks a judgment for the damages allegedly caused by Defendant's breach, along with either a replacement jet that is free of defects or an award in the amount of the Jet's purchase price.

         Defendant has filed a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction. Essentially, Defendant argues that this lawsuit cannot be brought against it in the state of Arkansas because this state is not Defendant's principal place of business, Defendant is not organized under the laws of this state, and none of the events giving rise to this lawsuit occurred in Arkansas. Plaintiff, of course, disagrees, having filed the lawsuit in this state. Defendant's Motion has been fully briefed, and is ripe for decision.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Plaintiff bears the burden of proving sufficient facts to "make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction over the defendant." See Digi-Tel Holdings, Inc. v. Proteq Telecomm. (PTE), Ltd., 89 F.3d 519, 522 (8th Cir. 1996). But the Court "must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and resolve all conflicts in the plaintiffs favor." Id.

         For a court to have personal jurisdiction over a defendant, two requirements must be satisfied. One requirement is that the forum state's long-arm statute must permit service of process. The other requirement is that the defendant must have sufficient minimum contacts with the forum state such that it would not violate federal constitutional requirements of due process for the defendant to be sued in that state. But in Arkansas, these two requirements collapse into one, because Arkansas's long-arm statute authorizes the exercise of personal jurisdiction to the maximum extent permitted by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. See Ark. Code Ann. § 16-4-101(B); see also Epps v. Stewart Info. Servs. Corp., 327 F.3d 642, 647 (8th Cir. 2003).

         The Due Process Clause allows courts to exercise personal jurisdiction only when a defendant has "certain minimum contacts with" the forum state "such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." See Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (internal quotation marks omitted). This standard "presaged the development of two categories of personal jurisdiction": general jurisdiction and specific jurisdiction. Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 126-27(2014).

         General jurisdiction allows a court to hear "any and all claims" against a defendant. See Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011). When the defendant is a corporation, the Due Process Clause permits general jurisdiction over it only when its "affiliations with the State are so continuous and systematic as to render them essentially at home in the forum State." See Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). "The place of incorporation and principal place of business" are the "paradigm bases for general jurisdiction" over a corporation. Daimler, 571 U.S. at 137 (internal alterations and quotation marks omitted).

         "Specific jurisdiction, on the other hand, depends on an affiliation between the forum and the underlying controversy, principally, activity or an occurrence that takes place in the forum State and is therefore subject to the State's regulation." Goodyear, 564 U.S. at 919 (internal alteration and quotation marks omitted). Its exercise is "confined to adjudication of issues deriving from, or connected with, the very controversy that establishes jurisdiction." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). "The inquiry whether a forum State may assert specific jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant focuses on the relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation." Walden v. Fiore, 571 U.S. 277, 283-84 (2014) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         To aid district courts in determining whether a defendant has sufficient minimum contacts with a forum, the Eighth Circuit has crafted a five-factor test:

(1) the nature and quality of the contacts with the forum state; (2) the quantity of the contacts with the forum state; (3) the relation of the cause of action to the contacts; (4) the interest of the forum state in providing a forum for ...

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