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Robinson v. Harley-Davidson Motor Co.

Supreme Court of Oregon, En Banc

December 19, 2013

HILARY P. ROBINSON, Petitioner on Review,
HARLEY-DAVIDSON MOTOR COMPANY, an assumed business name for Harley-Davidson Motor Company Group, LLC, a foreign limited liability company, fka Harley-Davidson Motor Company Group, Inc., et al., Defendants, and GRAND TETON HARLEY-DAVIDSON & BUELL, an assumed business name for Grand Teton Cycles, LLC, an Idaho limited liability company, Respondent on Review.

Argued and submitted April 30, 2013

On review from the Court of Appeals. CC 0904-05047; CA A143846 [*]

Kathryn H. Clarke, Portland, argued the cause and filed the brief for petitioner on review. With her on the brief were Michael L. Rosenbaum and Travis J. Mayor, Portland.

Janet M. Schroer, Hart Wagner, LLP, Portland, argued the cause for respondent on review. Majorie A. Speirs, Hart Wagner, LLP, Portland, filed the brief.

Cody Hoesly, Larkins Vacura LLP, Portland, filed the brief for amicus curiae Oregon Trial Lawyers Association.


Plaintiff, an Oregon resident, sustained injuries in a motorcycle accident that occurred in Wyoming. She subsequently filed an action in Oregon seeking damages for her injuries, naming as a defendant Grand Teton Cycles, LLC, a Harley-Davidson franchisee with a physical presence in Idaho and Wyoming. The trial court determined that it lacked personal jurisdiction over defendant and granted defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Robinson v. Harley-Davidson Motor Co., 247 Or.App. 587, 270 P.3d 367 (2012). We allowed plaintiff's petition for review to determine whether defendant, a nonresident, had sufficient contacts with Oregon for a court in this state to exercise specific jurisdiction over it. We conclude that this litigation did not arise out of or relate to defendant's activities in Oregon. However, we affirm for a different reason than expressed by the Court of Appeals, and, in so doing, we disavow the substantive relevance test to the extent that it was advanced in State ex rel Michelin v. Wells, 294 Or 296, 657 P.2d 207 (1982).


Defendant is an Idaho-registered limited liability company that owns and operates Harley-Davidson dealership franchises. Under the terms of its franchise agreement with Harley-Davidson, defendant operates two dealerships in Idaho -- in Idaho Falls and Pocatello -- and one dealership in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Oregon is not included within defendant's "Dealer Assigned Territory" under the terms of its franchise agreement with Harley-Davidson. Nor does defendant maintain a physical presence or maintain bank accounts, officers, employees, or agents within Oregon.

Defendant has sold motorcycles, rentals, and services to Oregon residents who have visited its franchise locations, and it has purchased merchandise from, and sold merchandise to, Harley-Davidson dealerships in Oregon. On isolated occasions, defendant has sold parts and accessories to Oregon residents by orders placed through its interactive website, which is accessible to customers worldwide. On its website, defendant advertises motorcycle sales, repair services, sales of parts and accessories, sponsorship information for local events, and promotions for out-of-state residents to fly to Idaho to purchase motorcycles. Harley-Davidson also separately promotes defendant's franchise locations in its touring handbook, which is distributed nationally and lists all Harley-Davidson dealerships in the United States. In addition, defendant annually advertises in a few trade publications. Defendant's revenue from sales of accessories, parts, services, and rentals to Oregon residents and Oregon dealerships between the years 2002 and 2009 totaled, on average, approximately $60, 000 per year. Although some of that revenue was attributable to sales to Oregon residents that occurred through defendant's online website, nearly all transactions involving Oregon residents occurred in Idaho.

In 2004, plaintiff purchased a Harley-Davidson motorcycle from Latus Motors Harley-Davidson (Latus Motors), a dealership in Gladstone, Oregon. Thereafter, she regularly returned to Latus Motors for service and warranty repairs on the motorcycle. Before the accident that gave rise to this litigation, plaintiff also visited defendant's Idaho Falls dealership on two occasions. Plaintiff first stopped at the dealership in 2004 while driving through Idaho, having learned of it through friends and the Harley-Davidson touring handbook. In 2006, she visited the dealership again while attending an Idaho-based motorcycle rally that defendant sponsored. Plaintiff visited defendant's website to register for the 2006 rally.

In early August 2007, Latus Motors serviced plaintiff's motorcycle and installed new tires. A few days later, plaintiff departed on a multistate motorcycle tour. While riding in Idaho, the front end of plaintiff's motorcycle began to "wobble" at highway speeds. Plaintiff took the motorcycle to defendant's Idaho Falls dealership to address the front-end stability problem. Defendant's employee examined the motorcycle and completed warranty repairs. The next day, in Wyoming, plaintiff was riding the motorcycle at highway speeds when it again began to "wobble." The motorcycle went into an uncontrollable front-end weave, and plaintiff was thrown off the motorcycle and injured.

Plaintiff subsequently commenced an action in Multnomah County Circuit Court against the motorcycle manufacturer, two dealerships that had serviced the motorcycle, including defendant, and two parts manufacturers, alleging claims for products liability, negligent repair, breach of warranty, and other claims. As relevant to defendant, plaintiff specifically alleged that defendant failed to properly diagnose and repair the cause of the front-end problem, failed to contact Harley-Davidson for repair instructions or instruct its employees on proper repairs, and failed to notify plaintiff that the motorcycle could continue to experience a high-speed "wobble."

Defendant filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint pursuant to ORCP 21 A(2), asserting that the trial court lacked personal jurisdiction over defendant. After hearing the parties' arguments, the trial court concluded that it lacked personal jurisdiction and granted defendant's motion to dismiss. The trial court entered a limited judgment, and plaintiff appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed that judgment, and we granted review to address the jurisdictional issue presented in this case.

In reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, we consider the facts as alleged in plaintiff's complaint, any relevant supporting affidavits, and other evidence submitted by the parties. Willemsen v. Invacare Corp., 352 Or 191, 195 n 2, 282 P.3d 867 (2012), cert den, __US __, 133 S.Ct. 984 (2013); see also ORCP 21 A (providing that a trial court considering a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction may rely on the pleadings, affidavits, declarations, and other evidence). The burden is on the plaintiff to allege and prove facts sufficient to establish jurisdiction over a particular defendant. Michelin, 294 Or at 299 (citing State ex rel Sweere v. Crookham, 289 Or 3, 6, 609 P.2d 361 (1980)). In this case, the jurisdictional facts are undisputed.

Oregon's long-arm statute, ORCP 4, sets out the grounds for an Oregon court to exercise jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant in a civil case. The rule outlines five general bases for establishing personal jurisdiction under ORCP 4 A, enumerates several more specific bases for personal jurisdiction under ORCP 4 B through K, and also provides a catchall provision under ORCP 4 L that confers jurisdiction to the extent permitted by due process. State ex rel Circus Circus Reno, Inc. v. Pope, 317 Or 151, 154-56, 854 P.2d 461 (1993); see also Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, __ U.S. __, __, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 2850, 180 L.Ed.2d 796 (2011) ("A state court's assertion of jurisdiction exposes defendants to the State's coercive power, and is therefore subject to review for compatibility with the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause.").

Although plaintiff asserted at trial that defendant's contacts -- particularly its presence through its interactive website -- were sufficient to establish jurisdiction in accordance with ORCP 4 A, plaintiff does not reprise that argument before this court. Plaintiff also does not invoke any basis for jurisdiction enumerated in ORCP 4 B through K. Rather, plaintiff asserts that, pursuant to ORCP 4 L, defendant's contacts with this state were sufficient to permit an Oregon court to exercise jurisdiction over defendant to the extent permitted by this state's constitution and the Constitution of the United States.[1]See State ex rel Hydraulic Servocontrols v. Dale, 294 Or 381, 384, 657 P.2d 211 (1982) (ORCP 4 L confers jurisdiction to the "outer limits of due process"). Because Oregon does not have a due process clause in its constitution that would impose a state constitutional limit on jurisdiction, we are guided by decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States that address the constitutionality of an invocation of jurisdiction under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[2]

Circus Circus, 317 Or at 156.

Under Supreme Court jurisprudence, an exercise of jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant comports with due process if there exists "minimum contacts" between the defendant and the forum state such that maintaining suit in the state would "not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 291-92, 100 S.Ct. 559, 62 L.Ed.2d 490 (1980) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945) ("[D]ue process requires only that in order to subject a defendant to a judgment in personam, if he be not present within the territory of the forum, he have certain minimum contacts with it such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend 'traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'"). Due process is thus satisfied if "the defendant's conduct and connection with the forum State are such that he [or she] should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there." World-Wide Volkswagen, 444 U.S. at 297.

In applying that test, the Supreme Court has recognized that jurisdiction over a nonresident may be either general or specific. Goodyear, __US at __, 131 S.Ct. at 2851; see also Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472, 473 n 15, 105 S.Ct. 2174, 85 L.Ed.2d 528 (1985) (noting distinction between general and specific jurisdiction); see Willemsen, 352 Or at 197.[3] General jurisdiction exists when the defendant's affiliations with the forum state "are so 'continuous and systematic'" as to render the defendant "essentially at home in the forum State." Goodyear, __US at __, 131 S.Ct. at 2851; see Willemsen, 352 Or at 197. Stated differently, general jurisdiction is present in "'instances in which the continuous * * * operations within a state [are] so substantial and of such a nature as to justify suit against [the defendant] on causes of actions arising from dealings entirely distinct from those activities.'" Goodyear, __US __, 131 S.Ct. at 2853 (first alteration in original; quoting International Shoe, 326 U.S. at 318). In abandoning her ORCP 4 A argument, plaintiff has effectively abandoned her argument that defendant's contacts were so continuous and systematic as to constitute a basis for general jurisdiction. Instead, plaintiff seeks to assert specific jurisdiction over defendant.

Specific jurisdiction "depends on an 'affiliatio[n] 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, __US at __, 131 S.Ct. at 2851 (alteration in original); see Willemsen, 352 Or at 197. In other words, specific jurisdiction "is confined to adjudication of 'issues deriving from, or connected with, the very controversy that establishes jurisdiction.'" Goodyear, __US at __, 131 S.Ct. at 2851 (quoting von Mehren & Trautman, Jurisdiction to Adjudicate: A Suggested Analysis, 79 Harv L Rev 1121, 1136 (1966)).

The analytical framework for determining whether specific jurisdiction exists consists of three inquiries. See Circus Circus, 317 Or at 159-60 (laying out analytical framework). First, the defendant must have "purposefully avail[ed] itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State." Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253, 78 S.Ct. 1228, 2 L.Ed.2d 1283 (1958). The requirement that a defendant purposefully direct activity to the forum state precludes the exercise of jurisdiction over a defendant whose affiliation with the forum state is "random, " "fortuitous, " or "attenuated, " or the "unilateral activity of another party or a third person." Burger King, 471 U.S. at 475 (internal citation marks omitted); see also State ex rel Jones v. Crookham, 296 Or 735, 741-42, 681 P.2d 103 (1984) (requirements of due process not met when defendant's contacts with Oregon are "minimal and fortuitous").

Second, the action must "arise out of or relate to" the foreign defendant's "activities in the forum State." Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A., v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414, 104 S.Ct. 1868, 80 L.Ed.2d 404 (1984); Burger King, 471 U.S. at 472. Stated differently, for an exercise of specific jurisdiction to be valid, there must be "a 'relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation.'" Helicopteros, 466 U.S. at 414 (quoting Shaffer v. Heitner, 433 U.S. 186, 204, 97 S.Ct. 2569, 53 L.Ed.2d 683 (1977)). In further explaining that relationship, the Supreme Court recently highlighted two means by which specific jurisdiction attaches: Jurisdiction may attach if a party engages in "activity [that] is continuous and systematic and that activity gave rise to the episode-in-suit." Goodyear, __US at __, 131 S.Ct. at 2853 (internal quotation marks omitted; emphasis in original). Jurisdiction may also attach if a party's "certain single or occasional acts in a State [are] sufficient to render [him or her] answerable in that State with respect to those acts, though not with respect to matters unrelated to the forum connections." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, as articulated by the Court, an exercise of specific jurisdiction is appropriate in cases where the controversy at issue "derive[s] from, or connect[s] with" a defendant's forum-related contacts. Id. at __, 131 S.Ct. at 2851.

Finally, a court must examine whether the exercise of jurisdiction over a foreign defendant comports with fair play and substantial justice, taking into account various factors deemed relevant, including an evaluation of the burden on a defendant, the forum state's interest in obtaining convenient and effective relief, the interstate judicial system's interest in efficient resolution of controversies, and furthering fundamental social policies. Asahi Metal Industry Co. v. Superior Court, 480 U.S. 102, 113, 107 S.Ct. 1026, 94 L.Ed.2d 92 (1987); Burger King, 471 U.S. at 476-77; see Circus Circus, 317 Or at 159-60.

Here, the trial court found that defendant purposefully availed itself of the benefits and protections of this state, but that its contacts did not arise out of or relate to this litigation. Although defendant asserted before the Court of Appeals that its activities did not fulfill the "purposeful availment" prong of the test, the Court of Appeals declined to reach that issue, because it determined that the "arise out of or relate to" requirement was not met. Robinson, 247 Or.App. at 592. In doing so, the Court of Appeals applied what has been labeled the "substantive relevance" test, which led the Court of Appeals "to the same conclusion that ...

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