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Roblin v. Newmar Corp.

United States District Court, D. Oregon

July 10, 2018

ROBERT ROBLIN, Plaintiff,
v.
NEWMAR CORPORATION and FREIGHTLINER CUSTOM CHASSIS CORPORATION, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MICHAEL J. MCSHANE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Robert Roblin brings this federal and state law action for breach of express warranty against Newmar Corp. (“Newmar”) and Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (“FCCC”). The case comes before the Court on FCCC's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. At issue is whether the Court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over FCCC pursuant to Oregon's long-arm statute would comport with due process. The Court concludes that it would not. Mr. Roblin fails to show that FCCC is at home in Oregon and therefore subject to general personal jurisdiction. He also fails to show that FCCC purposefully availed itself of the privilege of doing business in Oregon, which would allow for the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction. The motion is therefore GRANTED and FCCC is DISMISSED from the case without prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         Mr. Roblin is a Washington resident who purchased a Recreational Vehicle (“RV”) from non-party Guaranty RV in Junction City, Oregon in October 2015. When Mr. Roblin began experiencing mechanical and service-related issues with his RV, he filed the instant action against Newmar and FCCC for violations of the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2301, Oregon Lemon Law Act, Or. Rev. Stat. § 646A.400 et. seq., and Oregon Consumer Warranty Act, Or. Rev. Stat. § 72.8100 et. seq.

         The RV Mr. Roblin purchased was manufactured by Newmar and incorporated a chassis manufactured by FCCC. Newmar is an Indiana corporation with its principal place of business in Indiana. It manufactures RVs which sometimes incorporate chassis purchased from FCCC. Newmar is not a subject of the present motion and will remain as a defendant in the lawsuit. FCCC is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in South Carolina. FCCC designs and manufactures custom chassis for RVs, which it then sells to RV manufacturing clients, including Newmar. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of non-party Daimler Trucks North America LLC (“Daimler”), but has its own President and Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”).

         The FCCC chassis in Mr. Roblin's RV came with an express warranty, which requires, inter alia, that all necessary inspections and repairs be completed at an FCCC “authorized repair location.” There are eight such locations in Oregon. Mr. Roblin has, on at least one occasion, serviced his RV at an Oregon repair center. These FCCC-authorized service centers use Freightliner branding, carry Freightliner parts, and communicate with FCCC directly regarding procurement of parts and some repairs. FCCC's website also boasts that chassis owners “have access to the industry's largest network, comprised of more than 450 Freightliner-branded service centers throughout North America, ” and lists eight authorized locations in Oregon.

         FCCC represents that the authorized service centers are independently owned and operated, and that it does not have any “direct contracts” with the service centers. It also represents that it has never delivered, sold, designed, or manufactured any good or product in Oregon; transacted business in Oregon; been licensed to do business in Oregon; paid taxes in Oregon; made any contracts in Oregon; owned, used, possessed, leased, or rented any real estate in Oregon; had any directors, officers, or employees based in Oregon; or directed any advertising or marketing efforts to residents or businesses in Oregon.

         DISCUSSION

         FCCC moves the Court to dismiss it from the case for lack of personal jurisdiction. Where, as here, there is no applicable federal statute governing personal jurisdiction, a district court must apply the law of the state in which it sits. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(k)(1)(A); Panvasion Int'l, L.P. v. Toeppen, 141 F.3d 1316, 1320 (9th Cir. 1998). Oregon law authorizes personal jurisdiction to the full extent permitted by the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. See Or. R. Civ. P. 4L. To comport with the requirements of due process, a court may only exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant if that defendant has sufficient “minimum contacts” with the forum state, such that the exercise of personal jurisdiction would not “offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (citations and quotation marks omitted). A defendant's minimum contacts may be established through a showing of either general or specific jurisdiction. Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 801 (9th Cir. 2004). Since Mr. Roblin alleges both bases for personal jurisdiction over FCCC, the Court addresses each in turn.

         I. General Personal Jurisdiction.

         Mr. Roblin first argues that FCCC is subject to general personal jurisdiction in Oregon. A defendant is subject to general jurisdiction if its contacts with the forum state are “so continuous and systemic as to render it essentially at home there.” Daimler v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 127 (2014) (citations and quotation marks omitted). In general, a corporate defendant will satisfy this standard only if it is incorporated or has its principle place of business in the forum state. Id. at 137-38. Under certain circumstances, however, the contacts of a parent company, independently at home in the forum state, may be imputed to a non-resident subsidiary. Doe v. Unocal Corp., 248 F.3d 915, 925-26 (9th Cir. 2001). Such contacts may only be imputed if the defendant subsidiary is an “alter ego” of the parent. Ranza v. Nike, Inc., 793 F.3d 1059, 1072-73 (9th Cir. 2015). This requires (1) that there be such “unity of interest and ownership that the separate personalities of the two entities no longer exist” and (2) that treatment of the two entities as separate identities “would result in fraud or injustice.” Id. at 1073. This is a high bar and a parent-subsidiary relationship, even combined with “total ownership and shared management personnel, ” is insufficient to permit the imputation of a parent company's contacts. Id.

         Here, there is no evidence that FCCC has sufficient contacts to support general jurisdiction in Oregon. As Mr. Roblin acknowledges, FCCC is neither incorporated in Oregon nor does it have its principle place of business in the state. There is also no evidence that FCCC is otherwise “at home” in Oregon or an “alter ego” of its Oregon-based parent company, Daimler. Although FCCC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Daimler and sometimes held out as a brand of its parent company, Mr. Roblin fails to show that the two companies disregard their respective corporate formalities and FCCC presents uncontroverted evidence that each employs its own President and CEO. On these facts, it would be inconsistent with due process for the Court to exercise general jurisdiction over FCCC.

         Mr. Roblin nevertheless requests that the Court allow jurisdictional discovery to clarify whether FCCC is an alter ego of Daimler. A grant of jurisdictional discovery is within a district court's discretion and requires “more than a hunch that [discovery] might yield jurisdictionally relevant facts.” Boschetto v. Hansing, 539 F.3d 1011, 1020 (9th Cir. 2008). As noted above, Mr. Roblin offers little more than bare assertions that Daimler controls FCCC-there is no evidence to suggest that Daimler “dictates every facet of [FCCC's] business.” Ranza, 793 F.3d at 1074. His request for jurisdictional discovery is therefore denied.

         II. Specific ...


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