287 F.3d 1182 (9th Cir. 2002), 00-16290, Ochoa v. J.B. Martin and Sons Farms, Inc.

Docket Nº:00-16290
Citation:287 F.3d 1182
Party Name:Ochoa v. J.B. Martin and Sons Farms, Inc.
Case Date:April 26, 2002
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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287 F.3d 1182 (9th Cir. 2002)

Ernesto OCHOA; Pedro Bautista-Botello; Federico Guzman-Delgado; Emigdio Gutierrez-Godinez; Enrique Medina; Masedonio Miranda-Corona; Rosalio Valdez; Jose Vargas; Jose Cano-Varela; Miguel Aguayo-Arvayo; Manuel Cebreros; Remedios Chavez-Zamorano; Rodolfo Suchil-Fonseca; Rosario Tello-Fabian; Modesto Coronado-Ramirez, Plaintiffs-Appellants,


Florencio Carrillo-Valle; Jose Herrera-Herrera, Plaintiffs,


J.B. MARTIN AND SONS FARMS, INC., Defendant-Appellee.

No. 00-16290.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

April 26, 2002

Submitted Nov. 7, 2001. [*]

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Karen E. Tamburro, George McKay and Pamela Bridge, Community Legal Services, Programa Campesino, Phoenix, AZ, for the plaintiffs-appellants.

Frank A. Aloi, Rochester, NY, for the defendant-appellee.

Cynthia L. Rice, California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc., San Francisco, CA, for amicus curiae Mauricio Dominguez, urging reversal.

John J. Rademacher, Park Ridge, IL, and Elizabeth Croron Dribusch, Glenmont, NY, for Amici Curiae American Farm Bureau Federation, and New York Farm Bureau, Inc., urging affirmance.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Arizona, Robert C. Broomfield, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. CV 98-1918 RCB.

Before NOONAN, HAWKINS, and TASHIMA, Circuit Judges.


TASHIMA, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiffs-Appellants are 15 migrant farm workers who reside in Arizona who sued Defendant Appellee J.B. Martin and Sons Farms, Inc. ("Martin Farms"), for claims arising under the Agricultural Worker Protection Act ("AWPA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1801-1872 (1999), and Arizona state law. The district court dismissed the action for lack of personal jurisdiction over Martin Farms. Appellants timely appealed, contending that Martin Farms had sufficient contacts with Arizona to assert personal jurisdiction in Arizona. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we reverse.


Martin Farms is a grower located in upstate New York. Ramey Farms, Inc. ("Ramey") is a Texas-based labor contractor. In early 1997, representatives from Ramey traveled to New York to meet with Dave Martin. During that meeting, Martin requested Ramey's help in recruiting migrant labor for the Fall 1997 cabbage and squash harvests.

Before the Fall 1997 harvest began, Martin Farms requested recruiting help from Ramey for summer weeding. For this job, Ramey hired a crew of workers from El Paso, Texas. Martin Farms was dissatisfied with the quality of this crew's work, however, and instructed Ramey to hire a different crew for the upcoming fall harvest. Ramey assured Martin Farms that there were plenty of available farmworkers in San Luis, Arizona, and that it would recruit there for the fall harvest.

In July 1997, Ramey and Martin Farms entered into a contract for the Fall 1997 harvesting season. The pertinent contractual provisions are as follows: employees recruited by Ramey were "the sole and exclusive employees Ramey Farms, Inc. [sic]"; Ramey was responsible "for all aspects of payroll"; Ramey was responsible for transporting the workers from Arizona and in New York; "[a]ny employee that works for ... Martin Farms ... thru Ramey ... cannot be hired directly or indirectly" by Martin; housing, equipment and tools were provided by Martin; and the effective dates of the agreement were July 3, 1997, through December 31, 1997. To cover transportation expenses, Martin Farms paid Ramey $25.00 for each worker transported by bus from Arizona to New York. And, while Ramey contractually controlled "all aspects of payroll," Martin Farms set Appellants' wage rate at $6.00 per hour because it did not want them to be paid more than the farm workers at other farms in the area. Ramey charged

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Martin Farms a per employee/per hour fee, which included the employee's base hourly wage, payroll taxes, and worker's compensation costs, plus a fifty-cent commission. Martin Farms was responsible for depositing these fees weekly into a New York bank account opened by Ramey, and Ramey was in charge of directly paying and supervising the farm workers.

In September 1997, Terry Ramey arrived in San Luis, Arizona, and hired 42 farm workers, including Appellants, to work as harvesters in Martin Farms' cabbage and squash fields. The workers were not given written contracts. Rather, they were orally promised $6.00 per hour, 10 hours or more of work per day, free housing, and transportation to and from New York. Before leaving Arizona, Terry Ramey contacted Martin Farms. Once Martin Farms informed Ramey that everything was prepared for harvest, Ramey transported the workers to Martin Farms' labor camp in New York.

Appellants allege that while working in New York, Martin Farms provided substandard housing, in violation of the AWPA, and breached its contracts by not paying the workers all wages that were due and by failing to provide some workers with transportation back to Arizona after the work was completed.

The district court dismissed the action for lack of personal jurisdiction without holding an evidentiary hearing. Appellants appeal.


The trial court's decision to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction is reviewed de novo. Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 680 (9th Cir. 2001); Myers v. Bennett Law Offices, 238 F.3d 1068, 1071 (9th Cir. 2001). With respect to the burden of proof, while Appellants bear the burden of establishing that personal jurisdiction exists, because "the trial court ruled on the issue relying on affidavits and discovery materials without holding an evidentiary hearing, dismissal is appropriate only if the plaintiff[s] ha[ve] not made a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction." Am. Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Compagnie Bruxelles Lambert, 94 F.3d 586, 588(9th Cir. 1996) quoting (Fields v. Sedgwick Assoc. Risks, Ltd., 796 F.2d 299, 301 (9th Cir. 1986)); see also Sher v. Johnson, 911 F.2d 1357, 1361 (9th Cir. 1990). In determining whether Appellants have met this prima facie burden, uncontroverted allegations in their complaint must be taken as true, and "conflicts between the facts contained in the parties' affidavits must be resolved in [their] favor...." Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 94 F.3d at 588 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Additionally, any evidentiary materials submitted on the motion "are construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff[s] and all doubts are resolved in [their] favor." Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Neaves, 912 F.2d 1062, 1064 n. 1 (9th Cir. 1990) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).


We must decide whether migrant farm workers, recruited by a labor contractor in one state to work on a farm in another state, can assert personal jurisdiction in the state of their residence over a non-resident farm employer. Although the question, in this factual setting, is one of first impression in this Circuit, we apply to it settled principles of law. 1

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Arizona law governs the exercise of personal jurisdiction in this case. Brainerd v. Governors of the Univ. of Alberta, 873 F.2d 1257, 1258 (9th Cir. 1989). Arizona's long-arm rule permits the exercise of personal jurisdiction to the extent allowed by the due process clause of the United States Constitution. Ariz. R. Civ. P. Rule 4(e)(2). Appellants concede that the district court does not have general personal jurisdiction over Martin Farms and that its specific contacts with Arizona provide the only avenue for personal jurisdiction in the District of Arizona. Due process demands that the defendant have "minimum contacts" with the forum "such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945). Minimum contacts with the forum ensure fairness when requiring a defendant to defend litigation in the forum state. World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 291-92, 100 S.Ct. 559, 62 L.Ed.2d 490 (1980).

This court has established a three-factor test for determining when a state may constitutionally exercise specific jurisdiction over a defendant: (1) the nonresident defendant must do some act or consummate some transaction with the forum state or perform some act by which it purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities in the forum state, thereby invoking the benefits and protections of its laws; (2) the claim must arise out of or result from the defendant's forum-related activity; and/or 2 (3) the exercise

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of jurisdiction must be reasonable. Brand, 796 F.2d at 1073. Because Appellants' injury clearly arose out of activities purposefully directed at Arizona, we focus on the first and third prongs of the test.

A. Purposeful Availment

Neither party contests that Ramey directed its recruiting activities toward Arizona. If Ramey was acting as Martin Farms' agent in this regard, Ramey's activities suffice to provide specific jurisdiction over Martin Farms. See Theo. H. Davies & Co. v. Republic of the Marshall Islands, 174 F.3d 969, 974 (9th Cir. 1999) ("In determining the sufficiency of a defendant's contacts, it is not only defendant's activities in the forum, but also actions relevant to the transaction by an agent on defendant's behalf, which support personal jurisdiction.") (internal quotation marks omitted).

The district court ruled that Ramey acted as an independent contractor and thus could not be considered Martin Farms' agent. While the district court's analysis on this point is quite brief, it did conclude that "Martin Farms had no control over the actions of Ramey." This conclusion, however, is at odds with the record. While Ramey conducted the recruiting in Arizona without...

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