780 F.3d 1206 (9th Cir. 2015), 12-17098, Picot v. Weston

Docket Nº:12-17098
Citation:780 F.3d 1206
Opinion Judge:TASHIMA, Circuit Judge:
Party Name:BERNARD PICOT, Plaintiff-Appellant, and PAUL DAVID MANOS, Plaintiff, v. DEAN D. WESTON, Defendant-Appellee
Attorney:Thomas M. Boehm (argued), Law Offices of Thomas M. Boehm, Los Gatos, California, for Plaintiff-Appellant. David H. Schwartz (argued), Angeline Elizabeth O'Donnell, Law Offices of David H. Schwartz, San Francisco, California, for Defendant-Appellee.
Judge Panel:Before: A. Wallace Tashima and Richard A. Paez, Circuit Judges, and Gordon J. Quist, Senior District Judge.[*] Opinion by Judge Tashima.
Case Date:March 19, 2015
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
 
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Page 1206

780 F.3d 1206 (9th Cir. 2015)

BERNARD PICOT, Plaintiff-Appellant, and PAUL DAVID MANOS, Plaintiff,

v.

DEAN D. WESTON, Defendant-Appellee

No. 12-17098

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

March 19, 2015

         Argued and Submitted, San Francisco, California: December 9, 2014.

Page 1207

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1208

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. DC No. 5:12 cv-01939 EJD. Edward J. Davila, District Judge, Presiding.

          SUMMARY[**]

         Personal Jurisdiction

         The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction of a diversity action alleging tort and contract claims.

         The plaintiff, a resident of California, brought the action against the defendant, a resident of Michigan, seeking a declaration that no oral agreement was made, and seeking damages for intentional interference with the parties' sales contract.

         The panel held that the defendant neither purposefully availed himself of the privilege of conducting activities in California nor expressly aimed his conduct at California. The panel concluded, therefore, that the district court did not err in dismissing for lack of specific personal jurisdiction.

         Thomas M. Boehm (argued), Law Offices of Thomas M. Boehm, Los Gatos, California, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

         David H. Schwartz (argued), Angeline Elizabeth O'Donnell, Law Offices of David H. Schwartz, San Francisco, California, for Defendant-Appellee.

         Before: A. Wallace Tashima and Richard A. Paez, Circuit Judges, and Gordon J. Quist, Senior District Judge.[*] Opinion by Judge Tashima.

          OPINION

Page 1209

         TASHIMA, Circuit Judge:

         Plaintiff Bernard Picot, a resident of California, appeals the district court's dismissal of his action against Defendant Dean Weston, a resident of Michigan, for lack of personal jurisdiction. From 2010 to 2012, Picot and Weston worked together with a third man, Paul David Manos, to develop and market an electrolyte for use in hydrogen fuel cells. After Picot and Manos sold the electrolyte technology without telling Weston, Weston claimed that he was entitled to a onethird share of the proceeds under an oral agreement. In response, Picot and Manos sued Weston in California seeking a declaration that no oral agreement was made, and for damages for intentional interference with their sales contract. The district court dismissed the suit for lack of personal jurisdiction. We affirm.

         I.

         Weston is a resident of Waterford, Michigan.1 He has made a career of developing technologies for use in Michigan's automotive industry through his corporation, Engineering Interests, Inc., which is incorporated in Michigan and headquartered in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Outside the events involved in this suit, neither Weston nor Engineering Interests has ever conducted business in California. Picot is a resident of Santa Clara County, California.

         Weston and Picot met each other through Manos, a mutual business associate and a resident of Nevada. Weston and Manos have known each other since 2005. In 2009, Manos and Picot were looking to get involved with a hydrogen technology being developed in Texas. Manos asked Weston if he could help by traveling to Texas to assess the technology, which Weston did. Eventually, the three men determined that the technology being developed in Texas was unworkable, and began efforts to develop and sell their own electrolyte formula for use in hydrogen fuel cells.

         Exactly how the three men decided to work together is hotly disputed. Weston claims that in 2009, he and Manos met in Michigan and reached an oral agreement under which Weston would help develop, test, fund, and market the technology. In exchange, Weston would receive $20,000 per month and a one-third share of any profits from the sale of the technology. Weston states that Manos claimed to have

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authority to enter into the agreement on behalf of Picot, as well as himself. On February 1, 2010, Manos, Picot, and Weston met at a restaurant in Howell, Michigan. Weston claims that at this meeting, Picot confirmed his agreement to the oral profit-sharing deal. Picot and Manos acknowledge the meeting, but deny the existence of any oral agreement.

         Weston spent twenty to seventy hours per week working to develop and market the technology at his office in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Picot and Manos occasionally worked out of his office as well. Weston's marketing efforts focused largely on soliciting investors or purchasers in the Michigan automotive industry including General Motors, Chrysler, Hummer, and Penske Automotive. He also procured a $450,000 investment from a Michigan resident, and contracted with the University of Michigan for technological help.

         On two occasions, Weston left his Michigan office to travel to California. First, in January 2010, Weston traveled to southern California for approximately two weeks to help Manos set up a demonstration for a potential client Picot had contacted. Second, in June 2010, Weston went to Sacramento at Manos' and Picot's request to help with another demonstration. On both occasions, Manos and Picot compensated Weston for his work and related expenses.

         On three occasions, Weston met with Tracy Coats, a resident of Cleveland, Ohio, at the University of Michigan. Coats is the majority owner of HMR Hydrogen Master Rights, Ltd. (" HMR" ), a Delaware corporation with offices in Ohio. At one of these meetings, Coats and Weston videotaped a demonstration of the technology. At another, Weston and Coats conducted a Skype presentation for a potential customer in China.

         In 2011, Manos and Picot began negotiating with Coats and another part-owner of HMR, Carl Le Souef, a resident of Australia, for HMR to purchase the technology. The negotiations were successful, and Manos and Picot agreed to sell the technology to HMR for $35 million. They agreed that the money would be paid into two pass-through trusts, one in Wyoming and one in Australia. The contract was executed in Los Angeles, California, and became effective December 12, 2011. This agreement was followed by a series of emails and phone calls between Weston and Manos. On February 8, 2012, Weston sent Manos an email referencing earlier conversations...

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