Exito Electronics., Co., Ltd. v. Trejo

Citation166 S.W.3d 839
Decision Date16 June 2005
Docket NumberNo. 13-02-368-CV.,13-02-368-CV.
PartiesEXITO ELECTRONICS., CO., LTD., Appellant, v. Virginia TREJO, et al., Appellees.
CourtSupreme Court of Texas

Rick Lee Oldenettel, Jefferson H. Read, Oldenettel & Associates PC, Houston, for appellant.

Carol A. Swanda, Steven H. Beadles, Law Office of Steven H. Beadles, Dallas, Frank Sabo, Sweetman, Skaggs & Lawler, LLP, Edinburg, Jose E. Garcia, Garcia & Villarreal, Mark A. Cantu, Juan A. Gonzalez, Law Office of Mark A. Cantu, Michael Zanca, Roerig, Oliveira & Fisher, L.L.P., Mike Mills, Atlas & Hall, McAllen, Joe W. Meyer, Nathan A. Steadman, Meyer, Knight & Williams, Byron C. Keeling, Ruth B. Downes, Robert Alan York, Holman & Keeling & York, Houston, David M. Prichard, Brendan K. McBride, Dwayne Day, Prichard, Hawkins & Young, San Antonio, Jaime A. Drabek, Drabek & Associates, Patricia Kelly, Adams & Graham, Harlingen, for appellees.



Opinion by Justice CASTILLO.

This is an interlocutory appeal from the trial court's order denying the special appearance of Exito Electronics Company, Ltd. ("Exito-Taiwan"), appellant.1 Appellees include Virginia Trejo, individually and as representative of the estate of Paulino Trejo, Nadia Guadalupe Salvador Guzman individually, and Aurelio Salvador Florez, individually and as representative of the estate of Juana Zuniga, deceased, and as next friend of Maria de la Luz Crecencia Salvador Guzman, a minor (together, "Trejo"). Appellees also include Pacific Electricord Co., Inc. ("Pacific Electricord") and Woods Industries, Inc. ("Woods").2 We affirm the trial court's denial of the special appearance as to Exito-Taiwan and reverse as to Exito-Philippines.


On Christmas Day in 1998, Paulino Trejo and Juana Zuniga died in a house fire in Hillsboro, Texas. Relatives of the victims filed suit on September 9, 1999, alleging the fire was caused by a defective extension cord. Original defendants included numerous alleged distributors. An amended petition filed December 22, 2000, included Exito-Taiwan as a defendant. It alleged that Exito-Taiwan had manufactured the extension cord in issue and that, although Exito-Taiwan was a foreign corporation organized under the laws of Taiwan, it conducted business in Texas. Trejo sought service on Exito-Taiwan under rule 108a(1)(c) of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure and the Texas long-arm statute, as provided in sections 17.044 and 17.045 of the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code. See Tex.R. Civ. P. 108a(1)(c); Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem.Code Ann. §§ 17.044, 17.045 (Vernon 1997 and Supp.2004-05).

On March 5, 2001, Exito-Taiwan timely filed its special appearance and accompanying affidavits, objecting to jurisdiction being exercised over it by a Texas court.3 Trejo, Pacific Electricord, and Woods all opposed the special appearance, contending that (1) special and general personal jurisdiction existed over Exito-Taiwan, and (2) an exercise of that jurisdiction would not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. The parties engaged in discovery related to the special appearance, including the deposition of Exito-Taiwan's corporate representative, Mr. Wu. A hearing was held June 3, 2002, at which the parties addressed evidence developed in this process. The trial court's order denying Exito-Taiwan's special appearance was entered June 19, 2002,4 and provided "that sufficient minimum contacts exist to create both specific and general jurisdiction over Exito[-Taiwan] and Exito-P[hilippines], and that the exercise of jurisdiction over Exito[-Taiwan] and Exito-P[hilippines] will not offend the traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Specific findings provide as follows:

a. Exito5 has voluntarily submitted to the jurisdiction of a Texas court by filing a general denial in Cause No. 99-4552; Quilicot v. Exito, Ltd., et al.; in the 205th Judicial District Court of El Paso County, Texas.

b. The lawsuit in El Paso, Texas involves an extension cord allegedly manufactured by Exito which was allegedly defective and caused a fire.

c. Exito has and still does systematically and continuously engage in business with a Texas resident, Intertrade Industries, in Fort Worth, Texas from as early as 1995.

d. Exito exclusively manufactures SPT-2, 16AWG house-hold extension cords for sale in the United States and sells all of its cords to American companies.

e. Exito has the expectation that many of the SPT-2, 16AWG extension cords will reach Texas consumers.

f. Exito is aware that its SPT-2, 16AWG extension cords are shipped directly to Texas and has intentionally directed its cords to Dallas/Fort Worth airport in Texas via air-freight.

g. Exito has knowingly shipped more than five million house-hold extension cords to Texas in 1998.

h. Exito has specifically marketed goods, including SPT-2, 16AWG house-hold extension cords, to Texas residents via the Worldwide Web.

i. Exito has entered into contracts with insurance carriers to defend itself in lawsuits throughout the United States and in Texas.

j. The traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice are not offended by litigating this case in Texas because Exito has previously defended itself in a Texas Court, The State of Texas has a significant interest in resolving this action for the safety of its consumers; Plaintiffs and the other Defendants have a significant interest in resolving this case in Texas; this lawsuit may be more efficiently resolved in Texas and no evidence suggests that another forum is more appropriate to resolve this matter;

[k]. Exito's officers and directors have traveled to Texas on behalf of Exito and Exito-P6 for both business and pleasure. Exito and Exito-P share officers, directors and/or shareholders.

[l]. Exito-P manufactures SPT-2, 16AWG house-hold extension cords authorized and approved by Underwriters Laboratory for use in the United States and in Texas and Exito is the exclusive client of Exito-P.

As a result of these specific findings and the other evidence presented, the Court finds that it has specific and general jurisdiction over Exito and Exito-P and that the exercise of jurisdiction over Exito and Exito-P will not offend the traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.

ORDERED that the Rule 120a Special Appearance of Defendants EXITO ELECTRONICS, CO., LTD., and EXITO ELECTRONICS CO., LTD. — PHILIPPINES objecting to the jurisdiction of this Court are in all respects DENIED.7

This interlocutory appeal followed.

On original submission, we held that Exito-Taiwan waived its special appearance by filing Rule 11 agreements8 and engaging in discovery before obtaining a determination on the special appearance. Exito Elecs. v. Trejo, 99 S.W.3d 360, 373 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 2003), rev'd and remanded, 142 S.W.3d 302 (Tex.2004). We also determined Exito-Taiwan's affidavits were fatally defective. Id. The Supreme Court reversed, concluding that we erroneously found waiver and that defective affidavits or verifications do not concede jurisdiction. Exito Elecs. v. Trejo, 142 S.W.3d 302, 308 (Tex.2004). Consistent with the mandate of the Supreme Court, we consider the merits of Exito-Taiwan's special appearance.


Whether a court has personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant is a question of law. BMC Software Belgium, N.V. v. Marchand, 83 S.W.3d 789, 794 (Tex.2002). However, the trial court frequently resolves questions of fact before deciding the jurisdiction question. Id. If a trial court enters an order denying a special appearance and also issues findings of fact and conclusions of law, the nonresident defendant may challenge the fact findings on legal and factual sufficiency grounds. Id. Unchallenged fact findings are binding on the appellate court. Hotel Partners v. KPMG Peat Marwick, 847 S.W.2d 630, 632 (Tex.App.-Dallas 1993, writ denied). We conduct a de novo review when applying the law to the facts. El Puerto de Liverpool, S.A. de C.V. v. Servi Mundo Llantero S.A. de C.V., 82 S.W.3d 622, 639 (Tex.App.-Corpus Christi 2002, pet. dism'd w.o.j.) (op. on rehearing) (en banc). If an order on a special appearance is based on undisputed or otherwise established facts, such as where the nonresident defendant does not challenge the trial court's findings of fact, the exercise of personal jurisdiction is a question of law we review de novo. Happy Indus. Corp. v. Am. Specialties, Inc., 983 S.W.2d 844, 848 (Tex.App.-Corpus Christi 1998, pet. dism'd w.o.j.).

Exito-Taiwan asserts that none of the "factors" in the trial court's order "are sufficient for a finding of either specific or general jurisdiction." Rather than challenging specific findings, Exito-Taiwan focuses its argument on the absence of sufficient minimum contacts with Texas to justify an exercise of personal jurisdiction over it by the Texas courts. We interpret Exito-Taiwan's assertion as a challenge to the trial court's conclusions of law. Tex.R.App. P. 38.1(e). We review for correctness the legal conclusions drawn by the trial court from the established facts. BMC, 83 S.W.3d at 794. If we determine that a conclusion of law is erroneous, but the trial court rendered the proper judgment, the erroneous conclusion of law does not require reversal. Id.


In the two following issues, Exito-Taiwan challenges the trial court's ruling denying its special appearance. It argues that the trial court erred in finding (1) specific jurisdiction over Exito-Taiwan, and (2) general jurisdiction over Exito-Taiwan.

A. Minimum Contacts with the Forum State

Texas courts may assert personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant only if such...

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