Minuteman Aviation, Inc. v. Swearingin

Decision Date27 April 1989
Docket NumberNo. 88-552,88-552
PartiesMINUTEMAN AVIATION, INC., Plaintiff and Appellant, v. M.R. SWEARINGIN, d/b/a Swearingin Aircraft Engine Service, Defendant and Respondent. *
CourtMontana Supreme Court

Boone, Karlberg & Haddon, Sam E. Haddon, Missoula, for plaintiff and appellant.

John O. Mudd, Kelly M. Willis, Garlington, Lohn & Robinson, Missoula, for defendant and respondent.

WEBER, Justice.

Minuteman Aviation, Inc. brought an action against M.R. Swearingen d/b/a Swearingen Aircraft Services in the State of Montana, Fourth Judicial District, Missoula County. Mr. Swearingen, a resident of Oklahoma, moved to quash service or to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. His motion to dismiss was granted, and Minuteman appeals. We reverse and remand.

The issue presented for our review is whether the defendant in this action can be subjected to personal jurisdiction in Montana.

Minuteman Aviation, Inc. (Minuteman) is a Montana corporation, whose operations include aerial crop spraying. Mr. Swearingen doing business as Swearingen Aircraft Engine Services (Swearingen), does business in the State of Oklahoma where Swearingen overhauls and repairs aircraft engines.

Affidavits were filed by both parties. In part the affidavits contradict each other. The uncontradicted portion of such affidavits shows that in March of 1987, Swearingen completely overhauled an aircraft engine for Minuteman. The repair work was done in Oklahoma. After installation in a Minuteman aircraft, the engine failed while the aircraft was used for crop spraying in Montana on April 5, 1987, and the aircraft crashed near Conrad, Montana. The affidavits further establish that at the request of FAA, Mr. Swearingen and one of his representatives came to Montana in May of 1987 to inspect the tear down of the engine in an attempt to determine the cause of the engine failure. The engine was returned by Minuteman to Swearingen in the State of Oklahoma for another repair. After repair, the engine was shipped back to Montana and placed in the aircraft. The engine failed again and the aircraft was taken out of service.

Minuteman filed suit in Montana against Swearingen, alleging negligence, breach of warranty and breach of contract. In response to the complaint Swearingen filed an affidavit and motion to quash or in the alternative to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. In Mr. Swearingen's affidavit he asserts facts which would defeat jurisdictional requirements. The president of Minuteman, Mr. Kenneth Mamuzich, then filed an affidavit in support of allegations made in the complaint regarding Swearingen's contacts within the State of Montana. Mr. Swearingen then filed an opposing affidavit. After a hearing on the issues, the court granted Mr. Swearingen's motion to dismiss.

Did the District Court err in granting defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction?

Whether the State of Montana may claim personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant is a two-part inquiry. As stated in Simmons v. State (1983), 206 Mont. 264, 271-72, 670 P.2d 1372, 1376:

For a Montana court to exercise jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, two questions must be considered. (1) Does the nonresident defendant come within the provisions of Montana's long-arm jurisdiction statutes; and (2) would exercise of long-arm jurisdiction over the nonresident comport with traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. May v. Figgins (Mont.1980) , 607 P.2d 1132, 37 S.Rep. 493; Haker v. Southwestern Ry. Co. (1978), 176 Mont. 364, 578 P.2d 724. See, generally, International Shoe Co. v. Washington (1945), 326 U.S. 310, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95. If we find, as a matter of statutory construction, that the nonresident does not engage in any of the several activities enumerated in our long-arm statute, then our analysis ends and we must decline jurisdiction. However, even if the nonresident has done something which potentially confers jurisdiction, we must advance to the due process component which is ultimately determinative of the jurisdictional question.

In accordance with the first inquiry, personal jurisdiction must initially be established pursuant to Rule 4 B, M.R.Civ.P. The relevant portions of that statute provide:

(1) Subject to jurisdiction. All persons found within the state of Montana are subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of this state. In addition, any person is subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of this state as to any claim for relief arising from the doing personally, through an employee, or through an agent, of any of the following acts:

(a) the transaction of any business within this state;

(b) the commission of any act which results in accrual within this state of a tort action.

* * *

(e) entering into a contract for services to be rendered or for materials to be furnished in this state by such person; or

* * *

(2) Acquisition of jurisdiction. Jurisdiction may be acquired by our courts over any person through service of process as herein provided; or by the voluntary appearance in an action by any person either personally, or through an attorney, or through any other authorized officer, agent or employee.

While the plaintiff does not claim that Swearingen was "found within" Montana, it does contend that Swearingen transacted business within Montana and also committed acts which resulted in accrual of a tort action in Montana. As pointed out in Simmons, in order to exercise jurisdiction consistent with due process, it is necessary that an entity have had "minimum contacts" with the forum state so that requiring it to defend will not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. Simmons, 670 P.2d at 1377.

This Court has previously affirmed a three-part test in analyzing the due process component. In Simmons, 670 P.2d at 1378, we quoted the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in acknowledging the following test:

"If the nonresident defendant's activities within a state are 'substantial' or 'continuous and systematic,' there is a sufficient relationship between the defendant and the state to support jurisdiction even if the cause of action is unrelated to the defendant's forum activities. [citations omitted] If, however, the defendant's activities are not so pervasive as to subject him to general jurisdiction, the issue whether jurisdiction will lie turns on the nature and quality of the defendant's contacts in relation to the cause of action. In our circuit, we use the following approach in making this evaluation: (1) The nonresident defendant must do some act or consummate some transaction with the forum or perform some act by which he purposefully avails himself of the privilege of conducting activities in the forum, thereby invoking its laws. (2) The claim must be one which arises out of or results from the defendant's forum-related activities. (3) Exercise of jurisdiction must be reasonable. [citations omitted]."

Inherent in this approach is the recognition that while a nonresident defendant may be found to have purposely availed itself of activities within a forum state,...

To continue reading

Request your trial
9 cases
  • Bunch v. Lancair Intern., Inc.
    • United States
    • Montana Supreme Court
    • February 3, 2009
    ...decision whether to allow jurisdictional discovery lies within the discretion of the district court. Minuteman Aviation, Inc. v. Swearingin, 237 Mont. 207, 212, 772 P.2d 305, 308-09 (1989). We review such decisions for an abuse of discretion. See Envtl. Contractors, LLC v. Moon, 1999 MT 178......
  • Buckles ex rel. Heirs of Buckles v. Cont'l Res., Inc.
    • United States
    • Montana Supreme Court
    • September 21, 2017
    ...appropriate procedure is a preliminary hearing by the District Court pursuant to Rule 12(d), M. R. Civ. P." See Minuteman Aviation v. Swearingen , 237 Mont. 207, 212, 772 P.2d 305, 308-09 (1989) (citing Data Disc , 557 F.2d at 1285 ). The current Montana Rules of Civil Procedure provide a p......
  • First Nat'l Bank of Sioux Falls v. Carlson
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Montana
    • March 24, 2020
    ...to resolve factual issues. Bunch v. Lancair Int'l , 349 Mont. 144, 202 P.3d 784, 799 (2009) (citing Minuteman Aviation Inc. v. M.R. Swearingin , 237 Mont. 207, 772 P.2d 305, 308-09 (1989) ); Data Disc, Inc. , 557 F.2d 1280. In granting jurisdictional discovery, the trial court has broad dis......
  • Gulf Ins. Co. v. Clark, 02-424.
    • United States
    • Montana Supreme Court
    • April 21, 2003
    ...Simmental Ranch Co. v. Quigley, 2003 MT 34, ¶ 19, 314 Mont. 226, ¶ 19, 65 P.3d 225, ¶ 19. Cf. Minuteman Aviation, Inc. v. Swearingen (1989), 237 Mont. 207, 212, 772 P.2d 305, 308-09 (allowing a preliminary hearing for factual findings necessary for personal jurisdiction III. DISCUSSION ¶ 12......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT