Siswanto v. Airbus, S.A.S.

Decision Date30 December 2015
Docket NumberCase No. 15 C 5486
Citation153 F.Supp.3d 1024
Parties Aris Siswanto, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Airbus, S.A.S, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois

Alexandra Marie Wisner, Floyd A. Wisner, Wisner Law Firm, P.C., Geneva, IL, for Plaintiffs.

Thad T. Dameris, Christopher M. Odell, Arnold & Porter LLP, Houston, TX, Anthony Joseph Monaco, Stanley V. Boychuck, Swanson, Martin & Bell, LLP, Stephen Arthur Wood, Chuhak & Tecson, P.C., Daniel K. Cray, Adam C. Carter, Cray Huber Horstman Heil & Vanausdal LLC, Susan Valentine, Robinson, Curley & Clayton, P.C., Chicago, IL, David J. Weiner, Arnold & Porter LLP, Jonathan M. Stern, Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP, Washington, DC, John Maggio, Condon & Forsyth LLP, Nelson Camacho, Roberta Miranda, Tara E. Nicola, Fitzpatrick & Hunt, Tucker, Pagano, Aubert, LLP, New York, NY, for Defendants.


John Robert Blakey, United States District Judge

This mass casualty action brought under the Multiparty, Multiforum Trial Jurisdiction Act of 2002 (“MMTJA”) raises questions concerning this Court's authority to exercise personal jurisdiction over a foreign defendant, the French company Airbus, S.A.S. (Airbus), based on events occurring entirely outside the United States. Although this case departs from the norm in that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(1)(C) and the MMTJA enable this Court to consider Airbus' contacts with the United States as a whole and not just the State of Illinois, nothing in the statutes overrides the company's constitutional due process protections governing this Court's exercise of personal jurisdiction. Accordingly, based upon the record presented here, Airbus's motion to dismiss [43] for lack of personal jurisdiction is granted, and no jurisdictional discovery is warranted.

I. Legal Standard

A motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) tests whether a federal court has personal jurisdiction over a defendant. When deciding a Rule 12(b)(2) motion without an evidentiary hearing, as here, Plaintiffs must make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction. uBID, Inc. v. GoDaddy Group, Inc. , 623 F.3d 421, 423–24 (7th Cir.2010).

Plaintiffs bear the burden of establishing that personal jurisdiction exists. Advanced Tactical Ordnance Systems, LLC v. Real Action Paintball, Inc. , 751 F.3d 796, 799 (7th Cir.2014). To determine whether Plaintiffs have met their burden, this Court may consider affidavits from both parties. Felland v. Clifton , 682 F.3d 665, 672 (7th Cir.2012). When Airbus challenges by declaration a fact alleged in the Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs have an obligation to go beyond the pleadings and submit affirmative evidence supporting the exercise of jurisdiction. Purdue Research Foundation v. Sanofi-Synthelabo, S.A. , 338 F.3d 773, 783 (7th Cir.2003). Courts must also resolve all factual disputes in Plaintiffs' favor. Northern Grain Marketing, LLC v. Greving , 743 F.3d 487, 491 (7th Cir.2014). Unrefuted facts in Airbus' affidavits, however, will be taken as true. GCIU Employer Retirement Fund v. Goldfarb Corp. , 565 F.3d 1018, 1020 n. 1 (7th Cir.2009). While in this context affidavits trump the pleadings, in the end, all facts disputed in the affidavits will be resolved in Plaintiffs' favor. Purdue Research Foundation , 338 F.3d at 782.

II. Facts1

This personal injury action arises from the tragic December 28, 2014 crash of Air Asia Flight No. 8501 (an Airbus A320-216, MSN 3648, aircraft) flying from Indonesia to Singapore. Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”), Count I ¶¶ 3, 5, 7; Bondergaard Decl. ¶ 6. The aircraft crashed into the Java Sea, killing all those onboard—more than 75 souls. SAC, Count I ¶¶ 3, 8-9.

Plaintiffs, who are the heirs and personal representatives of deceased passengers, have sued many defendants, including the aircraft manufacturing company Airbus, under the MMTJA. SAC, Count I ¶¶ 2-3, 5. As to Airbus, Plaintiffs allege, among other things, that the Airbus A320-216, MSN 3648, aircraft was defective and unreasonably dangerous when it left Airbus' control. SAC, Count I ¶¶ 6, 9; see also SAC, Count III ¶ 7 (alleging that the aircraft was “negligently designed, manufactured, assembled and sold”).

There is no dispute that Airbus is incorporated in France and has its principal place of business in Toulouse, France. SAC, Count I ¶ 2; Bondergaard Decl. ¶ 3. For at least the past five years, Airbus has not maintained any offices or employees in the United States, or owned or rented any property here. Bondergaard Decl. ¶¶ 15-17.

All manufacturing work on the Airbus A320-216, MSN 3648, aircraft occurred in Europe. Bondergaard Decl. ¶ 6. None of Airbus' subsidiaries in the United States undertook this work. Bondergaard Decl. ¶ 24. The Airbus A320-216 aircraft line has been certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency but not the FAA. Bondergaard Decl. ¶¶ 10-11. Pursuant to a 2005 purchase agreement, Airbus sold the Airbus A320-216, MSN 3648, aircraft to Air Asia Berhad, a Malaysian airline carrier that does not operate in the United States. Bondergaard Decl. ¶ 7. There is no allegation that the Airbus A320-216, MSN 3648, aircraft was ever operated in the United States. See Bondergaard Decl. ¶ 14.

III. Analysis
A. Personal Jurisdiction

Airbus moves to dismiss, arguing that it lacks minimum contacts with the United States under the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause, so this Court cannot exercise general or specific personal jurisdiction over the company. In response, Plaintiffs proceed only under a theory of general personal jurisdiction arguing that Airbus has extensive contacts with the United States as a whole. Plaintiffs also argue that there can be no due process concerns in this case because venue is proper in this District. This Court considers each argument in turn.

1. Minimum Contacts

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(1)(C), personal jurisdiction is proper if authorized by a federal statute. Specifically, Rule 4(k)(1)(C) states that serving a summons “establishes personal jurisdiction over a defendant ... when authorized by a statute.” The MMTJA is one such statute. When the MMTJA's criteria for bringing a mass casualty claim are met, see 28 U.S.C. § 1369, service of process is proper nationwide (indeed, worldwide if permitted by law):

When the jurisdiction of the district court is based in whole or in part upon section 1369 of this title, process, other than subpoenas, may be served at any place within the United States, or anywhere outside the United States if otherwise permitted by law.

28 U.S.C. § 1697. Other Courts in this District have reached the same conclusion. E.g. , Stenger v. World Harvest Church, Inc. , No. 02–8036, 2003 WL 22048047, at *3 (N.D.Ill. Aug. 29, 2003) (interpreting § 1697 as providing nationwide service); Stenger v. Leadenhall Bank & Trust Co. Ltd. , No. 02–8655, 2004 WL 609795, at *8 (N.D.Ill. March 23, 2004) (citing World Harvest Church for the same proposition).

Despite the geographic expansion of service and, in turn, the initial scope of personal jurisdiction, Rule 4(k)(1)(C) and Section 1697 do not override the controlling constitutional limitations on this Court's exercise of general or specific personal jurisdiction imposed by the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause. KM Enterprises, Inc. v. Global Traffic Technologies, Inc. , 725 F.3d 718, 723, 730–31 (7th Cir.2013) ; Lisak v. Mercantile Bancorp, Inc. , 834 F.2d 668, 671–72 (7th Cir.1987). Under the very Seventh Circuit law that Plaintiffs cite (but contrary to their own argument), the traditional “minimum contacts” test from International Shoe still governs even when the basis of personal jurisdiction involves a statute providing for nationwide service of process. KM Enterprises , 725 F.3d at 723, 730–31 ; Lisak , 834 F.2d at 671. The relevant minimum contacts in these instances simply lie with the United States as a whole and not just the forum state (here, Illinois). KM Enterprises , 725 F.3d at 730–31 ; Lisak , 834 F.2d at 671 ; Zurich Capital Markets, Inc. v. Coglianese , 388 F.Supp.2d 847, 857 (N.D.Ill.2004) ; see also Action Embroidery Corp. v. Atlantic Embroidery, Inc. , 368 F.3d 1174, 1180 (9th Cir.2004) ; ESAB Group, Inc. v. Centricut, Inc. , 126 F.3d 617, 626–27 (4th Cir.1997). In this way, when a federal statute authorizes nationwide service of process, the scope of the minimum contacts test exceeds the forum state's long-arm statute.

In KM Enterprises, for example, the Seventh Circuit applied the traditional minimum contacts test when personal jurisdiction was based on the Clayton Act, which authorizes nationwide service of process. 725 F.3d at 723, 730–31 (citing 15 U.S.C. § 22 ). Likewise, in Zurich Capital Markets, the Court applied the minimum contacts test when personal jurisdiction was based on a securities statute authorizing nationwide service. 388 F.Supp.2d at 857–58 (citing 15 U.S.C. § 78aa ).

When the defendants are domiciled in the United States, such as in KM Enterprises , 725 F.3d at 721–22, 730–31, Fitzsimmons v. Barton , 589 F.2d 330, 333–34 (7th Cir.1979), and many other cases Plaintiffs cite, the due process analysis under a nationwide service of process statute is straightforward. Domestic companies and individuals, almost by definition, have minimum contacts with the United States, so there may be general personal jurisdiction in any federal court throughout the country. See Fitzsimmons , 589 F.2d at 333–34 & n. 4.

But Airbus is not a domestic company, so Plaintiffs must show that its contacts with the United States are sufficient to support either general or specific personal jurisdiction. Ostensibly, and with good reason, Plaintiffs in this case proceed only under a theory of general personal jurisdiction. Under the Due Process Clauses of both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, general personal jurisdiction requires “continuous and systematic general business...

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