Viasystems Inc. v. Ebm–papst St. Georgen Gmbh & Co., 10–2460.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
Citation646 F.3d 589
Docket NumberNo. 10–2460.,10–2460.
PartiesVIASYSTEMS, INC., Appellant,v.EBM–PAPST ST. GEORGEN GMBH & CO., KG, Appellee.
Decision Date21 July 2011

646 F.3d 589

VIASYSTEMS, INC., Appellant,

No. 10–2460.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.

Submitted: Feb. 16, 2011.Filed: July 21, 2011.

[646 F.3d 591]

Alan S. Breckenridge, argued, St. Louis, MO, Andrew Dillon, on the brief, Clayton, MO, for appellant.Robyn Greifzu Fox, argued, Brian R. Plegge, on the brief, St. Louis, MO, for appellee.Before SMITH, GRUENDER, and BENTON, Circuit Judges.GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.

Viasystems, Inc., a Missouri-based corporation, filed suit against EBM–Papst St. Georgen GmbH & Co., KG (“St. Georgen”), a German corporation, alleging several claims in contract and tort. The district court 1 concluded that it had neither specific nor general personal jurisdiction over St. Georgen and granted its motion to

[646 F.3d 592]

dismiss. Viasystems appeals, and, for the following reasons, we affirm.


Viasystems, a Delaware corporation based principally in Saint Louis, Missouri, is a manufacturer of telecommunications equipment. In 2007, Viasystems contracted to manufacture base units for Ericsson A.B., a Swedish company. Part of each base unit consisted of a cooling fan, and, at Ericsson's prompting, Viasystems purchased cooling fans that were manufactured by St. Georgen. The fans were manufactured in St. Georgen's Herbolzheim, Germany plant and shipped to Shanghai, China, where they were sold to ebm-papst Shanghai, a Chinese corporation, which resold them to Viasystems' Chinese subsidiary. After the fans were installed, the completed base units were sold to Ericsson for use in mobile phone facilities in Japan. At no point did the fans or base units enter the United States.

Ericsson subsequently informed St. Georgen that the cooling fans in some of the base units were failing, a malfunction that St. Georgen traced to a manufacturing defect. Ericsson replaced the fans at a cost of over $5,000,000 and demanded reimbursement from Viasystems. Viasystems partially reimbursed Ericsson and, in turn, made demand on St. Georgen to assume responsibility for the replacement costs. After several months of negotiations, resulting in a partial payment by St. Georgen and its insurer to Viasystems of $1,494,941, St. Georgen declined to pay anything further. Viasystems filed suit in federal court, claiming diversity jurisdiction.

Viasystems' amended complaint included counts for breach of implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, negligence, noncontractual indemnity, and tortious interference, and requested damages and declaratory judgment. St. Georgen filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. In response, Viasystems argued that both specific and general personal jurisdiction existed and that, in the alternative, the court at least should allow it to conduct jurisdictional discovery before dismissing the case. The district court granted St. Georgen's motion to dismiss and denied Viasystems' motion for jurisdictional discovery, concluding that it lacked personal jurisdiction over St. Georgen and that the basic facts supporting this conclusion were undisputed, making further discovery unwarranted. Viasystems appeals, contending that the district court erred in dismissing for lack of personal jurisdiction and abused its discretion in refusing to allow further jurisdictional discovery.

II. DISCUSSIONA. Personal Jurisdiction

We review the district court's dismissal for lack of in personam jurisdiction de novo. Johnson v. Arden, 614 F.3d 785, 793 (8th Cir.2010). We require the party asserting jurisdiction to make only a prima facie showing of jurisdiction and will view the evidence in the light most favorable to that party. See Romak USA, Inc. v. Rich, 384 F.3d 979, 983 (8th Cir.2004). Nevertheless, “[t]he party seeking to establish the court's in personam jurisdiction carries the burden of proof, and the burden does not shift to the party challenging jurisdiction.” Epps v. Stewart Info. Servs. Corp., 327 F.3d 642, 647 (8th Cir.2003).

Personal jurisdiction over a defendant represents the power of a court to enter “a valid judgment imposing a personal obligation or duty in favor of the plaintiff.”

[646 F.3d 593]

Kulko v. Superior Court of Cal., 436 U.S. 84, 91, 98 S.Ct. 1690, 56 L.Ed.2d 132 (1978). Personal jurisdiction can be specific or general. “ ‘Specific jurisdiction refers to jurisdiction over causes of action arising from or related to a defendant's actions within the forum state,’ while ‘[g]eneral jurisdiction ... refers to the power of a state to adjudicate any cause of action involving a particular defendant, regardless of where the cause of action arose.’ ” Miller v. Nippon Carbon Co., 528 F.3d 1087, 1091 (8th Cir.2008) (alterations in original) (quoting Bell Paper Box, Inc. v. U.S. Kids, Inc., 22 F.3d 816, 819 (8th Cir.1994)). Viasystems asserts that St. Georgen is subject to both specific and general personal jurisdiction, either of which would allow the case to proceed. We address each in turn.

1. Specific Jurisdiction

Specific personal jurisdiction can be exercised by a federal court in a diversity suit only if authorized by the forum state's long-arm statute and permitted by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. See Romak, 384 F.3d at 984.2 In Missouri, specific personal jurisdiction is authorized only to the extent that “the [cause of] action arose out of an activity covered by [Missouri's] long-arm statute.” Conway v. Royalite Plastics, Ltd., 12 S.W.3d 314, 318 (Mo. banc 2000). Missouri's long-arm statute authorizes personal jurisdiction over defendants who, inter alia, transact business, make a contract, or commit a tort within the state. Mo.Rev.Stat. section 506.500.1. These individual categories are construed broadly, such that if a defendant commits one of the acts specified in the long-arm statute, the statute will be interpreted “to provide for jurisdiction, within the specific categories enumerated in the statute[ ], to the full extent permitted by the [D]ue [P]rocess [C]lause.” State ex rel. Metal Serv. Ctr. of Ga., Inc. v. Gaertner, 677 S.W.2d 325, 327 (Mo. banc 1984).

On appeal, Viasystems contends that St. Georgen is subject to specific personal jurisdiction because, in the months before Viasystems initiated the instant lawsuit, St. Georgen sent several e-mails, made phone calls, and made a partial payment to Viasystems in Missouri before refusing to pay anything further. Viasystems alleges that St. Georgen's eventual refusal to pay Ericsson's replacement costs in full constitutes tortious interference with Viasystems' contract with Ericsson, a tort that negatively affected Viasystems in Missouri. Viasystems concludes that St. Georgen thus falls within the “tortious act” category of the long-arm statute pursuant to the “effects test.” See generally

[646 F.3d 594]

Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783, 789, 104 S.Ct. 1482, 79 L.Ed.2d 804 (1984) (“California is the focal point both of the [out-of-state conduct] and of the harm suffered. Jurisdiction over petitioners is therefore proper in California based on the ‘effects' of their [out-of-state] conduct in California.”). We need not decide whether these actions by St. Georgen suffice to place it within the bounds of Missouri's long-arm statute, because it is clear that the cited activities are not sufficient to surmount the due-process threshold.

Even if personal jurisdiction over a defendant is authorized by the forum state's long-arm statute, jurisdiction can be asserted only if it comports with the strictures of the Due Process Clause. World–Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 291, 100 S.Ct. 559, 62 L.Ed.2d 490 (1980). The touchstone of the due-process analysis remains whether the defendant has sufficient “minimum contacts with [the forum state] 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) (quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463, 61 S.Ct. 339, 85 L.Ed. 278 (1940)). The fundamental inquiry is whether the defendant has “purposefully availed” itself of the “benefits and protections” of the forum state, see Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 482, 105 S.Ct. 2174, 85 L.Ed.2d 528 (1985), to such a degree that it “should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there,” World–Wide Volkswagen Corp., 444 U.S. at 297, 100 S.Ct. 559.

St. Georgen's incidental contacts with Missouri—scattered e-mails, phone calls, and a wire-transfer of money to Viasystems in Missouri—do not constitute a “deliberate” and “substantial connection” with the state such that St. Georgen could “reasonably anticipate being haled into court there.” See Burger King Corp., 471 U.S. at 474–75, 105 S.Ct. 2174 (quoting World–Wide Volkswagen Corp., 444 U.S. at 297, 100 S.Ct. 559). Indeed, these isolated connections are just the sort of random, fortuitous, and attenuated contacts that cannot justify the exercise of personal jurisdiction. See id. at 475, 105 S.Ct. 2174; see also Burlington Indus. v. Maples Indus., 97 F.3d 1100, 1103 (8th Cir.1996) (holding that 100 telephone calls by defendant to plaintiff were “insufficient, alone, to confer personal jurisdiction”); Institutional Food Mktg. Assocs., Ltd. v. Golden State Strawberries, Inc., 747 F.2d 448, 456 (8th Cir.1984) (holding that defendant's “phone conversations and written correspondence” with plaintiffs were “not sufficient, under the [D]ue [P]rocess [C]lause, to justify an exercise of personal jurisdiction”).

Nor can jurisdiction be based on the effects on Viasystems in Missouri of St. Georgen's refusal to pay Ericsson's replacement costs in full. Due process allows a state to assert personal jurisdiction over a defendant based on the in-state effects of defendants' extraterritorial tortious acts only if those acts “(1) were intentional, (2) were uniquely or expressly aimed at the forum state, and...

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