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Quality Air Services, L.L.C. v. Milwaukee Valve Company

July 21, 2008

QUALITY AIR SERVICES, L.L.C., PLAINTIFF,
v.
MILWAUKEE VALVE COMPANY, INC. D/B/A/ HAMMOND VALVE COMPANY DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ellen Segal Huvelle United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff has brought this product liability suit alleging that defendant's product, which plaintiff has installed throughout the D.C. metropolitan area, was improperly designed and/or manufactured. Defendant has filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. For the reasons stated herein, defendant's motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Quality Air Services is a Maryland limited liability company with its principal place of business in Rockville, Maryland. (Compl. ¶ 1.) Plaintiff is in the business of installing and repairing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning ("HVAC") units. (Id.) It specializes in the restoration, maintenance, and replacement of fan coil units (convectors) for residential condominiums and rental units within multi-family housing housing buildings in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. (Id. ¶¶ 1-2.)

Defendant Milwaukee Valve Company, which does business as Hammond Valve Company, is a Wisconsin corporation with its offices in New Berlin, Wisconsin. (Id. ¶ 3; Def.'s Ex. 1 [Affidavit of Geoff McLaughlin] ¶ 4.) Defendant manufactures and sells valves which are used in HVAC systems in multi-family housing buildings. (Compl. ¶ 4.) It has no representatives, offices, or agents located in Washington D.C. (Def.'s Ex. 1 ¶ 10), but sells its products through distributors and wholesalers rather than directly to service companies such as plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 8.) None of defendant's distributors or wholesalers is located in the District of Columbia. (Id. ¶ 9.) Approximately 15 times per year over the last 10 years, defendant has shipped valves directly to a job site in the District of Columbia at the request of one of its distributors. (Id. ¶ 12.) These sales account for no more than .0025% of defendant's annual sales. (Id. ¶ 13.) None of these shipments have included the 8911 valve. (Id. ¶ 14.) Defendant is not registered to do business in the District of Columbia, and has never paid taxes in the District. (Id. ¶¶ 5, 16, 17.)

Between late 2004 and early 2007, plaintiff purchased 13,320 of the 8911 valves and installed them in buildings in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. (Compl. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff purchased these valves from a Virginia branch of Noland Company, a wholesale distributor of mechanical equipment and supplies. (Id. ¶ 14; Def.'s Mot. at 3.) Plaintiff alleges that these valves are defective. (Id. ¶ 9.) As of the time when the complaints was filed, approximately 15 of these valves have failed and are causing leaks and flooding in the homes in which they were installed. (Id. ¶ 24.) Plaintiff alleges that at least one of these failures occurred in the District of Columbia. (See Pl.'s Opp'n at 1.)

On April 22, 2008, plaintiff brought this suit alleging that defendant has breached its express and implied warranties with respect to the sale of the 8911 valves; sold a defective and unreasonably dangerous product; and violated the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Act, D.C. Code § 28-3904 (d) and (e). (Compl. ¶¶ 30, 35, 39, 45, 51.) Plaintiff further alleges that defendant's action were so "malicious and egregious" as to "constitute fraud and deceit." (Id. ¶ 59.) Plaintiff requests compensatory and punitive damages, as well as a declaratory judgment holding defendant liable for all losses and damages, including attorneys' fees, incurred by plaintiff as a result of any future lawsuits against it based on its installation of these valves. (Id. at 13-14.)

Defendant has moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. (Def.'s Mot. 2.) Defendant further asserts that plaintiff has failed to state a claim for relief under the D.C. Consumer Protection Act and that plaintiff has failed to plead fraud with specificity. (Id. 30, 32.) Finally, defendant argues that the possibility of future claims against plaintiff does not present an justiciable controversy and therefore requests dismissal of plaintiff's declaratory judgment claim. (Id. 20.) The Court will address each of the defendant's arguments in turn.

ANALYSIS

I. The Court Has Personal Jurisdiction Over Defendant

"If a defendant does not reside within or maintain a principal place of business in the District of Columbia, then the District's long-arm statute, D.C. Code § 13-423, provides the only basis [o]n which a court may exercise personal jurisdiction over the defendant." Savage v. Bioport, 460 F.Supp.2d 55, 60 (D.D.C. 2006) (citing Deutsch v. United States Dep't of Justice, 881 F.Supp. 49, 52 (D.D.C. 1995), aff'd, 93 F.3d 986 (D.C. Cir. 1996)). This statute provides, in relevant part:

(a) A District of Columbia court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a person, who acts directly or by an agent, as to a claim for relief arising from the person's -(1) transacting any business in the District of Columbia; . . .

(4) causing tortious injury in the District of Columbia by an act or omission outside of the District of Columbia if he regularly does or solicits business, engages in any other persistent course of conduct, or derives substantial revenue from goods used or consumed, or services rendered, in the District of Columbia . . . .

D.C. CODE. ยง 13-432 (2001). The statute further provides that "[w]hen jurisdiction over a person is based solely upon this section, only a claim for relief arising from acts enumerated in this section ...


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