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Okolie v. Future Services General Trading & Contr. Co., W.L.L.

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

April 21, 2015

CHINYE OKOLIE and TYRONE DUCKETT, Plaintiffs,
v.
FUTURE SERVICES GENERAL TRADING & CONTRACTING COMPANY, W.L.L., Defendant

For CHINYE OKOLIE, TYRONE DUCKETT, Plaintiffs: Eric Neil Stravitz, LEAD ATTORNEY, STRAVITZ LAW FIRM, PC, Lanham, MD; John Randle Smolarz, Mark C. Burgess, PRO HAC VICE, BOYD & BURGESS, LLP, TEXARKANA, TX.

For FUTURE SERVICES GENERAL TRADING & CONTRACTING COMPANY, W.L.L., Defendant: Michael Loyola Rowan, LEAD ATTORNEY, ETHRIDGE, QUINN, MCAULIFFE, ROWAN & HARTINGER, Rockville, MD.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Emmet G. Sullivan, United States District Judge.

Chinye Okolie and Tyrone Duckett bring this lawsuit alleging tat Future Services General Trading and Contracting Company (" Future Services" ) injured them by negligently causing a car accident in Kuwait on December 4, 2010. Pending before the Court is Future Services's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Upon consideration of the motion, the response and reply thereto, the applicable law, and the entire record, the Court GRANTS Future Services's motion.

I. Background

Chinye Okolie and Tyrone Duckett are residents of Texas. First Am. Compl., ECF No. 16 ¶ 4. In 2010, they appear to have been working with the United States in some capacity in Kuwait. See id. ¶ ¶ 5-6, 9, 13-15. Future Services is a company based in Kuwait that contracted to provide vehicles to the United States Government for use in Kuwait. See id. ¶ ¶ 5-6. The contract between Future Services and the United States contained a clause selecting the Court of Federal Claims as the appropriate forum for the resolution of contract-related disputes. See id. ¶ 5. Future Services previously contracted to provide trucks to the United States Government for use in Iraq. See Ex. A to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 18-1. In 2009, Future Services filed a lawsuit against the United States in the Court of Federal Claims--as required by the contract between the two parties--alleging that the United States had failed to return those trucks at the end of the lease term. See First Am. Compl., ECF No. 16 ¶ 5; Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 18 at 3.

On December 4, 2010, the plaintiffs were riding in a Future Services vehicle and driving alongside another Future Services vehicle. See id. ¶ ¶ 9, 11. The drivers of both vehicles " were operating them as the agents, servants, employees and/or representatives of the Defendant." Id. ¶ 12. The drivers began to race each other " at a high speed," and then the vehicle in which the plaintiffs were traveling " slammed into a vehicle stopped in front of it." Id. ¶ 11.

Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit on November 26, 2013, alleging that Future Services negligently caused the accident. See Compl., ECF No. 1. After some delay in effecting service of process due to difficulties conducting service in Kuwait, plaintiffs filed in July 2014 proof that the defendant had been served. See Service Aff., ECF No. 9. Plaintiffs subsequently filed an amended complaint. See First Am. Compl., ECF No. 16. On October 3, 2014, Future Services moved to dismiss the First Amended Complaint, arguing that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction. See Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss (" Mem." ), ECF No. 18. The plaintiffs oppose the motion. See Opp. to Mot. to Dismiss (" Opp." ), ECF No. 20. Future Services filed its reply brief on October 23, 2014. See Reply in Supp. of Mot. (" Reply" ), ECF No. 21. The motion is now ripe for adjudication.

II. Analysis

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), a plaintiff bears the burden of establishing a factual basis for personal jurisdiction. See Crane v. N.Y. Zoological Soc'y, 894 F.2d 454, 456, 282 U.S.App.D.C. 295 (D.C. Cir. 1990). To meet that burden, the plaintiff " must allege specific acts connecting [the] defendant with the forum." Second Amendment Found. v. U.S. Conf. of Mayors, 274 F.3d 521, 524, 348 U.S.App.D.C. 238 (D.C. Cir. 2001) (alteration in original). The Court need not treat all of a plaintiff's allegations as true; rather, it " may receive and weigh affidavits and other relevant matter to assist it in determining the jurisdictional facts." Buesgens v. Brown, 567 F.Supp.2d 26, 31 (D.D.C. 2008) (quotation marks omitted).

The Court may exercise one of two types of personal jurisdiction: " general or all-purpose jurisdiction, and specific or case-linked jurisdiction." Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 2851, 180 L.Ed.2d 796 (2011). The existence of general jurisdiction permits the Court to hear " any and all claims" brought against the defendant. See id. By contrast, " specific jurisdiction is confined to adjudication of issues deriving from, or connected with, the very controversy that establishes jurisdiction." Id. (quotation marks omitted).

Assessing whether the Court may exercise either type of jurisdiction " typically implicates a state's jurisdictional statute or rule." Alkanani v. Aegis Defense Servs., 976 F.Supp.2d 13, 21 (D.D.C. 2014) (quotation marks and alteration omitted); see also Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 753, 187 L.Ed.2d 624 (2014) (" Federal courts ordinarily follow state law in determining the bounds of their jurisdiction over persons." ). The D.C. Code provides a statute that speaks to general jurisdiction over foreign corporations, D.C. Code § 13-334, and another that speaks to specific jurisdiction, D.C. Code § 13-423. See Gonzalez v. Internacional de Elevadores, S.A., 891 A.2d 227, 232 (D.C. 2006).[1]

A. The Court May Not Exercise General Jurisdiction.

The District of Columbia general-jurisdiction statute permits the exercise of personal jurisdiction over " a foreign corporation doing business in the District." Id. § 13-334(a). This jurisdiction is contingent upon that corporation having been served through " the agent of the corporation or person conducting its business, or, when he is absent and can not be found, by leaving a copy at the principal place of business in the District, or, where there is no such place of business, by leaving a copy at the place of business or residence of the agent in the District." Id. If a plaintiff fails to serve the foreign corporation in the District in this manner, she is " foreclosed from benefiting from [the statute's] jurisdictional protection." Gonzalez, 891 A.2d at 233 (quotation marks omitted); see also Gowens v. Dyncorp, 132 F.Supp.2d 38, 42 (D.D.C. 2001) (where plaintiff served foreign-corporation defendant " at its headquarters in Virginia," service did " not meet the requirements of D.C. Code ยง 13-334" and personal jurisdiction ...


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