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Wilson v. Hirschbach Motor Lines, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

April 9, 2015



DAVID L. BUNNING, District Judge.

Plaintiff Arizona Wilson is suing for negligence on behalf of the Estate of Leo Michael Cox, who died on August 10, 2013, as a result of being run over by a semi-truck. One of the two defendants, Hirschbach Motor Lines, Inc. ("Hirschbach"), now moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, arguing that it did not transact business in Kentucky for purposes of KRS § 454.210(2)(a)(1). In the alternative, Hirschbach contends that its Kentucky activities did not give rise to the underlying negligence claim. The Court has jurisdiction over this removed action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332 and 1441.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

a. The Parties

Hirschbach is a trucking company incorporated in Iowa and having its principal place of business in Illinois. (Doc. # 27 at 2). Defendant Anthony Wilson ("Wilson") worked as a driver for Hirschbach, making deliveries across the country in a commercial semi-truck. ( Id. ) Although currently a resident of Ohio, Wilson lived in Kentucky when the accident in question took place. ( Id. at 2, 7).

Plaintiff Arizona Wilson is a resident of Kentucky and the administrator of the estate of Leo Michael Cox ("Cox"). ( Id. at 2). Cox died as a result of being run over by Wilson's semi-truck on August 10, 2013. ( Id. at 4-5). The accident occurred in Walcott, Iowa, and the truck was being operated by Wilson, who at the time was completing a delivery for Hirschbach. ( Id. ) Cox and Wilson were related as cousins. ( Id. at 2).

b. The Accident

In July 2013, Wilson asked Cox to accompany him on a delivery from Cresco, Iowa to Gastonia, North Carolina. (Doc. # 27 at 3). The trip would last approximately five (5) months and would not involve any deliveries to Kentucky. ( Id.; Doc. # 24-2 at 1). Cox agreed and Wilson contacted Hirschbach to obtain the necessary paperwork. ( Id. ) Hirschbach sent a "Passenger Authorization Form" to Wilson in Kentucky, where he lived at the time. ( Id. ) The form provided insurance coverage for Cox and arranged for Wilson to pay for such coverage. (Doc. # 27-1). It also required Cox to release Hirschbach from any liability for death, injury or property damage that might occur as a result of the trip. ( Id. ) Both men completed the Passenger Authorization Form and Wilson returned it to Hirschbach via fax on July 24, 2013. ( Id. )

On the night of August 9, 2013, Wilson and Cox arrived at a truck stop in Walcott, Iowa. (Doc. # 27 at 4). After Wilson parked the truck, both men entered a nearby building and spent approximately one hour there before returning to the truck. (Doc. # 27 at 4). Cox became bored and eventually went back to the building. ( Id. ) Sometime later, Wilson noticed the vehicle parked in front of him turn on its lights and drive away. ( Id. ) Wilson then started his truck and began to move forward into the vacant parking space. ( Id. at 4-5). Unfortunately, Cox had returned from the building and was sitting between the cab and the trailer of Wilson's truck. ( Id. ) The truck rolled forward onto Cox, who died as a result. ( Id. at 5).

On April 1, 2014, Plaintiff sued Hirschbach and Wilson for negligence in the Knox Circuit Court, Knox County, Kentucky. (Doc. # 1-1). On June 13, 2014, Hirschbach removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1332 and 1441. (Doc. # 1 at 3). Plaintiff filed a motion to remand for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, but that motion was denied.[1] (Doc. # 17). The instant Motion to Dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction followed. (Doc. # 24).

II. Analysis

a. Standard of Review

In considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), the burden of demonstrating personal jurisdiction always rests with the plaintiff. Serras v. First Tenn. Bank Nat'l Assn., 875 F.2d 1212, 1214 (6th Cir. 1989). When, as here, the court chooses to rule without conducting an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction. Neogen Corp. v. Neo Gen Screening, Inc., 282 F.3d 883, 887 (6th Cir. 2002). However, the plaintiff may not rely solely on his pleadings, "but must, by affidavit or otherwise, set forth specific facts showing that the court has jurisdiction." Theunissen v. Matthews, 935 F.2d 1454, 1458 (6th Cir. 1991). The court will view the pleadings and affidavits "in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, " and will not "weigh the controverting assertions of the party seeking dismissal." Id. at 1459. The purpose of this standard is "to prevent nonresident defendants from regularly ...

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