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Stuart v. Lowe's Home Centers, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division

October 26, 2017




         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [DN 8]. Fully briefed, this matter is ripe for decision. For the following reasons, the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Jerry Stuart brings this action against Defendants, Lowe's Home Centers, LLC and Lowe's Home Improvements, LLC. (Compl. [DN 1-2].) While the Court is to only consider the pleadings at this stage of the litigation, some additional documents the parties have filed will be referenced so as to accurately describe the sequence of alleged events.

         On December 9, 2016, Madisonville Police Officer Ethan Horne responded to a call at a Lowe's store on Island Ford Road. (KYIBRS Report [DN 8-2] at 3.) When he arrived, Lowe's manager William Oldham told him that a small plastic bag containing a crystal substance was discovered in an aisle inside the store. (Id.) Officer Horne field tested the substance and confirmed that it was methamphetamine. (Id.) The next day, Officer Horne returned to speak with Lowe's asset protection employee, William Cooper. (Id.) Cooper shared the he was able to locate the suspect who dropped the bag of drugs on video. (Id.) Through footage from the surveillance camera, Officer Horne observed a male in the aisle where the methamphetamine was located. (Id.) The video showed the subject in the aisle with no one else around him and the bag of methamphetamine fall from his coat pocket onto the ground. (Id.) Officer Horne asked Cooper to follow the subject in order to determine whether he made a purchase. (Id.) Surveillance video showed the subject purchasing a screwdriver and some ballast. (Id.) Cooper was able to obtain the information from the card used to purchase said screwdriver and ballast and advised Officer Horne that the card belonged to Philip Renfro. (Id.)

         Officer Horne went to Renfro's home that night to ask whether he had been at Lowe's. (Id.) Renfro shared that he had not been at Lowe's but rather, he had given his credit card to a co-worker named Jerry Stuart in order to purchase a screwdriver and a couple ballast. (Id.)

         On December 11, Officer Horne called Jerry Stuart at his home to inquire about whether he had visited the Lowe's. (Compl. [DN 1-2] ¶ 9.) Stuart admitted that he did go to Lowe's in Madisonville, Kentucky, on December 9 to purchase a ballast for his employer with a company credit card. (Id. ¶ 6-7.) However, when Officer Horne then proceeded to question him about the methamphetamine that was discovered, Stuart denied the allegations and told Officer Horne that he did not do drugs and the methamphetamine was not his. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12).

         Officer Horne obtained a warrant for Stuart's arrest for Possession of a Controlled Substance 1st Degree 1st Offense (Methamphetamine) from the Hopkins County District Court. (Warrant of Arrest [DN 8-5] at 1). On December 19, Stuart was arrested at his place of business. (Compl. ¶ 12). He was then taken into custody and later released on a personal recognizance bond. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14). The charge was later dismissed with prejudice on December 28. (Id. ¶ 17).

         On May 12, 2017, Stuart filed this claim in Hopkins County Circuit Court, alleging negligence, gross negligence, malicious prosecution, slander, slander per se, and intentional infliction of emotional distress by Defendants. (Id. ¶¶19-45.) Defendants removed the lawsuit to this Court based on diversity of citizenship under 28 U.S.C § 1332. (Notice of Removal [DN 1] at 3). Then, on July 7, Defendants filed this Motion to Dismiss [DN 8]. Defendants contend that the claims against Defendant Lowe's Home Improvement, LLC must be dismiss based on Rule 12(b)(2) as the court lacks personal jurisdiction. (Mot. to Dismiss [DN 8-1] at 7). Further, Defendants ask that all claims be dismissed, alleging that the Stuart has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted in accordance with Rule 12(b)(6). (Id. at 9-19.)

         II. Personal Jurisdiction

         Defendants first contend that this Court does not have proper personal jurisdiction over one of the Defendants, Lowe's Home Improvement, LLC. In a diversity case, a federal court determines whether personal jurisdiction exists over a non-resident defendant by applying the law of the state in which it sits. Third Nat'l Bank v. WEDGE Group Inc., 882 F.2d 1087, 1089 (6th Cir. 1989). The Court applies a two-step inquiry to determine whether it may exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant: “(1) whether the law of the state in which the district court sits authorizes jurisdiction, and (2) whether the exercise of jurisdiction comports with the Due Process Clause.” Brunner v. Hampson, 441 F.3d 457, 463 (6th Cir. 2006).

         When a district court “rules on a jurisdictional motion to dismiss made pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) without conducting an evidentiary hearing, the court must consider the pleadings and affidavits in a light most favorable to the plaintiff.” CompuServe, Inc. v. Patterson, 89 F.3d 1257, 1262 (6th Cir. 1996). To defeat this motion to dismiss, the plaintiff needs only to make a prima facie showing of jurisdiction. Id. Furthermore, the court must “not consider facts proffered by the defendant that conflict with those offered by the plaintiff.” Neogen Corp. v. Neo Gen Screening, Inc., 282 F.3d 883, 887 (6th Cir. 2002).

         Looking first to Kentucky's long-arm statute, the Kentucky Supreme Court has found that the statute requires a two-prong showing before a court can exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident. Caesars Riverboat Casino, LLC v. Beach, 336 S.W.3d 51, 57 (Ky. 2011). First, the Court must find that a non-resident's conduct or activities fall within one of nine enumerated provisions in KRS 454.210. If this first prong is satisfied, then the second prong requires the Court to determine if the plaintiff's claim arises from the Defendants' actions. See K.R.S. § 454.210(2)(b) (“When jurisdiction over a person is based solely upon this section, only a claim arising from acts enumerated in this section may be asserted against him.”). This requires a showing of “a reasonable and direct nexus between the wrongful acts alleged in the complaint and the statutory predicate for long-arm jurisdiction[.]” Caesars, 336 S.W.3d at 59. This analysis should be undertaken on a case by case basis, “giving the benefit of the doubt in favor of jurisdiction.” Id.

         In his Complaint, Stuart asserts the following as proof that Defendant Lowe's Home Improvement is subject to personal jurisdiction in Kentucky: “Defendant, Lowe's Home Improvements, LLC . . . . is registered to do business in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, with its registered agent being Corporation Service Company, 421 West Main Street, Frankfort, Kentucky.” (Compl. ¶ 4). The Court finds that this does not make a prima facie showing of jurisdiction as it neither invokes any of the ...

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