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High Adventure Ministries, Inc. v. Tayloe

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville

April 17, 2018



          Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge

         This matter comes before the Court upon Motion by Defendants John Tayloe and Strategic Communications Group, Inc. to dismiss this action pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(5). [DN 11.] This matter is ripe for adjudication and, for the reasons that follow, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants' Motion, [DN 11], is GRANTED.

         A. Background

         Plaintiff High Adventure Ministries, Inc., (“High Adventure”), “is a California Domestic Nonprofit Corporation, with a principal place of business located” in Louisville, Kentucky. [DN 1, at 2.][1] According to its website, the company was founded in 1973 by George Otis (“Otis”). [] Otis has since passed away and Jackie Yockey, (“Yockey”), is now the President and Chief Executive Officer of High Adventure. [Id.] According to her Bio on the company's website, Yockey “has established a radio studio that is sending the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout Israel and around the world from Jerusalem.” [Id.] Yockey's Bio further notes that, in addition to the radio station, High Adventure has three internet television stations and provides radios to people across the globe to further spread its religious message. [Id.]

         John Tayloe, (“Tayloe”), was the son-in-law of High Adventure's founder, George Otis. [DN 1, at 4.] Tayloe began his career with High Adventure “in 1986 as a radio announcer, and ultimately served as Executive Vice President of the company and Corporate Director.” [Id.] According to High Adventure's Complaint, by virtue of “his position at High Adventure, Tayloe had access to all of the confidential material of the company, including detailed donor lists and operating information” about the company. [Id. at 4-5.] Due to internal “discord” concerning the manner and direction of the management of High Adventure, Tayloe was fired from the company in 1996. [Id. at 5.] High Adventure brought Tayloe back into the fold soon thereafter, but he was again fired. [Id.] ¶ 1998, High Adventure hired Tayloe a third time, but fired him again in 1999. [Id.]

         According to High Adventure's Complaint, Tayloe incorporated Defendant company Strategic Communications Group, Inc., (“SCG”), “[a]t some point in 1998.” [Id.] SCG “operates radio stations in the vicinity of Simi Valley, [California, ] including country music stations as well as Christian broadcasting.” [Id. at 6.] SCG apparently has a similar company vision as Otis had for High Adventure: namely, the establishment and operation of radio stations in the Middle East to spread a religious message. [Id.] High Adventure asserts that “Tayloe and [SCG] have attempted to use the imagery and name of ‘Voice of Hope' to create a false association with the work of the late George Otis and the success of High Adventure as a fundraising mechanism.” [Id.] According to High Adventure's Complaint, the name “Voice of Hope” was the original name given to the radio program Otis created in the Middle East in 1979, and which operated there until 2000, when Voice of Hope radio was forced to relocate. [Id. at 3-4.] High Adventure asserts that SCG “claims to be involved in international gospel radio broadcasting to ‘honor the original vision of George Otis, ' the founder of Plaintiff High Adventure Ministries and Voice of Hope, ” and that SCG “acquired the domain name of ‘voiceofhope' and promotes, markets, and advertises its radio stations and other services through traditional commerce channels and at the website [Id. at 6.]

         On July 6, 2017, High Adventure filed the instant suit asserting the following claims: (1) false advertising in violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a) False or Misleading Advertising Statements; (2) misappropriation of trade secrets; (3) federal unfair competition - passing off in violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a); (4) common law unfair competition and trademark claims; (5) infringement of a federally registered trademark, 15 U.S.C. § 1114; (6) dilution of a federally registered trademark, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c); (7) a declaratory judgment; and (8) a civil RICO Act claim, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961, et seq. [See Id. at 10-23.] On November 28, 2017, Tayloe and SCG, (collectively, “Defendants”), filed the instant Motion to dismiss all claims against them (a) under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(5) for insufficient service of process, and (b) under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction over both Tayloe and SCG. [DN 11, at 1.] High Adventure filed its Response on January 5, 2018, [DN 14], and Defendants filed their Reply on January 19. [DN 16.] The Court will now consider the merits of Defendants' arguments.

         B. Discussion

         1. Personal Jurisdiction

         In the instant Motion, Defendants assert that this Court, located in the Western District of Kentucky, lacks personal jurisdiction over them. [See generally DN 11.] In Defendants' analysis, they argue that this Court lacks both specific and general jurisdiction over them and, consequently, the Court must dismiss this action. Conversely, High Adventure counters that (a) this Court possesses specific jurisdiction over Defendants because this case arises out of Defendants' contacts with Kentucky, and (b) this Court possesses personal jurisdiction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1965(b), as this is a civil RICO case.

         i. Legal Background

         “Where a federal court's subject matter jurisdiction over a case stems from the existence of a federal question, personal jurisdiction over a defendant exists ‘if the defendant is amenable to service of process under the [forum] state's long-arm statute and if the exercise of personal jurisdiction would not deny the defendant[] due process.'” Bird v. Parsons, 289 F.3d 865, 871 (6th Cir. 2002) (quoting Michigan Coal. of Radioactive Mat. Users, Inc. v. Griepentrog, 954 F.2d 1174, 1176 (6th Cir. 1992)). “In response to a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff may not stand on his pleadings, but must show the specific facts demonstrating that the court has jurisdiction.” Miller v. AXA Winterthur Ins. Co., 694 F.3d 675, 678 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing Theunissen v. Matthews, 935 F.2d 1454, 1458 (6th Cir. 1991)). However, “[i]n order to defeat the motion to dismiss, the plaintiff's affidavit(s) must make only a prima facie showing.” Id. (citing Theunissen, 935 F.2d at 1458). Of course, “[t]he pleadings and affidavits are viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Id. (citing Kerry Steel, Inc. v. Paragon Indus., Inc., 106 F.3d 147, 153 (6th Cir. 1997)).

         In analyzing the question of personal jurisdiction, there are two main “types, ” which are (1) general jurisdiction, and (2) specific jurisdiction. Id. (citing Air Prods. & Controls, Inc. v. Safetech Int'l, Inc., 503 F.3d 544, 549-50 (6th Cir. 2007)). “General jurisdiction depends on continuous and systematic contact with the forum state, so that the courts may exercise jurisdiction over any claims a plaintiff may bring against the defendant.” Id. at 678-79 (citing Kerry Steel, 106 F.3d at 149). Conversely, specific jurisdiction “grants jurisdiction only to the extent that a claim arises out of or relates to a defendant's contacts in the forum state.” Id. (citing Kerry Steel, 106 F.3d at 149). High Adventure has not alleged or otherwise argued that this Court possesses general jurisdiction over Defendants and so the Court will not analyze the question of general jurisdiction. Instead, High Adventure has claimed that this Court possesses personal jurisdiction (a) under the rule of specific jurisdiction, and (b) under 18 U.S.C. § 1965(b). The Court will analyze each of these arguments in turn.

         ii. Analysis

         One of the two arguments advanced by Defendants is that this Court does not possess specific jurisdiction over them. [DN 11, at 9.] The concept of specific jurisdiction relates to the “[a]djudicatory authority” of a court where “the suit ‘aris[es] out of or relate[s] to the defendant's contacts with the forum….'” Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 134 S.Ct. 746, 754 (2014) (quoting Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414 n.8 (1984)). As the Supreme Court has stated, “specific jurisdiction has become the centerpiece of modern jurisdiction theory….” Id. at 755.

         There are “three criteria…for determining the…outerlimits of in personam jurisdiction based on a single act.” Southern Mach. Co. v. Mohasco Indus., Inc., 401 ...

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