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Byrd v. Tri-State Health and Rehabilitation

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

December 14, 2018

RUTH BYRD, Administratrix of the Estate of Ardie Byrd, Plaintiff,

          OPINION & ORDER

          Robert E. Wier United States District Judge.

         In January 2018, Ruth Byrd, acting as Administratrix of the Estate of Ardie Byrd, sued four out-of-state Defendants-Tri-State Health and Rehabilitation; Tri-State Manor, LLC; Dr. Luis Pannochia;[1] and Heartland Medical, P.C.-in Clay Circuit Court. DE #1-1 (Complaint). The suit, essentially, concerns medical treatment Mr. Byrd received from March 3-18, 2016, at “Tri-State Health and Rehabilitation in Harrogate, Tennessee.” Id. at ¶¶ 18-19. Following diversity removal, the parties have fully briefed two motions to dismiss. See DE ##9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2). Upon full consideration, and after assuring itself of the existence of subject-matter jurisdiction, see DE #27 (Order), the Court GRANTS DE ##9 & 10 and dismisses this case, without prejudice, [2] for lack of personal jurisdiction over Defendants.

         “When a federal court sits in diversity, ” as the Court does here, “it may exercise personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant only if a court of the forum state could do so.” Newberry v. Silverman, 789 F.3d 636, 641 (6th Cir. 2015). Accordingly, the Court must first determine whether “the state's long-arm statute . . . permit[s] the exercise of jurisdiction.” Id. Indisputably, all Defendants are nonresidents of the Commonwealth.

         In Kentucky, as the parties perceive relevant here, a court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a person who acts directly or by an agent, as to a claim arising from the person's:

1. Transacting any business in th[e] Commonwealth;
2. Contracting to supply services or goods in th[e] Commonwealth; . . . [or]
4. Causing tortious injury in th[e] Commonwealth by an act or omission outside th[e] Commonwealth if he regularly does or solicits business, or engages in any other persistent course of conduct, or derives substantial revenue from goods used or consumed or services rendered in th[e] Commonwealth, provided that the tortious injury occurring in th[e] Commonwealth arises out of the doing or soliciting of business or a persistent course of conduct or derivation of substantial revenue within the Commonwealth[.]

KRS 454.210(2)(a)(1), (2), (4).[3] “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.” KRS 454.210(2)(b).[4]

         Under this-Kentucky's long-arm statute-“personal jurisdiction cannot be exercised over a non-resident defendant simply because it has engaged in conduct or activity that fits within one or more subsections of KRS 454.210(2)(a). The plaintiff must also show that his claim is one that arises from the conduct or activities described in the subsection.Caesars Riverboat Casino, LLC v. Beach, 336 S.W.3d 51, 55 (Ky. 2011) (emphasis added). While courts construe the provisions of Kentucky's long-arm statute “liberally, ” the statutory limits “upon jurisdiction must be observed as defined.” Id. at 56. “[E]ven when the defendant's conduct and activities fall within one of the enumerated categories, the plaintiff's claim still must ‘arise' from that conduct or activity before long-arm jurisdiction exists. Claims based upon contacts, conduct, and activities which may not fairly be said to meet one of these explicit categories must be held to be outside of the reach of the statute[.]” Id. (rejecting the notion that Kentucky's long-arm statute reaches the outer limits of federal due process).

         In Caesars, the Kentucky Supreme Court refused the argument that a slip-and-fall claim “arose from” extensive advertising and solicitation activity in the Commonwealth, although that advertising was the but-for cause for the plaintiff visiting the out-of-state fall location. 336 S.W.3d at 58. Instead, the high court ruled, a plaintiff's “cause of action must have originated from, or came [sic] into being, as a result of” the defendant's relevant activities in Kentucky. Id. Stated directly,

the wrongful acts of the defendant alleged in the plaintiff's complaint must originate from the actions or activities that form the applicable statutory predicate for assertion of long-arm jurisdiction. Conversely, the statutory foundation for the assertion of long-arm jurisdiction must be the source of the plaintiff's cause of action. If there is a reasonable and direct nexus between the wrongful acts alleged in the complaint and the statutory predicate for long-arm-jurisdiction, then jurisdiction is properly exercised. . . . Trial courts will ultimately have to depend upon a common sense analysis, giving the benefit of the doubt in favor of jurisdiction.

Id. at 58-59.

The Kentucky Supreme Court's application is worthy of reproduction:
The wrongful act alleged in Appellee's claim is the failure of Appellants to keep their premises safe for business invitees by negligently permitting spilled butter to remain on its flooring and/or failing to warn its customers of the danger. The statutory predicate proffered for exercising personal jurisdiction over Appellants is KRS 454.210(2)(a)(1), “[t]ransacting any business in this Commonwealth, ” which here consists of Appellants' extensive advertising, direct mail solicitations, a rewards program, and extensive civic and charitable activities. A comparison of the wrongful acts underlying Appellee's claim to the Appellants' conduct and activities in this Commonwealth yields the conclusion that the wrongful conduct has no relation at all to the business Appellants transact in this Commonwealth. That is, ...

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