United States District Court, D. Maryland
K. BREDAR CHIEF JUDGE.
case arises out of a business transaction between Berg Corp.
and C. Norris Manufacturing, LLC. Berg, a Maryland demolition
contractor, hired C. Norris, an Ohio manufacturer, to
substantially modify a piece of heavy equipment. Now, Berg
claims that C. Norris committed negligence in modifying the
equipment. Berg initially sued in Baltimore County Circuit
Court. C. Norris removed the case to this Court. Before the
Court is C. Norris's motion to dismiss for lack of
personal jurisdiction. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2).
No hearing is required. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md.
2018). For the reasons set forth below, C. Norris's
motion to dismiss will be denied.
the question of personal jurisdiction, the Court construes
the relevant allegations in the light most favorable to
Plaintiff and draws "the most favorable inferences for
the existence of jurisdiction." SEC v. Receiver for
Rex Ventures Grp., 730 Fed.Appx. 133, 137 (4th Cir.
2018) (quoting Combs v. Bakker, 886 F.2d 673, 676
(4th Cir. 1989)).
between Berg and C. Norris began in September 2016. At the
time, Berg owned a Komatsu PC 800 LC-8 hydraulic excavator
("the Komatsu"). (Compl. ¶ 4, ECF No. 1-2.)
Berg commissioned C. Norris to convert the Komatsu to include
a 140-foot ultra-high demolition boom. (Id. ¶
5.) C. Norris represented that the conversion would add 20,
000 pounds of additional counterweight. (Id. ¶
7.) C. Norris completed the conversion in April 2017.
(Id. ¶ 6.) In the end, the modification
resulted in nearly five times the amount of anticipated
additional counterweight. (Id. ¶ 7.) C. Norris
delivered the modified Komatsu to Berg in Maryland and
reassembled it there. (Id. ¶ 6.)
November 2018, Berg sued C. Norris for negligently converting
the Komatsu and causing over a million dollars in damage.
(Not. of Removal at 1-2, ECF No. 1.) In support of the
negligence claim, Berg alleges that C. Norris irreparably
damaged the Komatsu by adding much more counterweight than
was originally anticipated and by installing couplings that
immediately malfunctioned. (Compl. ¶ 7.) Relevant to
personal jurisdiction, Berg alleges that it is incorporated
in Maryland and has its principal place of business there;
that C. Norris is incorporated in Ohio and has its principal
place of business there; and, that C. Norris "conducts a
regular business in the state of Maryland and in Baltimore
City." (Id. at 1-2.)
motion to dismiss stage, Berg has not put forward evidence in
support of its own allegations. C. Norris attaches two affidavits
from its President and CEO, Christopher Norris, stating the
following. C. Norris does not maintain any offices, employ
any individuals, advertise, or directly solicit business in
Maryland. (1/7/19 Affidavit ¶ 3-5, ECF No. 5-2.) Indeed,
Berg is "the first and only Maryland business that C.
Norris has contracted with for services." (Id.
¶ 6.) During the course of their dealing, C. Norris took
possession of the Komatsu in Ohio and made all modifications
in Ohio, including "the installation of the quick
couplers at issue, as well as the alleged addition of any
weight." (2/2/19 Affidavit ¶ 3-1, ECF No. 9-2.)
Berg travelled to Ohio to observe the Komatsu's testing,
and, while there, Berg approved the modifications.
(Id. ¶ 5.) C. Norris disassembled the Komatsu,
delivered it to Berg in Maryland, and reassembled it there.
(Id. ¶ 6.) While in Maryland, C. Norris
performed a limited reassembly, which did not involve any
alterations to the quick couplers or the amount of
counterweight. (Id. ¶ 7.) The quick couplers
and amount of counterweight are the alterations at issue in
the negligence claim.
only question for the Court is whether it has personal
jurisdiction. C. Norris argues that it does not and that
the Court should dismiss the complaint. Berg argues that it
does and that the Court should not dismiss. Alternatively,
Berg requests leave to amend its complaint, an evidentiary
hearing on personal jurisdiction, or a transfer to the United
States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. The
Court acknowledges that this case presents a close call but
concludes that Berg has made the requisite showing that
personal jurisdiction exists in Maryland.
12(b)(2) motion to dismiss tests a court's personal
jurisdiction over a defendant, Lewis v. Willough at
Naples, 311 F.Supp.3d 731, 734 (D. Md. 2018). Where, as
here, the court addresses personal jurisdiction "on the
basis only of motion papers, supporting legal memoranda and
the relevant allegations of a complaint, the burden on the
plaintiff is simply to make a prima facie showing of a
sufficient jurisdictional basis to survive the jurisdictional
challenge." ..New Wellington Fin. Corp. v. Flagship
Resort Dev. Corp., 416 F.3d 290, 294 (4th Cir. 2005).
The court must construe the relevant allegations in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff and draw "the most
favorable inferences for the existence of jurisdiction."
Receiver for Rex Ventures Grp., 730 Fed.Appx. at 137
(quoting Combs, 886 F.2d at 676). In drawing its
inferences, the court may look outside the plaintiffs proof,
to the defendant's motions, legal memoranda, and
declarations. Armstrong v. Nat'l Shipping Co. of
Saudi Arabia, Civ. No. ELH-13-3702, 2015 WL 751344, at
*3 (D. Md. Feb. 20, 2015).
Court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant if
"(1) an applicable state long-arm statute confers
jurisdiction and (2) the assertion of that jurisdiction is
consistent with constitutional due process." Nichols
v. G.D. Searle & Co., 991 F.2d 1195, 1199 (4th Cir.
1993). Berg argues that it has met the requirements of the
Maryland long-arm statute and, consequently, need not reach
the constitutional inquiry. This argument is problematic.
construing the reach of the Maryland long-arm statute,
"this Court is bound by the interpretations of the
Maryland Court of Appeals." Colin v. Walther &
Larkin, LLP, Civ. No. RDB-03-1434, 2003 WL 23978362, at
*3 (D. Md. Aug. 22, 2003). The Maryland Court of Appeals
"interpret[s] the long-arm statute to the limits
permitted by the Due Process Clause." Mackey v.
Compass Mktg., Inc.,892 A.2d 479, 493 at n.6 (Md.
2006). This means that it is never enough to simply say that
there is compliance with the long-arm statute. ...