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Gogel v. Maroulis

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 30, 2019

DEBORAH L. GOGEL, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
JOHN MAROULIS, et al., Defendants. JOHN MAROULIS, et al. Third-Party Plaintiffs,
v.
GARMIN INTERNATIONAL, INC., et al. Third-Party Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE L. RUSSELL, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Third-Party Defendants Garmin International, Inc. and Garmin USA, Inc.'s (collectively, “Garmin”) Third-Party Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Amended Third-Party Complaint (ECF No. 53).[1] This 46 U.S.C. § 30301 action arises from an August 5, 2013 boating accident off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland that resulted in two deaths. The Motion is ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2018). For the reasons outlined below, the Court will grant the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND[2]

         Third-Party Plaintiffs, John Maroulis and Paula Maroulis (“the Maroulises”), owned a passenger vessel named NAUTI CAT (the “Vessel”), which they purchased brand new in the State of Maryland. (Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶ 3, ECF No. 48). On August 5, 2013, John Maroulis was operating the Vessel off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland when two passengers, William M. Gogel, Jr. and Fredy F. Castro, died in an accident that was allegedly caused by John Maroulis' negligent operation of the Vessel. (Id. ¶¶ 2, 4). On July 26, 2016, representatives of Gogel's and Castro's estates sued the Maroulises. (Id.; see also Compl., ECF No. 1). The representatives alleged that Paula Maroulis, who was not present during the accident, breached obligations to the passengers and that John Maroulis was negligent in placing the Vessel in autopilot and failing to regain control of it during the voyage. (Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶¶ 2, 4). John Maroulis was using a Garmin navigation system (the “Navigation System”) while the Vessel was in autopilot mode. (Id. ¶ 4).

         On November 26, 2018, the Maroulises filed a Third-Party Complaint against Garmin. (ECF No. 36). The Maroulises filed an Amended Third-Party Complaint on March 26, 2019. (ECF No. 48). In the two-count Amended Third-Party Complaint, the Maroulises allege that Garmin was negligent or careless in failing to warn them that the Navigation System could not be used while the Vessel was in autopilot mode or that “special care or attention” had to be exercised when using the Navigation System while autopilot was engaged. (Am. Third-Party Compl. ¶¶ 10, 13, 17). They also contend that the Navigation System suffered from a design defect that manifested while the Vessel was in autopilot mode. (Id. ¶¶ 12, 15, 17). As a result, the Maroulises allege that they are entitled to indemnification (Count I) and contribution (Count II) from Garmin to cover any damages that may be awarded to the decedents' representatives. (Id. ¶¶ 24-27).

         Garmin now moves to dismiss both counts in the Amended Third-Party Complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2), and failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under Rule 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 53). The Maroulises filed an Opposition to the pending Motion to Dismiss on April 30, 2019. (ECF No. 59). Garmin filed its Reply on May 14, 2019. (ECF No. 63).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         1. Personal Jurisdiction Challenges under Rule 12(b)(2)

         When a court's power to exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant is challenged by a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2), “the jurisdictional question is to be resolved by the judge, with the burden on the plaintiff ultimately to prove grounds for jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence.” Carefirst of Md., Inc. v. Carefirst Pregnancy Ctrs., Inc., 334 F.3d 390, 396 (4th Cir. 2003) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Akzo, N.V., 2 F.3d 56, 59-60 (4th Cir. 1993)). If the existence of jurisdiction turns on disputed facts, the court may resolve the challenge after a separate evidentiary hearing, or may defer ruling pending receipt at trial of evidence relevant to the jurisdictional question. Combs v. Bakker, 886 F.2d 673, 676 (4th Cir. 1989). If the court chooses to rule without conducting an evidentiary hearing, relying solely on the basis of the complaint, affidavits, and discovery materials, “the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction.” Carefirst, 334 F.3d at 396; see also Mylan, 2 F.3d at 60; Combs, 886 F.2d at 676. In determining whether the plaintiff has proven a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction, the court “must draw all reasonable inferences arising from the proof, and resolve all factual disputes, in the plaintiff's favor.” Mylan, 2 F.3d at 60; Carefirst, 334 F.3d at 396.

         Absent a federal statute specifying different grounds for personal jurisdiction, federal courts may exercise jurisdiction in the manner provided by state law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1)(A). “[F]or a district court to assert personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, two conditions must be satisfied: (1) the exercise of jurisdiction must be authorized under the state's long-arm statute; and (2) the exercise of jurisdiction must comport with the due process requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Carefirst, 334 F.3d at 396. Maryland's long-arm statute, Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 6-103 (2018), authorizes the exercise of personal jurisdiction to the limits permitted by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. See ALS Scan, Inc. v. Digital Serv. Consultants, Inc., 293 F.3d 707, 710 (4th Cir. 2002); Base Metal Trading, Ltd. v. OJSC “Novokuznetsky Aluminum Factory”, 283 F.3d 208, 212-13 (4th Cir. 2002). That broad reach does not suggest that analysis under the long-arm statute is irrelevant. Rather, it merely reflects that, “to the extent that a defendant's activities are covered by the statutory language, the reach of the statute extends to the outermost boundaries of the due process clause.” Dring v. Sullivan, 423 F.Supp.2d 540, 545 (D.Md. 2006) (quoting Joseph M. Coleman & Assocs., Ltd. v. Colonial Metals, 887 F.Supp. 116, 118-19 n.2 (D.Md. 1995)). A court's exercise of jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant comports with due process if the defendant has “minimum contacts” with the forum, such that to require the defendant to defend its interests in that state “does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Personal jurisdiction may be established through either of two avenues. If the defendant's contacts with the forum state form the basis for the suit, they may establish “specific jurisdiction.” In determining whether specific jurisdiction exists, a court must consider (1) the extent to which the defendant has purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting activities in the state; (2) whether the plaintiff's claims arise out of those activities directed at the state; and (3) whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction would be constitutionally “reasonable.” Carefirst, 334 F.3d at 396; see also ALS Scan, 293 F.3d at 711-12; Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414 n.8 (1984). If, however, the defendant's contacts with the state are not also the basis for the suit, then jurisdiction over the defendant must arise from the defendant's general, more persistent, but unrelated contacts with the state. Int'l Shoe, 326 U.S. at 318. To establish general jurisdiction, the defendant's “affiliations with the State [must be] so continuous and systematic as to render it essentially at home in the forum state.” Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 139 (2014).

         B. Analysis

         1. ...


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