United States District Court, D. Maryland
DEBORAH L. GOGEL, et al., Plaintiffs,
JOHN MAROULIS, et al., Defendants. JOHN MAROULIS, et al. Third-Party Plaintiffs,
GARMIN INTERNATIONAL, INC., et al. Third-Party Defendants.
L. RUSSELL, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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.
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.
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).
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. ¶¶
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).
Standard of Review
Personal Jurisdiction Challenges under Rule 12(b)(2)
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.
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).
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).