Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

James v. Subaru of America, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Abingdon Division

January 15, 2020

REBECCA RENTZ JAMES, Plaintiff,
v.
SUBARU OF AMERICA, INC., ET AL., Defendants.

          Francis H. Casola and J. Walton Milam, III, Woods Rogers, PLC, Roanoke, Virginia, for Plaintiff.

          Warren David Harless and Belinda D. Jones, Christian & Barton, L.L.P., Richmond, Virginia, and C. Bradford Marsh and Ashley C. Webber, Swift, Currie, McGhee & Hiers, LLP, Atlanta, Georgia, for Defendants Denso International America, Inc. and Denso Manufacturing Tennessee, Inc.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          James P. Jones, United States District Judge.

         In this products liability case removed from state court, defendants Denso International America, Inc. (“DIAM”) and Denso Manufacturing Tennessee, Inc. (“DMTN”) have moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. I previously granted the plaintiff's request to conduct jurisdictional discovery and allowed the parties to file supplemental briefs on the issue of whether this court can properly exercise personal jurisdiction over DIAM and DMTN. The window for jurisdictional discovery has now closed, the parties have submitted their supplemental briefs with evidence, and the motions are ripe for decision. No. party requested a hearing when given the opportunity to do so. For the reasons that follow, I find that this court lacks personal jurisdiction over DIAM and DMTN and will grant their Motions to Dismiss.

         I.

         The Complaint alleges that on August 7, 2017, the plaintiff, Rebecca Rentz James, was driving a 2011 Subaru Outback in Tazewell County, Virginia, which she had purchased new from a dealership in Florida in 2011. While making a right turn, the right front fender made brief contact with a tree adjacent to the road, causing minor damage to the vehicle.

         Although the vehicle had contacted the tree on the passenger's side, the driver's side curtain airbag deployed, injuring James. James alleges that it was foreseeable to the defendants that such an unnecessary deployment of the airbag posed an unreasonable risk of harm. It is alleged that DMTN manufactured the airbag electronic control unit (“ECU”) for James' vehicle and DIAM in turn sold the ECU for installation in James' car.[1] James asserts claims for breach of the implied warranty of merchantability against Subaru (Count I), breach of the implied warranty of merchantability against DIAM and DMTN (Count II), negligence against Subaru (Count III), negligence against DIAM and DMTN (Count IV), and failure to warn against all defendants (Count V). The record currently before the court contains the following undisputed facts bearing upon personal jurisdiction over DIAM and DMTN.

         Sung Lee, DIAM's senior sales manager, testified as DIAM's corporate representative. He is responsible for DIAM's Subaru-related business in North America. DIAM is a corporation organized under Delaware law and headquartered in Michigan. DIAM does not own any property in Virginia or pay any taxes in Virginia. DIAM does not operate any facility in Virginia and has no employees who live in Virginia. It has purchased goods and services from some vendors that have a physical presence in Virginia.

         In 2018, DIAM issued a tax form 1099 indicating payments of $31, 515.50 to Roger C. Fairchild, a consultant on vehicle regulatory matters. Fairchild is an attorney licensed in Virginia and is based in Purcellville, Virginia. Forms 1099 from previous years indicate that DIAM paid Fairchild $23, 000 in 2017 and $20, 122 in 2016.

         Lee was unable to testify as to the services provided to DIAM by other vendors with Virginia addresses. He stated that the quantity of documents related to those vendors was so great that he did not have time to review them all prior to his deposition.[2] DIAM maintains a publicly accessible corporate website that consumers and businesses in Virginia can access. The website contains information about the company, but it is not an interactive website and does not allow visitors to submit orders for products.

         DIAM designs, engineers, and sells parts to automobile manufacturers, including Subaru. DMTN manufactures the parts, and the customers generally takes possession of the parts at DMTN's plant in Maryville, Tennessee. DIAM does not sell products to consumers or end-users; it sells only to manufacturers.

         A DIAM subsidiary, Denso Products and Services Americas, Inc. (“DPAM”), sells parts directly to consumers. A publicly accessible DPAM webpage allows consumers to search for parts. A consumer in Virginia could purchase parts from the DPAM webpage. The particular components at issue in this case are not available for sale on the DPAM website. It is possible to access the DPAM webpage from the DIAM website by clicking through a series of links. The website on which parts can be ordered, however, has a different domain name from the DIAM website and does not contain any link back to the DIAM website. DPAM is a separate legal entity, and while it is a wholly owned subsidiary of DIAM, DIAM does not exercise control over its business operations.

         DIAM sells airbag assemblies and sensors to Subaru. DIAM has sold more than two million parts to Subaru. In 2017, DIAM received $279 million in revenue from sales to Subaru and affiliated companies. In 2018, it received $331 million in revenue from sales to Subaru. When Subaru submits orders to DIAM, the orders specify the vehicle model in which the parts are intended to be used. One of those models is the Subaru Outback.

         Subaru and DIAM's other customers pick up the parts from the DMTN plant in Tennessee. DIAM generally does not ship parts to customers. However, if a customer required DIAM to ship parts to Virginia, it would. Subaru's Indiana location is the only location in the United States where Subaru vehicles are manufactured. As a matter of common knowledge, DIAM is aware that Subaru dealerships sell automobiles throughout the United States, including in Virginia. Subaru does not tell DIAM where vehicles containing its airbag components will be sold. DIAM generally does not communicate with Subaru ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.