United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Abingdon Division
Francis H. Casola and J. Walton Milam, III, Woods Rogers,
PLC, Roanoke, Virginia, for Plaintiff.
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
P. Jones, United States District Judge.
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.
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.
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'
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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
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.
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
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