ALISON N. MARTINS, Individually and as Co-Executrix of the ESTATE OF JOHN MARTINS, Plaintiff,
BRIDGESTONE AMERICAS TIRE OPERATIONS, LLC; PETERBILT OF CONNECTICUT, INC. d/b/a PETERBILT OF RHODE ISLAND, INC.; PATRIOT SALES AND SERVICE, INC.; PACCAR, INC.; MILLER INDUSTRIES INTERNATIONAL, INC.; and ABC CORPORATION, Defendants.
Providence County Superior Court
Decof, Esq. For Plaintiff:
Defendant: Brian J. Lamoureux, Esq.; William E. O'Gara,
Esq.; Amanda Prosek, Esq.; Kathleen M. Guilfoyle, Esq.; Mark
P. Dolan, Esq.; John M. Boland, Esq.
PACCAR, Inc. (PACCAR) moves this Court for an order
dismissing PACCAR from the above-captioned matter for lack of
personal jurisdiction pursuant to Super. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2).
The Plaintiff, Allison N. Martins (Plaintiff), has objected.
Facts and Travel
case arises out of a motor vehicle accident that resulted in
John Martins' (Decedent) death. The truck he was
operating at the time (hereinafter Rotator
Truck) suffered a belt and/or tread separation,
causing the Rotator Truck to veer off the road, crash into a
tree and catch fire. Second Am. Compl. 7. The Plaintiff is
the Decedent's natural daughter who brought this wrongful
death action individually and in her capacity as the
co-executrix of the Estate of the Decedent and as the
Decedent's legal beneficiary. Id. ¶ 1.
Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in
the State of Washington-designs and manufactures vehicles
such as the Rotator Truck. Id. at 3, 42.
Peterbilt Motors Co. (Peterbilt Motors) is an unincorporated
division of PACCAR with its principal place of business in
Texas. Id. at 3. For purposes of the present motion
and ease of reference, this Court will refer to Peterbilt
Motors and PACCAR collectively as
"PACCAR."PACCAR follows a corporate structure
whereby it engages and contracts with local dealerships,
which, in turn, sell and service PACCAR products.
See Pl.'s Ex. 44 at PACCAR 000151.
such local dealer, Peterbilt of Connecticut, Inc. (Peterbilt
of Connecticut), through an addendum (Addendum) to its Dealer
Sales and Services Agreement with PACCAR, agreed to establish
and maintain facilities and operations at 11 Industrial Lane
in Johnston, Rhode Island. Pl.'s Ex. 44 at PACCAR 000166.
The Addendum contains certain performance goals specific to
Peterbilt of Rhode Island and requires Peterbilt of Rhode
Island to employ, at all times, two trained and qualified
salespersons to sell PACCAR vehicles. See Pl.'s Ex. 44 at
PACCAR 000166, 000170. The Rhode Island facility is owned by
Peterbilt of Connecticut and does business under the moniker
"Peterbilt of Rhode Island." See id. at
000170-71. The parties agreed that PACCAR would
"evaluate [Peterbilt of Rhode Island's] sales and
service performance periodically" and that PACCAR would
have the right to "take prompt action if necessary to
improve [Peterbilt of Rhode Island's] sales and service
performance." See id. at 000170. PACCAR
distinguishes between the Rhode Island and Connecticut
locations in that they are assigned different dealer codes:
P102 and P100, respectively. Pl.'s Ex. 46; Curbo Dep. Tr.
(Tr.) 12-13, 24-25, 161-62, Aug. 9, 2018. PACCAR's logo
is displayed at Peterbilt of Rhode Island; PACCAR has the
right to approve signage; and PACCAR has been registered to
conduct business in Rhode Island since the year 1990.
Pl.'s Exs. 4, 11; Pl.'s Ex. 44 at PACCAR 000166,
000170-71; Tr. at 29, 30, 69.
of Connecticut placed the initial order for the Rotator
Truck. However, on September 19, 2005-before the truck was
manufactured-Peterbilt of Connecticut requested and PACCAR
agreed to "change order" no. 009 to chassis no.
637511 (which would become the Rotator Truck) to reflect that
Peterbilt of Rhode Island was, in fact, the requesting
dealer. Pl.'s Ex. 28; Tr. at 116-17. All ensuing
communications, including ten change orders, identified
Peterbilt of Rhode Island as the dealer associated with the
Rotator Truck. For example, on September 27, 2005, PACCAR
received an email from Matt Berluti, a Peterbilt of Rhode
Island employee (using email address
firstname.lastname@example.org), requesting a specific design for
chassis no. 637511. Pl.'s Ex. 5, Tr. at 37. A later
change order documented Mr. Berluti as the dealer contact and
provided a phone number with a Rhode Island area code.
Pl.'s Ex. 29, Tr. at 37. A vehicle quality booklet
specific to chassis no. 637511 traveled with the Rotator
Truck from PACCAR's facility and identified Peterbilt of
Rhode Island as the dealer. Pl.'s Ex. 42.
addition to the aforementioned communications, several other
documents manifested PACCAR's understanding that
Peterbilt of Rhode Island-not Peterbilt of Connecticut-was
the Rotator Truck's acting dealer. PACCAR issued a
certificate of origin for the Rotator Truck identifying as
the transferee Peterbilt of Rhode Island, with its Rhode
Island address. Pl.'s Exs. 7, 8. PACCAR issued an invoice
to Peterbilt of Rhode Island directed to its Rhode Island
address requesting payment for the Rotator Truck. Pl.'s
Ex. 15; Tr. at 94-96. Finally, PACCAR entered into a warranty
agreement relating to the Rotator Truck that lists Peterbilt
of Rhode Island as the "Selling Dealer." Pl.'s
of 2017, the Plaintiff filed her original complaint alleging
counts for negligence, strict liability, breach of
warranties, and punitive damages. The Plaintiff filed a
second amended complaint on August 28, 2017, which names
several corporate defendants connected with the Rotator
Truck's manufacture and sale. Various defendants,
including the Bridgestone Entitiesand PACCAR, moved to dismiss
for lack of personal jurisdiction. On March 8, 2018, this
Court granted the Bridgestone Entities' motion and
reserved judgment with respect to PACCAR'S motion pending
jurisdictional discovery. Having completed jurisdictional
discovery, the parties submitted supplemental briefing to
this Court concerning PACCAR connections with Rhode Island.
For the following reasons, this Court determines PACCAR is
subject to jurisdiction in Rhode Island and therefore, denies
PACCAR's motion to dismiss.
Standard of Review
Personal Jurisdiction in Rhode Island
is well established that to withstand a defendant's Rule
12(b)(2) motion to dismiss a complaint for lack of in
personam jurisdiction, a plaintiff must allege
sufficient facts to make out a prima facie case of
jurisdiction." Cerberus Partners, L.P. v. Gadsby
& Hannah, LLP, 836 A.2d 1113, 1118 (R.I. 2003)
(citing Ben's Marine Sales v. Sleek Craft Boats,
502 A.2d 808, 809 (R.I. 1985)). "A prima facie
case of jurisdiction is established when the requirements of
Rhode Island's long-arm statute are satisfied."
Id. at 1118 (citation omitted). Section 9-5-33(a) of
the Rhode Island General Laws provides the following:
"Every foreign corporation, every individual not a
resident of this state . . . and every partnership or
association, composed of any person or persons not such
residents, that shall have the necessary minimum contacts
with the state of Rhode Island, shall be subject to the
jurisdiction of the state of Rhode Island . . . in every case
not contrary to the provisions of the constitution or laws of
the United States."
Supreme Court has interpreted G.L. 1956 § 9-5-33(a) as
allowing Rhode Island courts to exercise jurisdiction
"over nonresident defendants to the fullest extent
allowed by the United States Constitution." Rose v.
Firstar Bank, 819 A.2d 1247, 1250 (R.I. 2003) (citing
McKenney v. Kenyon Piece Dye Works, Inc.,
582 A.2d 107, 108 (R.I. 1990)).
Constitutional Due Process Requirements
Island court's exercise of personal jurisdiction comports
with constitutional due process requirements when the
plaintiff demonstrates the defendant has "certain
minimum contacts with [the forum] such that the maintenance
of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play
and substantial justice." Rose, 819 A.2d at
1250 (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. State of Washington,
Office of Unemployment Comp. and Placement, 326 U.S.
310, 316 (1945)) (quotation marks omitted). "[T]here are
no 'readily discernable guidelines for determining what
[constitutes] 'minimum contacts' for the purposes of
the long-arm statute.'" Cassidy v. Lonquist
Mgmt. Co., LLC., 920 A.2d 228, 232 (R.I. 2007).
Analyzing personal jurisdiction is "more an art than a
science." Ticketmaster-New York, Inc. v.
Alioto, 26 F.3d 201, 206 (1st Cir. 1994) (citation
omitted). A reviewing court must consider the particular
facts in each case and analyze ...