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Moreno v. Aerostar Airport Holdings, LLC

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 30, 2016

ARCARDIA MORENO, Plaintiff,
v.
AEROSTAR AIRPORT HOLDINGS, LLC and PUERTO RICO PORTS AUTHORITY doing business as LUIZ MUNOZ MARIN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Defendants.

          RULING ON MOTION TO DISMISS

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Arcadia Moreno has sued Aerostar Airport Holdings, LLC (“Aerostar”) and Puerto Rico Ports Authority (“PRPA”), doing business as Luiz Munoz Marin International Airport (“Marin International Airport”). She alleges that the Defendants' negligence allowed a pool of liquid to form on the floor of Marin International Airport, causing her to slip and fall while carrying her newborn child. Compl. ¶¶ 7-9, ECF No. 1-2.

         Ms. Moreno initiated her case in Connecticut Superior Court, and Defendants removed the case to this Court. Defendants then filed motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. After moving twice for extensions of time in which to file a response, Ms. Moreno did not oppose the motion. For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED.

         I. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

         Defendant, The Aerostar Airport Holdings, LLC (“Aerostar”), is a limited liability company, organized under the laws of Puerto Rico with a principal office in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Aerostar's Mem. of L. in Supp. of Mot. To Dismiss, ECF no. 16, at 2. Defendant, Puerto Rico Ports Authority (“PRPA”), is a government-owned corporation, organized under the laws of Puerto Rico with its principal place of business in San Juan, Puerto Rico. PRPA's Mem. of L. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 18, at 2. The two defendants have a public-private partnership agreement by which Aerostar manages the Airport, which it leases from the PRPA. Id. at 4. Neither defendant is registered to do business in Connecticut. Id. See also Aerostar's Mem. of L. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss at 5.

         Plaintiff is a citizen of Connecticut, but this suit arises from a visit she made to Puerto Rico. Specifically, she alleges that she was injured while walking in Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (“the Airport”) in July 2013. Compl. at ¶6. She alleges that her injury was caused by the negligence and carelessness of the Defendants. Id. at 10. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants have regularly conducted or solicited business in the State of Connecticut and should have reasonably expected to be haled into its courts. In separate motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, Defendants allege that they do not solicit or conduct any business within the state. Each defendant has submitted a declaration from a staff member substantiating these allegations. See Armada Decl., PRPA's Mem. of L. in Supp. of Mot. To Dismiss Ex. 1, ECF No. 18-1; Ramos Decl., Aerostar's Mem. of L. in Supp. of Mot. To Dismiss Ex. 1, ECF No. 16-1

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         On a Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of showing that the court has jurisdiction over the defendant. DiStefano v. Carozzi N. Am., Inc., 286 F.3d 81, 84 (2d Cir. 2001). Prior to discovery, a plaintiff challenged by a jurisdiction testing motion may defeat the motion by pleading in good faith legally sufficient allegations of jurisdiction. At that preliminary stage, the plaintiff's prima facie showing may be established solely by allegations. Ball v. Metallurgie Hoboken-Overpelt, 902 F.2d 194, 197 (2d Cir. 1990).

         In a diversity action, the amenability of a foreign corporation to suit in federal court is determined in accordance with the law of the state where the court sits, so we apply Connecticut law to this case. Arrowsmith v. United Press Int'l, 320 F.2d 219, 223 (2d Cir. 1963). In Connecticut, “a trial court may exercise jurisdiction over a foreign defendant only if the defendant's intrastate activities meet the requirements both of [the state's long-arm] statute and of the due process clause of the federal constitution.” Thomason v. Chem. Bank, 234 Conn. 281, 285-86 (1995). The court will address the question of whether it would offend due process to assert jurisdiction only after determining that jurisdiction is statutorily permissible. Lombard Bros., Inc. v. Gen. Asset Mgmt. Co., 190 Conn. 245, 250 (1983).

         The trial court must accept all undisputed factual allegations for the purpose of determining personal jurisdiction. Pitruzello v. Muro, 70 Conn.App. 309, 314-15 (2002). However, if a plaintiff's factual allegations are disputed, as they are here, the Court cannot “avoid scrutiny of the plaintiff's affidavit to determine whether it [can] provide a sufficient basis for the court to assume … jurisdiction.” Id. (approving of a trial court's decision not to exercise jurisdiction over a defendant because even though plaintiff's allegations, “standing alone, might have provided a basis for assuming personal jurisdiction, ” they “were not supported by [the plaintiff's] affidavit and [had] been contradicted by [the defendant's] affidavit.”); see also Chirag v. MT Marida Marguerite Schiffahrts, 604 F. App'x 16, 19 (2d Cir. 2015) (“A prima facie case requires non-conclusory fact-specific allegations or evidence showing that activity that constitutes the basis of jurisdiction has taken place.”); Daventree Ltd. v. Republic of Azer., 349 F.Supp.2d 736, 757 (S.D.N.Y. 2004) (“The court accepts plaintiffs' allegations of jurisdictional facts and will construe all factual inferences in their favor. It need not, however, accept a legally conclusory assertion”)(internal citations omitted.); Matthews v. SBA, Inc., 149 Conn.App. 513, 552 (2014) (“A plaintiff, in presenting facts sufficient to establish the court's jurisdiction, must present specific, and not simply conclusory, allegations.”); Standard Tallow Corp. v. Jowdy, 190 Conn. 48, 54, 459 A.2d 503 (1983)(“When a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction raises a factual question that cannot be decided on the face of the record, the burden of proof is on the plaintiffs to present evidence which will establish jurisdiction.”).

         B. Connecticut's Long Arm Statute

         Connecticut's long arm statute provides that foreign corporations can be sued in Connecticut courts for causes of action “arising out of any business solicited in this state by mail or otherwise if the corporation has repeatedly so solicited business, whether the orders or offers relating thereto were accepted within or without the state.” Conn. Gen. Stat. § 33-929(f)(2).

         The Connecticut Supreme Court has interpreted Section 33-929 to permit the exercise of personal jurisdiction over a non-resident corporation under both specific and general jurisdiction. Specific jurisdiction is appropriate when the defendant “purposely direct[ed] certain enumerated activities at the forum state, and those activities actually caused the harm complained of.” Am. Wholesalers Underwriting, Ltd. v. Am. Wholesale Ins. Group, Inc., 312 F.Supp.2d 247, 254 (D. Conn. 2004). Otherwise, the statute allows general jurisdiction even when “there is no causal connection between the defendant's forum-directed activities and the plaintiff's lawsuit, ” as long as the defendant has had “continuous and systematic general business contacts” with the state. Id. To exercise general jurisdiction, courts consider “the totality of the defendant's conduct and connection with this state” to determine whether it is “reasonably foreseeable” to the defendant that it would be sued by someone ...


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