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Kane v. NK Investments, LP

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 24, 2018

DONNA KANE, Plaintiff,
v.
NK INVESTMENTS, LP, STEINBRECHER AND ASSOCS., INC., and BNSF RAILWAY COMPANY Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION, IMPROPER VENUE AND FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM

          Warren W. Eginton Senior United States District Judge

         In this action, plaintiff Donna Kane alleges that defendant Steinbrecher and Associates is liable for breach of contract, and that defendant BNSF Railway Company is liable for tortious interference with plaintiff's contract with Steinbrecher.

         Defendants now move for dismissal based on lack of personal jurisdiction, improper venue and failure to state a claim.

         For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss will be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff's complaint alleges the following factual background. The Court also includes additional facts that have been averred to in affidavits. Defendant has submitted affidavits from James Obermiller, BNSF's Director of Compliance and information Governance, and Susan Steinbrecher. The affidavit from Steinbrecher includes the relevant contract attached as an exhibit. The Court's consideration of a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction may include materials outside the pleading including affidavits. Alpha Capital Anstalt v. Oxysure Sys., Inc., 2017 WL 2271518, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. May 8, 2017).

         Plaintiff is a resident of Connecticut; defendant Steinbrecher is a Texas corporation based in Hurst, Texas; and BNSF Railway Company is a Delaware corporation based in Fort Worth, Texas.

         Steinbrecher provides education and training services to BNSF. Commencing in 2013, plaintiff worked for Steinbrecher as a leadership trainer. As of February 2017, plaintiff and Steinbrecher had entered into a written service contract.

         In February 2017, plaintiff was assigned to conduct a training for BNSF at a Doubletree Hotel in San Bernadino, California. During her stay, plaintiff reported to the hotel manager that she had suffered from the presence of bed bugs in her room. She later sent the manager an email expressing her dissatisfaction with the hotel.

         Later, while working at an event for Steinbrecher in Texas, plaintiff received an email from a Doubletree representative that was copied to a representative from BNSF. Plaintiff had not been aware that the Doubletree and BNSF, or its employee, had a longstanding relationship with one another.

         On February 22, 2017, Linda Steinbrecher, Steinbrecher's owner, requested that plaintiff participate in a conference call. During the call on March 9, 2017, Ms. Steinbrecher was located in Texas. She conveyed to plaintiff that BNSF had demanded that she have no further involvement with any training conducted by Steinbrecher for BNSF. Later that day, Ms. Steinbrecher called plaintiff to terminate her employment.

         DISCUSSION

         On a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(2), “plaintiff bears the burden of showing that the court has jurisdiction over the defendant.” In re Magnetic Audiotape Antitrust Litig., 334 F.3d 204, 206 (2d Cir. 2003). At this stage of the proceedings, if the court relies upon pleadings and affidavits, the plaintiff must make out only a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction, and the affidavits and pleadings should be construed most favorably to the plaintiff. CutCo Industries, Inc. v. Naughton, 806 F.2d 361, 365 (2d Cir. 1986). To determine personal jurisdiction, the court must consider the facts as they exist at the time of plaintiff's filing. Klinghoffer v. S. N.C. Achille Lauro Ed Altri-Gestione Motonave Achille Lauro in Amministrazione Straordinaria, 937 F.2d 44, 52 (2d Cir. 1991).

         To survive a pretrial motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, a plaintiff bears the burden of showing that the court has jurisdiction over the defendant. Kernan v. Kurz-Hastings, Inc., 175 F.3d 236, 240 (2d Cir. 1999). The amenability of a nonresident to suit in a federal court in a diversity action is determined according to the law of the state where the court sits. Arrowsmith v. United Press Int'l, 320 F.2d 219, 223 (2d Cir. 1963). In Connecticut, the court makes a two step inquiry. Bensmiller v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Co., 47 F.3d ...


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