United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTIONS TO DISMISS [DOCS. 32, 33, 47] AND
ON MOTION FOR JURISDICTIONAL DISCOVERY [DOC. 39]
CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Anderson Trucking Service, Inc. ("Anderson" or
"Plaintiff"), brings this declaratory judgment
action against Defendants Eagle Underwriting Group, Inc.
("Eagle"); Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
("WHOI"); Ridgeway International USA, Inc.
("Ridgeway"); and the Australian National Maritime
Museum ("Museum"). This matter involves a
submersible owned by WHOI, on loan to the Museum, and in
transit on Anderson's vehicle when it was damaged by
fire. Anderson brings this suit seeking a declaration that it
is not liable for any damage incurred by the submersible; or
in the event it is found liable for such damage, its
liability is limited. Each Defendant has moved to dismiss the
Complaint; those motions are resisted by Plaintiff. In
response to the motions to dismiss, Plaintiff has moved for
leave to conduct jurisdictional discovery, a motion opposed
by Defendants. This Ruling resolves the pending motions.
brings this action pursuant to the Declaratory Judgment Act,
28 U.S.C. § 2201, which provides that "[i]n a case
of actual controversy within its jurisdiction . . . any court
of the United States, upon the filing of an appropriate
pleading, may declare the rights and other legal relations of
any interested party seeking such declaration, whether or not
further relief is or could be sought." 28 U.S.C.
§2201(a). This Act, however, "does not by itself
confer subject matter jurisdiction on the federal courts.
Rather, there must be an independent basis of jurisdiction
before a district court may issue a declaratory
judgment." Correspondent Servs. Corp. v. First
Equities Corp. of Fla., 442 F.3d 767, 769 (2d Cir. 2006)
(internal citation omitted).
Complaint, filed on May 17, 2017, alleges that the Court has
subject matter jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28
U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1337, as this action arises
under the laws of the United States and under an Act of
Congress regulating interstate commerce; specifically, the
Carriage of Goods by Sea Act ("COGSA"), 46 U.S.C.
§ 30701; or, alternatively, the Carmack Amendment to the
Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act, 49 U.S.C.
§ 14706, and the amount in controversy exceeds $10, 000.
Complaint, Doc. 1 ¶ 8. Plaintiff also invokes the
Court's diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §
1332, asserting that the parties are completely diverse, and
that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000, exclusive of
interests and costs. Id. at ¶ 9.
November 21, 2017, WHOI filed an action in the District of
Massachusetts against Anderson, Ridgeway, the Museum, and
other defendants, seeking damages, fees and
costs. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
v. ATS Specialized, Inc., 1:17-CV-12301(NMG) (D. Mass.
2017) ("Massachusetts Action").
November 22, 2017, in the instant matter, the Museum filed a
motion to dismiss the declaratory judgment complaint,
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. Doc. 32. The Museum contends that this Court lacks
subject matter jurisdiction, pursuant to the Foreign
Sovereign Immunities Act ("FSIA"). 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1602 et seq. Id. On November 30,
2017, Defendants WHOI and Eagle jointly filed a motion to
dismiss, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2), for lack of personal
jurisdiction; pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), for failure to state
a claim; and pursuant to Rule 12(b)(7), for failure to join
indispensable parties. Doc. 33. In the alternative, the
motion seeks transfer of this action to the District of
Massachusetts, and also urges the Court to abstain from
exercising jurisdiction under the Declaratory Judgment Act,
28 U.S.C. § 2201(a). Id.
December 22, 2017, also in this case, Anderson filed a motion
seeking leave to conduct jurisdictional discovery. Doc. 39.
On January 9, 2018, Ridgeway filed a motion to dismiss the
complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction, pursuant to Rule
12(b)(2), and for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Rule
12(b)(6). Doc. 47. In the alternative, Ridgeway's motion
states that to the extent that the complaint is dismissed
against any co-defendant for lack of personal jurisdiction,
or if any indispensable party cannot be joined, the complaint
should be dismissed. See id.
February 23, 2018, the Court held oral argument on the
pending motions. Doc. 72.
following facts are derived from the Complaint, Doc. 1.
the declaratory Plaintiff, is a Minnesota corporation with
its principal place of business in Minnesota. Doc. 1 ¶
Defendants: Eagle is an insurance company organized and
existing and with its principal place in Canada. Id.
¶ 2. WHOI is a corporation organized and existing in
Massachusetts, with its principal place of business in
Massachusetts. Id. ¶ 3. Ridgeway is a
corporation organized and existing in New York, with its
principal place of business in New York. Id. ¶
4. The Museum is an agency or part of the Commonwealth of
Australia, with its principal place of business in Australia.
Id. ¶ 5.
Complaint does not allege any specific facts which would
allow the Court to establish jurisdiction over the
Defendants, beyond the allegations that Defendants Eagle and
the Museum are "authorized to conduct business" in
the United States and in Connecticut. Id.
¶¶ 2, 5.
alleges that WHOI and/or the Museum contracted with Ridgeway,
a freight forwarder, or a Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier
("NVOCC"), to arrange for the transport of a
"used submarine" from Woods Hole, Massachusetts to
Australia. Doc. 1 ¶ 13. The submarine was to be provided
without charge to the Museum by WHOI. Id. ¶ 14.
According to Anderson, the transport of the submarine was to
be one continuous movement "on a through, ocean, or
combined transport bill of lading or waybill, subject to
Ridgeway's terms of service." Id. ¶
15-16. Those terms provide that WHOI and the Museum will not
file any claim, or have any right of recovery against any
subcontractor of Ridgeway for damage or loss. Id.
alleges that it was notified by Ridgeway that the value of
the submarine was five million dollars. Id. ¶
23. Anderson informed Ridgeway that at the quoted price to
transport the submarine, $1600, it would not accept liability
for the full value of the vessel. Id. Anderson told
Ridgeway that its customers should purchase insurance, and
such insurance was indeed purchased from Eagle. Id.
alleges that Ridgeway arranged for the transportation of the
submarine. Id. ¶ 20. With the authority to act
as an agent for WHOI and/or the Museum, Ridgeway contracted
with Anderson, a motor carrier, to transport the submarine on
its first leg of the journey, from Woods Hole, Massachusetts,
to Baltimore, Maryland. Id. ¶ 21-22. The
submarine was to then travel by ocean carrier from Baltimore
to Australia. Id. ¶ 20.
23, 2015, Anderson and Ridgeway took possession of the
submarine in Woods Hole. Id. ¶ 25. While en
route on I-95 in Connecticut, Anderson's trailer caught
fire, resulting in damage to the submarine. Id.
April 1, 2016, Eagle and WHOI sent a claim to Anderson for
damage to the submarine, in the amount of $8, 307, 101.
Id. ¶ 27. "Upon information and
belief," Eagle has at least partially indemnified WHOI
and/or [the Museum] for the loss, "and is fully or
partially subrogated to Woods Hole's and/or [the
Museum's] claim against [Anderson] to the extent of this
indemnification." Id. ¶ 28.
raise a number of issues in support of their motions for
dismissal, but common to each of the motions is the argument
that the complaint should be dismissed for lack of
jurisdiction (subject matter or personal jurisdiction,
depending on the Defendant involved).
Museum contends that this Court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction over the claims brought against it, pursuant to
the FSIA. Defendants WHOI, Eagle, and Ridgeway argue that
this action should be dismissed against them for lack of
personal jurisdiction. In response to the Defendants'
motions to dismiss on jurisdictional grounds, Anderson moves
for leave to conduct jurisdictional discovery. Each of the
motions presents questions regarding the scope of this
Court's authority to hear this matter. The Court will
address those questions in the first instance.
Museum, a defendant in this matter, is a corporation
"empowered to act on behalf of the Commonwealth" of
Australia, and is owned by the Australian government.
Declaration of Peter Rout, Doc. 32-2 ¶ 2. The Museum is
funded by the Australian government and operates on a
non-for-profit basis. Id. As an arm of a sovereign
foreign state, the Museum asserts that it is immune from the
jurisdiction of this federal court under the FSIA, 28 U.S.C.
§ 1602 et seq. Consequently, the Museum argues,
this Court lacks jurisdiction over the claims asserted
against it in this matter.
motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff bears the burden of
proving subject matter jurisdiction by a preponderance of the
evidence. Aurecchione v. Schoolman Transp. Sys.,
Inc., 426 F.3d 635, 638 (2d Cir. 2005). "In
considering such a motion, the Court generally must accept
the material factual allegations in the complaint as true.
The Court does not, however, draw all reasonable inferences
in the plaintiff's favor." Hijazi v. Permanent
Mission Of Saudi Arabia to United Nations, 689 F.Supp.2d
669, 670 (S.D.N.Y.) (citation omitted), aff'd,
403 Fed.Appx. 631 (2d Cir. 2010).
the FSIA, a "a foreign state shall be immune from the
jurisdiction of the courts of the United States," unless
a statutorily enumerated exception applies. 28 U.S.C. §
1604. "The FSIA thus provides the sole basis for
obtaining jurisdiction over a foreign sovereign in the United
States." Republic of Argentina v. Weltover,
Inc., 504 U.S. 607 (1992) (quotation marks and citation
omitted); see also Atlantica Holdings v. Sovereign Wealth
Fund Samruk-Kazyna JSC, 813 F.3d 98, 106 (2d Cir. 2016)
(same), cert. denied sub nom., Sovereign Wealth
Fund Samruk-Kazyna JSC v. Atl. Holdings, Inc., 137 S.Ct.
493 (2016). The FSIA "broadly immunizes foreign states
from the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States,