Fitzpatrick & Hunt Obtains Dismissal of Defendant Skurka Aerospace, Inc. Based on Lack of Personal Jurisdiction in Case Handled by Suzanne McNulty
The United States District Court for Florida granted Skurka’s Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction against Plaintiff Neelu Aviation and Cross-Complainant Advent Aircraft Systems, Inc., in an action involving alleged damage to an Eclipse 500 jet during a forced landing in Florida which Plaintiff claimed was caused by the aircraft’s faulty generators manufactured by Skurka and faulty anti-lock brakes manufactured by Defendant Advent.
The Court in granting Skurka’s Motion to Dismiss both Plaintiff’s complaint and Defendant Advent’s cross-claim found insufficient evidence to support a finding of either general or specific jurisdiction over it in Florida. In support of its decision pertaining to general jurisdiction, the Court relied heavily on United States Supreme Court cases, Goodyear Dunlap Tires Operations (SA v. Brown) and Daimler AG v. Bauman, which hold that unless a corporation is either incorporated or has its principal place of business in the forum state, there can be no general jurisdiction unless the corporation’s affiliations with the state are “so continuous and systematic” as to render it essentially at home in the forum state. The Court also relied on Waite v. All Acquisition Corporation, 901 F. 3d 1307 (11th Circuit 2018) stating “[w]hen a defendant’s state of incorporation and principal place of business are not in forum state, the court’s task is to decide whether the case is one of the exceptional cases in which general jurisdiction is still proper.” Id. at 1317. The Court found that no such set of exceptional affiliations by Skurka with Florida existed rejecting Plaintiff’s argument that Skurka’s advertisements of its products nationwide and the existence of an employee and distributor in Florida were insufficient contacts to support general jurisdiction.
The Court also rejected Plaintiff’s argument that it had specific jurisdiction over Skurka finding that Plaintiff’s main argument – the fact that the plane crash occurred in South Florida and that Skurka manufactured the generators that allegedly caused the crash – was insufficient basis upon which to confer specific jurisdiction. Specifically, as the Court states, “a fundamental element of the specific jurisdiction calculus is that plaintiff’s claim must ‘arise out of or relate to’ at least one of defendant’s contacts with the forum.” Oldfield v. Pueblo De Bahia Lora, S.A. 558 F.3d 1210,1222 (11th Cir. 2009) quoting Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewics 471 U.S. 462,472 (1985). The Court found the record devoid of any evidence supporting specific jurisdiction in that the subject generators were manufactured in New York then sold and shipped to New Mexico. Furthermore, as the Court noted, from Skurka’s unrebutted sworn testimony, the generators were never returned to Skurka for overhaul service, maintenance or any other reason in any jurisdiction, let alone Florida. As the Court states, although the crash occurred in Florida, the suit did not arise out of or relate to Defendant Skurka’s contacts with Florida. “Thus, exercising a specific jurisdiction over Defendant Skurka would violate due process. Because neither general nor specific jurisdiction can be asserted over Defendant Skurka, the exercise of jurisdiction is inappropriate under the Florida state long-arm statute.” Pending before the Court was also Skurka’s motion to stay discovery during the pendency of the jurisdictional motion which stay motion was rendered moot by the Court’s dismissal of Skurka in this case.