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Williams v. MD Helicopters, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

July 28, 2015

MD HELICOPTERS, INC., an Arizona corporation, HELICOPTER TECHNOLOGY CO., a California corporation, and HENKEL CORP., a Delaware corporation, Defendants.


TERRENCE G. BERG, District Judge.

This product liability case arises from the crash of a helicopter in Somerset, England. Plaintiff Kevin Williams ("Plaintiff"), who piloted the helicopter and suffered serious injuries from the crash, is a citizen of the United Kingdom, though he currently lives in Ohio. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants MD Helicopters, Inc. and Helicopter Technology, Co (the "Helicopter Defendants") are liable for design defects in the helicopter's tail rotor which, according to Plaintiff, caused the crash. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Henkel, Corp. ("Defendant Henkel") is liable for its production of a cleansing product, called Alumiprep 33, that was meant to reduce corrosion on the tail rotor, but failed to do so, thus contributing to the crash.

The Helicopter Defendants have moved to dismiss the Complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) (Dkts. 7 & 11). Defendant Henkel has moved for summary judgment on the grounds that, because Plaintiff served the summons and complaint on Henkel's resident agent in Ohio (rather than serving Henkel's resident agent in Michigan), service of process was defective and, in the absence of effective service, the statute of limitations has run.

For the reasons set forth below, the Helicopter Defendants motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction are GRANTED, and the Complaint against them is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Defendant Henkel's motion for summary judgment is DENIED.


On June 18, 2014, Plaintiff, a citizen of the United Kingdom, filed a Complaint in the Circuit Court for Oakland County, Michigan (Dkt. 1, Ex. A, Compl.). Defendants then timely removed the action to this Court (Dkt. 1, Notice of Removal). The Complaint alleges that on June 19, 2011, Plaintiff was piloting an MD 369E helicopter, bearing UK registration G-KSWl, when the aircraft's tail rotor suddenly failed, causing the helicopter to crash near Glastonbury, Somerset, United Kingdom (Compl., Count I ΒΆΒΆ 4, 6). Plaintiff advances claims of strict liability and negligence against Defendants MD Helicopters, Inc., Patriarch Partners, LLC[1], Helicopter Technology Co., Aerometals, Inc.[2], and Henkel Corp. ( Id. at Counts I-VIII).

Defendant Helicopter Technology, Co. is a California corporation, with its principal place of business in California. Defendant MD Helicopters, Inc. is an Arizona corporation, with its principal place of business in Arizona. The record before the Court indicates that the Helicopter Defendants conducted the following business in Michigan. As to Defendant MD Helicopters, since at least 2009 it has sold almost $140, 000 worth of goods and services to Michigan residents or entities (Dkt. 35, Ex. B, MD's Answers to Interrogatories, Nos. 9, 24); purchased products and services from 21 different Michigan entities ( Id. no. 24); provided helicopter maintenance training services to the Monroe County Sheriff ( Id. No. 17); and solicited and marketed, but apparently never consummated, the sale of a helicopter to the Detroit Police Department ( Id. No. 16).

As to Defendant Helicopter Technologies, from at least 2003 to 2014 it sold rotor blades to Michigan residents or entities, including three sales over a four-month period in 2014; its sales to Michigan residents total approximately $130, 000 (Dkt. 36, Ex. C).

Defendant Henkel apparently operates a large manufacturing facility in Michigan and does not contest the fact that it is subject to this Court's personal jurisdiction. For its part, however, Defendant Henkel moves for summary judgment, arguing that the Michigan summons was improperly served on its resident agent in Ohio, and that the state summons has consequently expired and the statute of limitations run on Plaintiff's claims.


A. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction

On a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2), the plaintiff has the burden of proving the court's jurisdiction over the defendant. See Neogen Corp. v. Neo Gen Screening, Inc., 282 F.3d 883, 887 (6th Cir. 2002); see also Children's Legal Services, PLLC v. Shor Levin and Derita, PC, 850 F.Supp.2d 673, 679 (E.D. Mich. 2012). In ruling upon a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the district court has three procedural alternatives: "[it] may determine the motion on the basis of affidavits alone; or it may permit discovery in aid of the motion; or it may conduct an evidentiary hearing on the merits of the motion." Serras v. First Tennessee Bank Nat'l Ass'n, 875 F.2d 1212, 1214 (6th Cir. 1989). In this case, the Court permitted Plaintiff to take discovery.

"[I]n the face of a properly supported motion for dismissal, the plaintiff may not stand on his pleadings but must, by affidavit or otherwise, set forth specific facts showing that the court has jurisdiction." Children's Legal Servs., 850 F.Supp.2d at 679 (citing Theunissen v. Matthews, 935 F.2d 1454, 1458 (6th Cir. 1991)). When, as here, the district court allows discovery on the motion, the court should consider the facts offered by both parties and rule according ...

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