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Hart v. County of Hillsdale

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

March 31, 2017

ANTHONY HART, Plaintiff,
COUNTY OF HILLSDALE, et al., Defendants.




         In its Motion to Dismiss [#55], Defendant Watch Systems, L.L.C. (“Watch”) asserts that Plaintiff's cause of action should be dismissed as it relates to Watch because the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over Watch. Watch's Motion to Dismiss was fully briefed, and the Court held a hearing on the Motion to Dismiss on September 14, 2016. For the reasons that follow, the Court denies Watch's Motion to Dismiss.


         As set forth in the memo pertaining to Marinoff's and Kelly's Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff has sued numerous defendants as the result of being wrongfully arrested and convicted on two occasions for failure to register pursuant to the Michigan Sex Offenders Registration Act (“SORA”).

         Watch is a Louisiana limited liability company that offers software solutions for sex offender registries to law enforcement and state agencies around the country. (Am. Compl., Dkt. #22, ¶ 25; Dkt. #55, PgID #525) Since at least 2012, Watch has had an agreement with the Michigan State Police (hereinafter “MSP”) to accurately and reliably provide and maintain sex offender registry database software (the “Agreement”) consistent with the duties of the MSP under MCL § 28.728. (Am. Compl., Dkt. #22, ¶ 25) After entering the Agreement, Watch provided training in Michigan to MSP staff regarding the use of Watch's product, and it provides ongoing maintenance and service of its product used by the MSP. (Dkt. #55, PgID 525-26) Any other facts pertinent to Watch will be set forth in the discussion below.


         A. Rule 12(b)(2)

         The procedure for deciding a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) in the Sixth Circuit is set forth in Serras v. First Tennessee Bank National Association, 875 F.2d 1212, 1214 (6th Cir. 1989). The court may determine the motion on the basis of the submitted affidavits alone, it may permit discovery in aid of the motion, or it may conduct an evidentiary hearing, either pretrial or during trial, on the merits of the motion. Id. (quoting Marine Midland Bank, N.A. v. Miller, 664 F.2d 899, 904 (2nd Cir. 1981)). If the written submissions raise disputed issues of fact or require determinations of credibility, the court may order a hearing. See Id . The plaintiff then must prove that jurisdiction exists by the same standard that would apply if the matter were deferred to trial: the preponderance of the evidence. Serras, 875 F.2d at 1214 (citing Welsh v. Gibbs, 631 F.2d 436, 439 (6th Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 450 U.S. (1981) (stating that “the plaintiff must show by a preponderance of the evidence that jurisdiction exists”).

         “If the court rules on written submissions alone, it must ‘consider the pleadings and affidavits in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.'” Id. (quoting Welsh, 631 F.2d at 436). Plaintiff “may not rest on his or her pleadings to answer affidavits submitted by the movant, but must set forth, ‘by affidavit or otherwise[, ] . . . specific facts showing that the court has jurisdiction.'” Serras, 875 F.2d at 1214 (citation omitted). However, Plaintiff's burden is merely to make a prima facie showing that personal jurisdiction exists. See Id . If plaintiff meets that burden, the motion to dismiss should be denied, “notwithstanding any controverting presentation by the moving party.” Id. (quoting Marine Midland Bank, 664 F.2d at 904).

         The issue of whether a federal court has personal jurisdiction over a defendant is determined by applying the law of the state in which the court sits. See Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938) (noting that “Except in matters governed by the Federal Constitution or by acts of Congress, the law to be applied in any case is the law of the state.”). In addition, the court must consider whether constitutional due process permits personal jurisdiction. Theunissen v. Matthews, 935 F.2d 1454, 1459 (6th Cir. 1991). The relevant inquiry is whether the facts of the case demonstrate that the non-resident defendant possesses such minimum contacts with the forum state that the exercise of jurisdiction would comport with “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” International Shoe Co. v. State of Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945).

         The state of Michigan's long-arm statute on personal jurisdiction over corporations provides that limited or “specific” jurisdiction may be exercised where a specified relationship exists between a corporation and the forum. M.C.L. 600.715, provides:

The existence of any of the following relationships between a corporation or its agent and the state shall constitute a sufficient basis of jurisdiction to enable the courts of record of this state to exercise limited personal jurisdiction over such corporation and to enable such courts to render personal judgments against such corporation ...

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