United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
DISMISS FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION (DKT. 17)
A. GOLDSMITH United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on Defendant Dave Ralston's
motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction (Dkt.
17). The issues were fully briefed, and a hearing was held on
September 14, 2017. For the reasons discussed below, the
Court denies Defendant's motion.
Lucy Karanja is an African woman and a former employee of
Defendant Woodbridge Corporation, which formerly employed
Defendant Dave Ralston as a Regional Manager. According to
the complaint, Ralston, while serving as Karanja's boss
at Woodbridge's Romulus factory, forced Karanja into
sexual acts on multiple occasions. See Compl.
¶¶ 23, 30-31, 41-42, 45-46 (Dkt. 1). Karanja also
alleges that Ralston would imitate her accent and make other
comments related to her national origin, creating an
atmosphere at the office that allowed such conduct to become
widespread. See id. at ¶¶ 13-21. Karanja
claims that Woodbridge retaliated against her after she
reported Ralston's conduct, even though Ralston had since
left the company. See id. at ¶¶ 56-62.
brought this action, alleging sexual harassment and
retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964, 42 USC §2000e et seq., racial or
national-origin discrimination in violation of 42 USC
§1981, and sexual harassment and retaliation in
violation of Michigan's Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act,
M.C.L. 37.2101 et seq. Defendant Ralston filed the
instant motion to dismiss, arguing that the Court lacks
personal jurisdiction over him. See Def. Mot. to
Dismiss (Dkt. 17).
argues in his motion that the Michigan courts lack both
general and limited personal jurisdiction over him. In making
this argument, Ralston argues that Michigan's long-arm
statute does not capture the conduct alleged in Karanja's
Standard of Review
presented with a motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2),
a court may decide the motion on the basis of written
submissions and affidavits alone. See Serras v. First
Tenn. Bank Nat'l Ass'n, 875 F.2d 1212, 1214 (6th
Cir. 1989). When a court decides to pursue that path, the
plaintiff must meet a “relatively slight” burden
of a prima facie showing that personal jurisdiction exists to
survive the motion. Estate of Thompson ex rel. Estate of
Rakestraw v. Toyota Motor Corp. Worldwide, 545 F.3d 357,
360 (6th Cir. 2008). The plaintiff can do so by
“establishing with reasonable particularity sufficient
contacts between [the defendant] and the forum state to
support jurisdiction.” Lexon Ins. Co. v. Devinshire
Land Dev., LLC, 573 F. App'x 427, 429 (6th Cir.
2014). The court must view the pleadings and affidavits in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Estate of
Thompson, 545 F.3d at 360, and may only dismiss if the
specific facts alleged by the plaintiff collectively fail to
make a prima facie case for jurisdiction, CompuServe,
Inc. v. Patterson, 89 F.3d 1257, 1262 (6th Cir. 1996).
Where, as here, a court has federal question jurisdiction
over a case, personal jurisdiction exists if (i) the
state's long-arm statute applies to the defendant and
(ii) the exercise of personal jurisdiction does not violate
due process. Cmty. Trust Bancorp. v. Cmty. Trust Fin.
Corp., 692 F.3d 469, 471 (6th Cir. 2012).
Michigan's Long-Arm Statute
long-arm statute has been construed “to bestow the
broadest possible grant of personal jurisdiction consistent
with due process.” Audi AG & Volkswagon of Am.,
Inc. v. D'Amatom, 341 F.Supp.2d 734, 741 (E.D. Mich.
2004). The statute extends both general and limited
jurisdiction over nonresident individuals and corporations.
See Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.701 (general,
individuals); Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.705 (limited,
individuals); Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.711 (general,
corporations); Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.715 (limited,
corporations). As it pertains to individuals, courts may
exert general personal jurisdiction over a defendant if the
person (i) is present in the state at the time process is
served; (ii) is domiciled in the state at the time that
process is served; or (iii) consents to the exercise of
personal jurisdiction. Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.701.
Limited personal jurisdiction for particular claims may be
established where the claims derives from the transaction of
business in the state or from a tortious act or consequence
within the state. Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.705(1)-(2).
While general personal jurisdiction is lacking, limited
personal jurisdiction does exist.
has submitted an affidavit averring that he was served with a
copy of the complaint while in Alabama, and thus he was not
present in Michigan at the time of service. See Pl.
Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. 1, ¶ 12. Ralston also averred that
he does not work in Michigan, has no responsibilities in
Michigan, has no property in Michigan, and has not resided in
Michigan since 2004. Id. at ¶¶ 9-11. This
supports a contention that Ralston is not domiciled in
Michigan. See Black's Law Dictionary 588 (9th
ed. 2009), “domicile” (“The place at which
a person has been physically present and that the person
regards as home”). Ralston further averred that he has
not consented to jurisdiction. See Pl. Mot. to
Dismiss, Ex. 1, ¶ 13. Ralston's attorney filed only
a special appearance for the purpose of making the objection
to personal jurisdiction, such that the appearance does not
subject him to general jurisdiction. See McLean v.
Isbell, 6 N.W. 210 (Mich. 1880). Karanja has presented
no facts to contradict these specific assertions by Ralston.
Accordingly, it appears that Ralston is correct that he is
not subject to general personal jurisdiction in Michigan
the long-arm statute, limited personal jurisdiction exists
over an individual if, among other potential criteria, the
claim arises out of “the transaction of any business
within the state” or “the doing or causing an act
to be done, or consequences to occur, in the state resulting
in an action for tort.” Mich. Comp. Laws §
600.705(1)-(2). As it pertains to transactions of business,
even the slightest act of business is sufficient to grant
personal jurisdiction. Citizens Bank v. Parnes, 376
F. App'x 496, 501 (6th Cir. 2010). To be subject to
personal jurisdiction under the doing-or-causing-to-be-done
prong of the statute, the defendant's purported tortious
conduct or the injury alleged must have occurred in Michigan.
Green v. Wilson, 565 N.W.2d 813, 817 (Mich. 1997).
asserts that the long-arm statute does not apply to him
because he does not live or work in Michigan, nor does he
have any contacts in Michigan. See Def. Mot. to
Dismiss at 6 (Dkt. 17). This argument misses the point of
Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.705, which exists to provide
jurisdiction over those who do not live or work in the state.
Compare Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.701(2)
(providing general personal jurisdiction over individuals
domiciled in the state) with Mich. Comp. Laws §
600.705 (creating limited personal jurisdiction for specific
claims over individuals who meet at least one of ...