United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
FCA U.S. LLC, Plaintiff,
PATREA BULLOCK, Defendant.
OPINION & ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
DISMISS (Dkt. 10)
A. GOLDSMITH United States District Judge
matter is now before the Court on Defendant Patrea
Bullock's motion to dismiss based on jurisdiction and
venue (Dkt. 10). The motion is fully briefed, and a hearing
was held on January 5, 2018. For the following reasons, the
Court denies Bullock's motion.
Patrea Bullock is an attorney who previously worked for two
law firms in California (Universal & Shannon, LLP
(“U&S”) and Gates, O'Doherty, Gonter
& Guy LLP (“GOGG”)). Compl. ¶¶ 8,
20 (Dkt. 1). Plaintiff FCA was a client of both U&S and
GOGG, and during Bullock's time working for these law
firms, she worked on dozens of breach of warranty cases for
FCA. Id. ¶¶ 9, 21.
April 19, 2017, Bullock attended an FCA “Warranty
Litigation Trial School.” Id. ¶ 19;
see also FCA U.S. California Warranty Litigation
Trial School Confidentiality Agreement
(“Confidentiality Agreement”), Ex. 1-A to Compl.
(Dkt. 1-2). She signed a confidentiality agreement, which
This Confidentiality Agreement and any dispute or claim
arising out of or in connection with it will be exclusively
governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the
state of Michigan. Any dispute or claim concerning this
Agreement may be brought only in Michigan state or federal
courts and the undersigned attendee hereby submits to the
exclusive jurisdiction of those courts.
Bullock left GOGG in October 2017, she opened her own law
firm. Compl. ¶ 30. In November 2017, she served FCA with
a breach of warranty case in California, Brown v. FCA
U.S. LLC, No. 34-2017-00222086 (Super. Ct. of Cal.,
Sacramento), where Bullock was listed as the plaintiff's
counsel of record. Id. ¶ 31. FCA then filed the
instant complaint, alleging claims for breach of contract,
misappropriation of trade secrets, violation of federal trade
secret laws, breach of fiduciary duty, and injunctive relief.
Bullock now challenges this Court's exercise of subject
matter and personal jurisdiction and objects to venue, as
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
considering whether to dismiss a complaint under Rule
12(b)(1) due to lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, the
plaintiff bears the burden of proving the existence of
subject-matter jurisdiction. Musson Theatrical, Inc. v.
Fed. Express Corp., 89 F.3d 1244, 1248 (6th Cir. 1996);
Moir v. Greater Cleveland Reg'l Transit Auth.,
895 F.2d 266, 269 (6th Cir. 1990). Challenges to
subject-matter jurisdiction fall into two general categories:
“facial attacks” - which argue that the pleading
allegations are insufficient - and “factual
attacks” - which challenge the factual veracity of the
allegations. United States v. Ritchie, 15 F.3d 592,
598 (6th Cir. 1994). On a motion raising a facial attack,
“the court must take the material allegations of the
petition as true and construed in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party.” Id. In reviewing a
motion raising a factual attack, “the court is free to
weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of
its power to hear the case.” Id.
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 Fed. 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).
If 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).
argues that this action should be dismissed, because (i) the
Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction; (ii) the Court lacks
personal jurisdiction over her; and (iii) venue is improper.
See generally Def. Mot. (Dkt. 10).
This Court Has Subject-Matter Jurisdiction
claims that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction,
because FCA does not sufficiently allege a claim arising
under federal law, as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1331. FCA
has alleged that Bullock violated the Defend Trade Secret
Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1836(b). Bullock claims that FCA has
failed to properly identify a trade secret, on the theory
that its strategy on how to respond, defend, and/or settle
breach of warranty cases are not trade secrets - it is