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O'Neal v. Bumbo Int'l Trust

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

April 14, 2014

LEANNE O'NEAL, AND JOSEPH O'NEAL, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS NEXT FRIENDS AND GUARDIANS OF G.O., A MINOR, Plaintiffs,
v.
BUMBO INTERNATIONAL TRUST F/K/A JONI-BACH MANAGEMENT TRUST, Defendant

Page 953

For LEANNE O'NEAL, as next friend and guardian of G.O., a minor, JOSEPH O'NEAL, as next friend and guardian of G.O., a minor, Plaintiffs: Elizabeth Mitchell Cunningham, Michael Ross Cunningham, PRO HAC VICE, ROSE WALKER, LLP, Dallas, TX.

For BUMBO INTERNATIONAL TRUST, formerly known as JONIBACH MANAGEMENT TRUST, Defendant: Tarush R Anand, LEAD ATTORNEY, BROWN SIMS, P.C., Houston, TX.

OPINION

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ORDER

Jane Magnus-Stinson, Judge.

Presently pending before the Court is Defendant Bumbo International Trust's (" Bumbo" ) Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). [Filing No. 87.] For the following reasons, the Court concludes that it has personal jurisdiction over Bumbo and DENIES the motion.

I.

Background

The Court draws the following factual background from the evidence submitted by the parties. Bumbo manufactures the Bumbo Seat, which is a seat used by infants. In March 2009, Plaintiffs Leanne O'Neal and Joseph O'Neal received a second-hand Bumbo Seat from a friend while living in Georgia. [Filing No. 103-3, at ECF p. 8.] Plaintiffs moved from Georgia to Indiana in May 2009. [Filing No. 103-3, at ECF p. 4.] In Indiana, Plaintiffs began occasionally placing their infant daughter, G.O., in the Bumbo Seat. [Filing No. 103-3, at ECF p. 9.] On January 1, 2010, Plaintiffs placed G.O. in the Bumbo Seat on top of their kitchen counter while they were making dinner. [Filing No. 103-3, at ECF p. 14.] G.O. fell from the Bumbo Seat and sustained serious injuries.

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[Filing No. 103-3, at ECF p. 14.] Plaintiffs brought the instant suit against Bumbo, seeking damages arising from G.O.'s injuries. [Filing No. 99, at ECF p. 15.]

Although this case was originally filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, [Filing No. 1], and litigated there for more than two years, it was eventually transferred to this Court, [Filing No. 80]. The focus of the instant motion is whether the Court has personal jurisdiction over Bumbo, which requires the Court to assess Bumbo's contacts with Indiana. The parties focus on different facts regarding Bumbo's connection to Indiana. However, the facts that the Court finds determinative are not in dispute.

According to Bumbo's CEO, Bumbo " has not engaged in and does not engage in any business in Indiana." [Filing No. 87-1, at ECF p. 1.] Specifically, Bumbo does not have any offices or employees in Indiana, is not registered to do business in Indiana, does not advertise in Indiana, and " does not sell any products to end-consumers in Indiana nor does it supply products to any intermediaries in Indiana." [Filing No. 87-1, at ECF p. 1.] Bumbo, however, admits that its products are sold in the Indiana market, but argues that this is " the result of Bumbo's use of nationwide distributors--not based in Indiana--and the distributors' use of various retailers to sell Bumbo's products." [Filing No. 88, at ECF p. 6.]

Plaintiffs do not specifically dispute any of these facts. Instead, Plaintiffs focus on facts they contend indicate that " Bumbo had the requisite degree of knowledge or awareness that its product distribution system would disperse its products for retail sale either specifically to Indiana, or on a nation-wide basis." [Filing No. 103, at ECF p. 10.] First, Plaintiffs highlight Bumbo's concession that its products are sold in Indiana. [Filing No. 103, at ECF p. 11.] Moreover, Plaintiffs point to the fact that Bumbo uses a distributor to distribute Bumbo Seats to nationwide retailers, including Wal-Mart, Toys " R" Us, Babies " R" Us and Once Upon a Child. [Filing No. 103-8, at ECF p. 3.] Plaintiffs provide evidence that these retailers have several locations throughout central Indiana alone. [Filing No. 103-6.] Second, Plaintiffs point to evidence that Bumbo has overseen two separate recalls of the Bumbo Seat, which required working with its nationwide retailers to comply with the recall. [Filing No. 103, at ECF p. 3-4; Filing No. 104.] Third and finally, Plaintiffs provide evidence that Bumbo received several complaints about the Bumbo Seat from individuals in Indiana. [Filing No. 103-5, at ECF p. 2-4.]

The parties contest whether the foregoing is sufficient for this Court to exercise personal jurisdiction over Bumbo.

II.

Applicable Legal Standard

When a defendant moves to dismiss a complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), " [t]he plaintiff bears the burden of showing that personal jurisdiction over the defendant exists." Claus v. Mize, 317 F.3d 725, 727 (7th Cir. 2003). When, as here, the Court " rules on a defendant's motion to dismiss based on the submission of written materials, without the benefit of an evidentiary hearing . . . the plaintiff 'need only make out a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction.'" Purdue Research Found. v. Sanofi-Synthelabo, S.A., 338 F.3d 773, 782 (7th Cir. 2003) (quoting Hyatt Int'l Corp. v. Coco, 302 F.3d 707, 713 (7th Cir. 2002)). Factual disputes, however, are resolved in the plaintiff's favor. Id.

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" A federal district court's personal jurisdiction over a defendant is established in a diversity-jurisdiction case . . . only so long as the defendant is subject to the jurisdiction of a court of general jurisdiction in the state where the district court is located." Northern Grain Mktg., LLC v. Greving, 743 F.3d 487, 491 (7th Cir. 2014). Indiana Trial Rule 4.4(A) serves as Indiana's long-arm provision and expands personal jurisdiction to the full extent permitted by the Due Process Clause. See LinkAmerica Corp. v. Cox, 857 N.E.2d 961, 965-66 (Ind. 2006). " Thus, the statutory question merges with the constitutional one--if [Indiana] ...


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