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Philpot v. Eagle Communications, Inc.

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

July 8, 2015

LARRY G. PHILPOT, Plaintiff,


RICHARD L. YOUNG, Chief District Judge.

The pro se Plaintiff, Larry G. Philpot, brings this action for copyright infringement against the defendant, Eagle Communications, Inc., seeking statutory damages in the amount of $175, 000, plus attorney fees. Eagle Communications moves to dismiss the Complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(3). In the alternative, Eagle Communications moves to transfer this action to the United States District Court for the District of Kansas under 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). For the reasons set forth below, Eagle Communications' motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue is GRANTED, and its alternative motion to transfer is GRANTED.

I. Background

Philpot is a professional photographer who works exclusively with concert events across the United States, and resides in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Complaint ¶ 7). On October 4, 2009, Philpot attended a Willie Nelson concert in St. Louis, Missouri and photographed the musician in performance. ( Id. ¶ 8). Philpot alleges that he obtained a copyright for the image on September 5, 2012, and that Eagle Communications infringed his copyright in the Nelson Photograph by displaying it on the website, ( id. ¶¶ 12-13).

Eagle Communications is an employee-owned company located in Hays, Kansas. It owns and operates radio stations in Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska and cable television systems in Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado. (Filing No. 11-1, Declaration of Gary D. Shorman ("Shorman Dec.") ¶ 3). Eagle Communications does not own property in Indiana, advertise in Indiana, maintain employees in Indiana, or conduct business within Indiana. ( Id. ¶ 5).

II. Discussion

A. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction

1. Standard of Review

When "the defendant moves to dismiss the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction, plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating the existence of jurisdiction." Purdue Research Found. v. Sanofi-Synthelabo, S.A., 338 F.3d 773, 782 (7th Cir. 2003). As such, a plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of jurisdiction. See Felland v. Clifton, 682 F.3d 655, 672 (7th Cir. 2012). "In evaluating whether the prima facie standard has been satisfied, the plaintiff is entitled to the resolution in its favor of all disputes concerning relevant facts presented in the record." Purdue Research, 338 F.3d at 782.

The court's exercise of jurisdiction over the defendant must comport with both the forum state's long-arm statute and the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. Felland, 682 F.3d at 672. Because Indiana's long-arm statute, Indiana Rule of Trial Procedure 4.4(a), expands personal jurisdiction to the full extent permitted by the Due Process Clause, LinkAmerica Corp. v. Albert, 857 N.E.2d 961, 966-67 (Ind. 2006), the sole inquiry before the court is whether exercising personal jurisdiction over Eagle Communications would offend due process.

Personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant meets the standard of due process when the defendant has established minimum contacts within the state "such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'" Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463 (1940)). Personal jurisdiction may be either general or specific. General jurisdiction over a defendant exists where the defendant has continuous and systemic business contacts with the state, even where those contacts do not relate to the action at issue. See Helicopteros Nacionales de Columbia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 415-16 (1984) (discussing Perkins v. Benguet Consol. Mining Co., 342 U.S. 437 (1952)). Specific jurisdiction, on the other hand, "exists for controversies that arise out of or are related to the defendant's forum contacts." Hyatt Int=l Corp. v. Coco, 302 F.3d 707, 713 (7th Cir. 2002) (citing Steel Warehouse of Wisconsin, Inc. v. Leach, 154 F.3d 712, 714 (7th Cir. 1998)).

2. Specific Jurisdiction

Plaintiff argues the court has specific personal jurisdiction over Eagle Communications under the "effects" test first articulated by the United States Supreme Court in Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783 (1984). In Calder, a California actress brought an action in California state court against two National Enquirer employees for their involvement with an allegedly libelous article written about plaintiff. The defendants, both residents of Florida, challenged personal jurisdiction in the California court. Although the article was written in Florida, "the brunt of the harm, in terms both of [plaintiff=s] emotional distress and the injury to her professional reputation, was suffered in California." Id. at 788-89. The Supreme Court held that personal jurisdiction over the defendants was proper in California based on the "effects" of their Florida conduct in California. Id. at 789. In its analysis, the Court specifically noted that the defendants were "not charged with mere untargeted negligence, " but rather with undertaking intentional, and allegedly tortious, actions "expressly aimed at California." Id. Under these circumstances, the Court concluded that defendants "must reasonably anticipate being haled into court there' to answer for the truth of the statements made in their article." Id. at 790 (citations omitted).

Here, Plaintiff argues the court has specific jurisdiction under Calder because "Plaintiff Philpot felt the harm in Indiana." In Walden v. Fiore, the Supreme Court specifically rejected this interpretation of Calder. 134 S.Ct. 1115, 1125 (2014) (" Calder made clear that mere injury to a forum resident is not a sufficient connection to the forum."). "The proper question is not where the plaintiff experienced a particular injury or effect but whether the defendant's conduct connects him to the forum in a meaningful way." Id. In the absence of any evidence that Eagle Communications' conduct connects it ...

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