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Cadorath Aerospace Lafayette, LLC v. Ricks

Court of Appeals of Indiana

October 17, 2019

Cadorath Aerospace Lafayette, LLC, Cadorath Aerospace, Inc., and H-S Tool & Parts, Inc., Appellants-Defendants,
Colleen Ricks, as the Personal Representative of the Estate of Brandon Seth Ricks; Cynthia Cobb, as Executrix of the Estate of Steven Wallace Cobb; and Brendan Mullen, Appellees-Plaintiffs Rolls-Royce Corporation, Inc., Defendant,

          Appeal from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Patrick J. Dietrick, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 49D12-1703-CT-9915

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS CADORATH AEROSPACE LAFAYETTE, LLC, AND CADORATH AEROSPACE, INC. Douglas B. Bates Chelsea R. Stanley Stites & Harbison PLLC Jeffersonville, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT H-S TOOL & PARTS, INC. Pfenne P. Cantrell Jennifer M. Van Dame Indianapolis, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES Frederick R. Hovde Nicholas C. Deets William F. Eckhart Hovde Dassow & Deets, LLC Indianapolis, Indiana

          BAKER, JUDGE.

[¶1] Following a helicopter crash in 2015, Colleen Ricks, Cynthia Cobb, and Brendan Mullen (the Accident Victims) sued Cadorath Aerospace Lafayette, LLC and Cadorath Aerospace, Inc. (the Cadorath Defendants), along with H-S Tool & Parts, Inc. (H-S Tool), and the Rolls-Royce Corporation, Inc. (Rolls-Royce), in Indiana. The Accident Victims alleged that the collective Appellants negligently repaired the helicopter engine, causing the crash. The Cadorath Defendants and H-S Tool moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, arguing that they did not have sufficient minimum contacts with the state of Indiana. The trial court summarily denied their motions.

         [¶2] In this consolidated interlocutory appeal, the Cadorath Defendants and H-S Tool contend that the trial court erred when it denied their motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, arguing that (1) the Cadorath Defendants and H-S Tool did not automatically consent to jurisdiction in Indiana simply because there is a forum-selection clause or an indemnity provision in an unrelated contract; (2) there are insufficient minimum contacts between the Cadorath Defendants, H-S Tool, and the state of Indiana to establish specific personal jurisdiction; and (3) even if there are sufficient minimum contacts, Indiana's jurisdiction over this case would be unreasonable and would offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. Finding that there are insufficient minimum contacts to establish personal jurisdiction, we reverse.


         The Parties and the Accident

         [¶3] The Cadorath Defendants-Cadorath Aerospace Lafayette, LLC (Cadorath LLC) and Cadorath Aerospace, Inc. (Cadorath, Inc.)-are entities that fix and repair helicopter engine parts. Cadorath LLC conducts its services at a repair facility in Louisiana and is organized under the laws of Louisiana. Additionally, its principal place of business is in Louisiana. Its sole member is a Canadian corporation. Cadorath, Inc., conducts its services at a repair facility in Winnipeg, Canada, and its principal place of business is also in Winnipeg. Neither organization provides repair or maintenance services in Indiana. They have no agents or employees in Indiana, they have no facilities or property in Indiana, they do not advertise services in Indiana, they are not registered to do business in Indiana, and less than one percent of their revenue comes from services provided to entities located in Indiana.

         [¶4] H-S Tool is a Canadian corporation-established under the laws of British Columbia-that repairs and services helicopter engine components. Its sole place of business is in British Columbia, and it is not registered to do business in Indiana. H-S Tool does not have a mailing address, office, or any employee that resides in Indiana, and it does not have any property in or fiduciary tie to Indiana aside from the infrequent transaction with an Indiana business entity. Also, there are no H-S Tool distributors, agents, or warehouses in Indiana.

         [¶5] Rolls-Royce[2] is an Indiana corporation that predominantly manufactures luxury automobiles. However, in the context of this appeal, Rolls-Royce writes and publishes manuals and other technical documents concerning helicopter engines-including the one pertinent to this case. It also manufactures helicopter engines. Its principal place of business is in Indianapolis.

         [¶6] The Accident Victims include Colleen Ricks, as personal representative of Brandon Ricks, who died in the helicopter accident; Cynthia Cobb, as executrix of the estate of Steven Cobb, who also died in the helicopter accident; and Brendan Mullen, who was severely injured in the accident. Brandon and Colleen Ricks were residents of Oklahoma, Steven and Cynthia Cobb were residents of Mississippi, and Brendan Mullen is a resident of Montana.

         [¶7] The accident occurred on March 30, 2015, in Saucier, Mississippi, after the Rolls-Royce Model 250 helicopter engine allegedly failed. The Accident Victims claim that the Cadorath Defendants and H-S Tool performed negligent repair work on the outer combustion case (OCC) of the Rolls-Royce engine sometime after an OCC overhaul in 2003.

         The Cadorath Defendants and Rolls-Royce

         [¶8] On March 15, 2004, Cadorath, Inc., entered into an Authorized Repair Facility agreement (ARF) with Rolls-Royce. Cadorath LLC did the same with Rolls-Royce on March 31, 2005. These ARFs contemplated that the two entities would work together in the future to develop repair processes and to complete off-manual repairs at these facilities. Included in these ARFs was an indemnity provision that states, in pertinent part, as follows:

The Repair Facility agrees to indemnify and hold ROLLS-ROYCE harmless from any and all claims, demands, suits, judgment or causes of action for or on account of injury to or death of persons or loss or damage to property arising from the performance by the Repair Facility of the Repair Process except to the extent caused by the negligence or other wrongful act of ROLLS-ROYCE.

Appellants' Joint App. Vol. IV p. 151 (emphases in original). These ARFs were in effect at the time the Accident Victims allege the negligent repairs took place. There is no evidence showing that Cadorath, Inc., ever worked on OCC repairs, and the evidence shows that Cadorath LLC only ever worked on OCC repairs in 2006 and 2008 in Lafayette, Louisiana. Additionally, Rolls-Royce has not asserted an indemnity claim against the Cadorath Defendants. Cadorath LLC utilized a repair process instruction sheet (RPIS) that followed Rolls-Royce's overhaul manual and utilized Parts Repair Procedures Letters (PRPL) for recommended repairs. Cadorath LLC accessed these Rolls-Royce materials through an online search in Louisiana. The Cadorath Defendants did not create these RPIS, PRPLs, or manuals, nor did they work in tandem with Rolls-Royce to develop them. Rather, Cadorath LLC followed these procedures when making repairs, as it was obligated to do under federal law.

         [¶9] In February 2010, the Cadorath Defendants entered into new ARFs with Rolls- Royce, which both included a forum-selection clause. That clause reads as follows:

The parties hereby agree that all suits, actions, proceedings, litigation, disputes or claims relating to or arising out of this Agreement shall be brought and tried in the Superior or Circuit Court of Marion County, Indiana or the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. In this regard, the parties hereby . . . (b) irrevocably consent to service of process and to the jurisdiction and venue of any of such courts, and (c) irrevocably waive any claim of inconvenient forum if any such suit, claim, proceeding, litigation, dispute or claim has been filed, brought or made in either of such courts.

Id. at 207 (emphasis added).

         H-S Tool ...

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