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Evans v. Wright Medical Technology, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

October 21, 2019



          Damon R. Leichty Judge, United States District Court

         Max and Marlene Evans filed this product liability action over allegedly defective orthopedic hip devices implanted in Mr. Evans' left hip during his 2013 total hip arthroplasty. The Evans claim that Wright Medical Technology (WMT), Wright Medical Group, Inc. (WMG), and Wright Medical Group, N.V. (WMGNV) designed, marketed, sold, or distributed the PROFEMUR® hip implant devices that caused Mr. Evans' injury. WMT admits its involvement (ECF 8-1 ¶ 19), while WMG and WMGNV deny any part in the design, marketing, sales, or distribution of these devices. WMG and WMGNV filed motions to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction, and this case was thereafter reassigned to this presiding judge.


         WMG, WMGNV, and WMT are all separate entities. ECF 1 ¶¶ 3-6; ECF 8-1. WMG is the parent holding company and only shareholder of WMT. ECF 8-1. WMGNV is a foreign corporation that formed in 2015 after a merger between Tornier, N.V. and WMG. Id. After the merger, WMG remained a separate entity from WMT and WMGNV, and WMG continues to operate as the holding company of WMT. Id. The only difference is that, after the 2015 merger, WMG became an indirect subsidiary of WMGNV.

         WMGNV has several additional indirect subsidiaries, including Tornier, Inc.-not to be confused with Tornier, N.V.-which leased a facility in Warsaw, Indiana. Id. After Tornier, Inc.'s initial lease ended, it moved its operations to Columbia City, Indiana, where Tornier, Inc.'s current products are manufactured. ECF 13-1 ¶¶ 5, 8.

         WMG and WMT are Delaware corporations with their principal places of business in Tennessee. ECF 1. WMGNV is a foreign corporation from the Netherlands with its principal place of business in Tennessee. ECF 10-1.

         WMG and WMGNV submitted three affidavits from Debby Daurer, WMT's Senior Manager of Legal. ECF 8-1, 10-1, and 13-1. In these affidavits, Ms. Daurer maintains WMT's corporate separateness from WMG and WMGNV. Id. Both WMG and WMGNV deny any involvement in designing, developing, manufacturing, selling, or distributing the hip implants at issue. Id.

         In addition, regarding the facilities located in Indiana, Ms. Daurer says the Warsaw location was leased to Tornier, Inc. Id. The Evans do not dispute this, as they admit the same in their complaint. ECF 1 ¶ 13. Ms. Daurer asserts that Tornier, Inc. no longer leases the Warsaw location and has moved their operations to Columbia City (ECF 13-1), the location of the second facility the Evans claim belongs to WMG and/or WMGNV (ECF 12 at 6-7).

         The Evans argue that WMG and WMGNV are subject to this court's jurisdiction because of two facilities located in Indiana-one in Warsaw, Indiana and the other in Columbia City, Indiana- that allegedly were or are currently operated by WMG and/or WMGNV. ECF 12 at 21. In addition, the Evans claim that WMG and WMGNV are the owners and designers of the hip implants at issue. Id. To prove these allegations, the Evans rely on press releases, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings, and information on public websites. ECF 12-2 to 12-25.


         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2), the plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating jurisdiction. Purdue Research Found. v. Sanofi-Synthelabo, S.A., 338 F.3d 773, 782 (7th Cir. 2003). A party may submit, and a court may consider, materials outside the pleadings in determining jurisdiction. Id. The court may weigh affidavits, exhibits, or other evidence submitted by the parties, but the court must construe all facts concerning jurisdiction in the non-movant's favor. See id.; Charlesworth v. Marco Mfg. Co., 878 F.Supp. 1196, 1199 (N.D. Ind. 1995). When a district court rules on a defendant's motion to dismiss based only on the submission of written materials, the plaintiff need only establish a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction. Purdue, 338 F.3d at 782.


         The court has personal jurisdiction over a defendant to the same extent a state court in Indiana could exercise personal jurisdiction over that defendant. Advanced Tactical Ordnance Sys., LLC v. Real Action Paintball, Inc., 751 F.3d 796, 800 (7th Cir. 2014). The court need not tarry on analyzing the reach of Indiana's longarm statute because it extends to the limits of federal due process. See id.; LinkAmerica Corp. v. Cox, 857 N.E.2d 961, 967 (Ind. 2006) (“Indiana's long-arm provision now extends to the limits of the Constitution.”). Instead, the court can proceed directly to the due process analysis. Mobile Anesthesiologists Chi., LLC v. Anesthesia Associates of Houston Metroplex, P.A., 623 F.3d 440, 443 (7th Cir. 2010). The court must determine whether exercising jurisdiction over WMG and WMGNV comports constitutionally with the limits of due process. Advanced Tactical, 751 F.3d at 800 (citing Walden v. Fiore, 134 S.Ct. 1115, 1121 (2014)).

         Under federal due process analysis, a defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction in a state only if the defendant had minimum contacts with the forum such that subjecting the defendant to suit does not offend “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945). Since the seminal decision in International Shoe, two types of personal jurisdiction have developed: “general” (sometimes called “all-purpose”) jurisdiction and “specific” (sometimes called “case-linked”) jurisdiction. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court, 137 S.Ct. 1773, 1780 (2017) (citing Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011). The court addresses these two types of jurisdiction in turn.

         A. Specific Jurisdiction

         Specific jurisdiction over a defendant arises when a defendant “purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities with the forum state, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws.” Hanson v. Denckla,357 U.S. 235, 253 (1958). Specific jurisdiction is not based on the plaintiff's contacts with the forum state, but instead focuses on the defendant's contacts with the forum state. Advanced Tactical, 751 F.3d at 801. Additionally, for a court to exercise specific jurisdiction, the suit must arise out of the defendant's forum-related activity. Id. If the plaintiff fails to link the defendant's contacts with the forum state to the cause of action, specific jurisdiction is not proper. I ...

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