Where a wrongful death lawsuit asserted claims for negligence and breach of warranty against a tire’s foreign manufacturer, but there were no facts supporting the inference that company desired, intended or even expected that its product would reach Virginia consumers, let alone that it purposefully cultivated a Virginia market for its products or reasonably anticipated that it would be haled into a Virginia court, the court lacked jurisdiction over the foreign manufacturer.
In June 2020, Maryland resident Craig Arthurs lost control of his truck after one of its tires failed. Mr. Arthurs did not survive the ensuing wreck. Now, Benjamin Andrews, the administrator of Arthurs’s estate, asserts claims for negligence and breach of warranty against the tire’s foreign manufacturer and several downstream distributors. This matter comes before the court on Shandong Linglong Tyre Co. Ltd. and Linglong Americas Inc.’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s amended complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction.
Plaintiff fails to allege any facts showing that Shandong “maintains offices or agents” in Virginia, “owns property” in Virginia, “reached into [Virginia] to solicit or initiate business,” “deliberately engaged in significant or long-term business activities” in Virginia, is bound by any relevant contract under which it agreed to be governed by Virginia law or any other fact which might guide the court’s analysis in his favor.
At best, plaintiff’s amended complaint establishes that Shandong knew that some of its products might come to Virginia. But such a threadbare allegation cannot support the inference that Shandong desired, intended or even expected that its product would reach Virginia consumers, let alone that it purposefully cultivated a Virginia market for its products or reasonably anticipated that it would be haled into a Virginia court.
While “a corporation can purposefully avail itself of a forum by directing its agents or distributors to take action there,” plaintiff’s amended complaint is devoid of any allegations that Shandong directed Horizon, Linglong or either of the TBC
defendants to target the Virginia market.
The central crux of plaintiff’s argument is that, taken together, the totality of his allegations necessitates the inference that Linglong distributed tires, to potentially include the subject tire, in Virginia. But based on the facts before the court, such an inference strains the bounds of both fair play and reason.
As the court explained previously, “[t]he fact that Linglong began competing with Horizon to distribute Crosswind tires does not establish that Linglong distributed Crosswind tires in Virginia,” and “[t]he fact that Linglong sold some Crosswind tires in 2015 does not establish that they did so in Virginia.” Plaintiffs red-string theory of how and why defendant could have imported the subject tire into the United States does not alter this calculus. To the contrary, the court today affirms its prior conclusion that although such allegations present “various theories of Linglong’s connection to the Subject Tire,” they fail to establish “any contacts between Linglong and Virginia.”
The court acknowledges that plaintiff’s amended complaint presents the following wholly new allegation: “From 2016 until April 2022 Defendant Linglong cosigned ten shipments of tires through the port of Norfolk, Virginia.” The court notes two logical shortfalls in plaintiff’s proffer.
First, plaintiff makes no allegation that Linglong intentionally targeted Virginia’s ports or desired and derived any benefit from doing so. Second, even if the court were to assume, for argument’s sake, that Linglong’s use of Virginia ports between 2016 and 2022 amounted to “significant or long-term business activities in the forum state,” this fact fails to alter the court’s conclusion that “Linglong did not purposefully avail itself of the privilege of doing business in Virginia during the relevant timeframe.”
Defendants’ motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction granted.
Andrews v. Shandong Linglong Tyre Co. Ltd., Case No. 3:21-cv-794, Feb. 13, 2023. EDVA at Richmond (Novak). VLW 023-3-061. 18 pp.