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Colt Builders Corp. v. Maille

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

February 20, 2019

COLT BUILDERS CORPORATION, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID MAILLE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          DEE BENSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on Defendant David Maille's pro se motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. (Dkt. 9.) Plaintiff Colt Builders filed an opposition, and although Defendant was given an extension of time to file his reply (Dkt. 20), no reply has been filed and the time for doing so has expired. The court has considered the facts and arguments set forth in the documents on file. Pursuant to civil rule 7-1(f) of the United States District Court for the District of Utah Rules of Practice, the court elects to determine the motion on the basis of the written memoranda and finds that oral argument would not be helpful or necessary. DUCivR 7-1(f).

         RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         This lawsuit arises out of a dispute between Plaintiff Colt Builders and Defendant Maille concerning a Confidentiality and Non-Solicitation Agreement (“Agreement”). Plaintiff Colt Builders is a Utah Corporation with headquarters located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Defendant Maille is an individual, domiciled in Massachusetts. Until July 17, 2018, Maille worked as a project manager for Colt.

         Plaintiff Colt Builders hired Defendant Maille on September 4, 2017. (Dkt. 2, ¶ 7.) On September 6, 2017, Defendant Maille entered into a Confidentiality and Non-Solicitation Agreement. (Dkt. 2, Ex. A.) The Agreement provided, among other things, that during the term of Maille's employment he would not use or disclose confidential information and that he would not take any action that would be detrimental to the company, deprive the company of business opportunities or act in a manner that conflicted with the best interest of the company. The Agreement also stated that during Maille's employment, and for 16 months immediately after his employment with the company ceases, Maille would not solicit employees, contractors, suppliers or vendors to compete with the Company. (Dkt. 2, ¶ 8.)

         The Agreement contained a forum selection clause providing as follows:

This Agreement shall be construed and enforced in accordance with the substantive laws of the State of Utah, without giving effect to its conflict of laws principles. Employee hereby consents and the parties agree that the state and federal courts located in the State of Utah shall be the exclusive venue for the resolution of any dispute regarding or arising out of this Agreement. This Agreement is intended to supplement, and does not in any way limit, any obligations or duties Employee owes to Company under statutory or common law.

(Dkt. 2, Ex. A, ¶ 17 (emphasis added).)

         Plaintiff Colt Builders filed this suit against Defendant Maille claiming that Defendant breached the express terms of the Agreement by using Plaintiff's information on behalf of a competitor and violating his duty of loyalty to Plaintiff. (Dkt. 2, ¶¶ 9-17.) Defendant responded pro se, asking the court to dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction. (Dkt. 9.) Defendant asserts that he has never been to Utah, all of the projects he worked on for Plaintiff were in Massachusetts, all of the potential witnesses are located in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and all of the facts of which Plaintiff complains occurred in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. (Dkt. 9, ¶¶ 2 & 5.) Defendant does not dispute that he signed the Agreement containing a forum selection clause. However, he claims that he did not have much time to read the Agreement because he was busy at work when he signed it, and “[he] did not understand a lot of what [he] did read and [didn't] recall seeing anything about Utah courts.” (Id. ¶ 3.)

         Plaintiff counters that Defendant consented to jurisdiction in Utah when he signed the Agreement containing a valid forum selection clause. (Dkt. 16.) Plaintiff further maintains that regardless of the forum selection clause, Defendant Maille has sufficient minimum contacts with the State of Utah to subject him to jurisdiction. (Id.)

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff bears the initial burden of establishing personal jurisdiction over Defendant. OMI Holdings, Inc. v. Royal Ins. Co. of Canada, 149 F.3d 1086, 1091 (10th Cir. 1998). Where, as here, Defendant moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction without an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff need only make a prima facie case that jurisdiction exists. Id.

         It is well-established that a party may consent to personal jurisdiction by agreeing to a forum selection clause. See Burger King v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472 n.14 (1985). The United States Supreme Court has held that forum selection clauses are “prima facie” valid and should be enforced unless they are “unjust or unreasonable under the circumstances.” M/S Bremen v. Zapata Off-Shore Co., 407 U.S. 1, 16-17 (1972). The party seeking to avoid the forum selection clause bears the burden of showing that enforcement is “unreasonable.” Id.

         Moreover, when parties consent to personal jurisdiction in a certain forum, there is no need to analyze the forum state's long-arm statute or the party's contacts with the forum state. Professional Bull Riders, LLC v. Perfect Blend International, LLC, 2016 WL 54115, *2 (D. Colo. Jan. 5, 2016); Elec. Realty Assocs., L.P. v. Vaughan Real Estate, Inc., 897 F.Supp. 521, 523 (D. Kan. 1995); see also Jacobsen Constr. Co., Inc. v. Teton Builders, 106 P.3d 719, 726-27 (Utah 2005) (when enforceable forum selection clause exists, minimum contacts standard does not apply). Instead, ...


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