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Automotive Rentals, Inc. v. Keith Huber

July 29, 2010

AUTOMOTIVE RENTALS, INC., SIEMENS WATER TECHNOLOGIES HONORABLE JOSEPH E. IRENAS CORP., AND HYDROCARBON RECOVERY SERVICES, INC. PLAINTIFFS,
v.
KEITH HUBER, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irenas, Senior District Judge

OPINION

These claims stem from events that occurred on September 11, 2007 when a water vacuum truck owned by Plaintiff Automotive Rentals, Inc. ("ARI") caught fire in Orlando, Florida and destroyed the vehicle and surrounding areas of Universal Studios. ARI purchased the vehicle from Defendant Keith Huber, Inc. ("Huber") and rented the vehicle to a subsidiary of Plaintiff Siemens Water Technologies Corp. ("Siemens"). The subsidiary is now known as Hydrocarbon Recovery Services, Inc. ("Hydrocarbon"). Plaintiffs ARI, Siemens, and Hydrocarbon have brought claims against Huber for negligence, breach of express and/or implied warranties, and revocation of acceptance of the vehicle.

Presently before the Court is Defendant Huber's Motion to Dismiss for Improper Venue under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(3) and 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a), or Alternatively to Transfer Venue Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the reasons stated below, Huber's Motion under 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) will be granted, and the case will be transferred to the Southern District of Mississippi. Defendant's Alternative Motion to Transfer pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) is dismissed as moot.*fn1

I.

Defendant Huber manufactures and sells industrial vacuum trucks to commercial customers. Huber's facilities are located in Mississippi. (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss ¶ 7.) Plaintiff ARI provides a variety of services to help companies manage their car and truck fleets, including purchasing and licensing vehicles to those companies. In May 2007, ARI contacted Huber to inquire about purchasing the vehicle that is the subject of this litigation. (Def.'s Reply Br. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss ("Def.'s Reply Br.") 4.) Huber and ARI then exchanged several faxes regarding the vehicle, its specifications, and the payment invoice.*fn2 Huber and ARI agreed on a purchase price and specified that ARI would arrange for delivery of the truck from Huber's Mississippi facilities to Florida. Following this agreement, ARI purchased the truck from Huber for $242,412.35. On August 28, 2007, a third-party delivery company retrieved the vehicle from Huber in Gulfport, Mississippi on behalf of ARI and delivered it to Siemens in Orlando, Florida. Once there, the vehicle was registered to Siemens with ARI Fleet listed as the owner. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 24-25.)

On September 11, 2007, within its first days of service, the vehicle caught fire while extracting liquid at Universal Studios. Plaintiffs assert the vehicle combusted. The fire consumed the vehicle and caused damage to surrounding areas of Universal Studios. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 26-28.) This suit followed.

II.

Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a)(1) in "a judicial district where any defendant resides . . . ." A corporation is deemed to reside in any district in which it is subject to personal jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c); see also Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995). Additionally, venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a)(2) in "a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred . . . ." "In assessing whether events or omissions giving rise to the claims are substantial, it is necessary to look at the nature of the dispute." Cottman Transmission Systems, Inc. v. Martino, 36 F.3d 291, 295 (3d Cir. 1994).*fn3

If venue is properly laid, a case may be transferred to a another district in which the action might have been brought for the convenience of parties or in the interest of justice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). However, in the event that venue is improper, this Court may dismiss the case under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(3) and 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) also provides that, in the interest of justice, the Court has discretion to transfer the case to a district where the suit could have been brought. See Urrutia v. Harrisburg County Police Dept., 91 F.3d 451, 462 (3d Cir. 1995) (finding that if venue is shown to be improper through a 12(b)(3) motion, then the district court may transfer the case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a)).

III.

Defendant Huber argues that venue is improper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a)(1) and (2) and that, as a result, this case should be dismissed or transferred. Plaintiffs, on the other hand, contend that venue is proper, as Huber is subject to personal jurisdiction in New Jersey, and the claims at bar arose out of Huber's purposeful contacts with ARI. Thus, the venue inquiry consists of two questions: first, whether Huber has sufficient contacts with New Jersey such that it is subject to personal jurisdiction in this state, and, second, whether a substantial portion of the events out of which this claim arose took place in New Jersey.

If venue is improper in the District of New Jersey, this Court has discretion to dismiss the claims or to transfer the case to an appropriate forum. Huber argues that the case should be transferred to the Southern District of Mississippi, while Plaintiffs submit that the Middle District of Florida is the appropriate venue. Thus, the third issue before the Court is whether, in the event venue is improper, to transfer this case to Florida or Mississippi. The Court will address each issue in turn.

1.

Huber argues that venue is improper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 1391(a)(1), as it is not subject to personal jurisdiction in New Jersey. Plaintiffs counter that Huber's contacts are sufficient for this Court to exercise personal jurisdiction over Huber, as Huber purposefully availed itself of the laws of New Jersey by engaging in negotiations with ARI and with other customers over the course of 28 years. However, for the ...


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