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MAUNULA v. WESTRAN

January 14, 1994

SUSAN MAUNULA, GARRETT MAUNULA, ANGELA MAUNULA, and JENI MAUNULA BY NEXT FRIEND, GARRETT MAUNULA
v.
WESTRAN, INC. and DENNIS MARTIN STACY



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN T. NIXON

 Pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' Response Allowed By Order To Defendants' Motion To Dismiss (Doc. No.21) and Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 6). On June 10, 1993 this Court vacated its Order entered May 17, 1993, which granted defendants' motion to dismiss. The Court granted plaintiff's request for additional time to respond to defendants' motion to dismiss and reinstated this action. For the reasons stated below, with respect to Westran the Court denies Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. As to the assertion of personal jurisdiction over Stacy, the Court reserves judgment until the completion of discovery.

 I. BACKGROUND

 This action arises out of an automobile accident which occurred on June 19, 1991 on Interstate Highway 86 near Burley, Idaho. Allegedly, a tractor-trailer driven by Dennis M. Stacy ("Stacy") rear-ended the car driven by Susan Maunula. As a result of the accident, Susan Maunula and her daughters, Angella Maunula and Jeni Maunula, were injured. Stacy was driving the tractor-trailer pursuant to a Lease Agreement executed on February 18, 1991 in Montana by and between Westran, Inc. ("Westran") of Missoula, Montana and Doug E. Stacy of Eureka, Montana. At the time of the accident, the Maunula family was relocating from Oregon to Tennessee. This litigation did not result from any injury arising out of or related to any activities directed towards citizens of Tennessee.

 Westran is a Montana corporation with its principal place of business located in Missoula, Montana. Westran is a common carrier and is authorized by federal and state regulation to operate its trucks in interstate commerce in all forty-eight contiguous states. Since 1981, under the name of Western Transport Crane and Rigging, Inc., the defendant has been authorized by the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Tennessee Public Service Commission to operate as a common carrier in interstate commerce over irregular routes through Tennessee. On February 2, 1990, the Interstate Commerce Commission authorized the defendant to change its name to Westran, Inc. In November, 1990, the defendant applied to the Tennessee Public Service Commission to be allowed to change its operating name to Westran, Inc. The application was granted conditioned on the filing of the required insurance and notice of designation of agent for service of process. As required by the Tennessee Public Service Commission, Westran maintains a registered agent for service of process in Tennessee.

 Stacy does not reside in Tennessee and at the time of the accident did not reside in Tennessee. Stacy is a resident of Montana. He does not own any property in Tennessee and does not maintain any office, place of business, equipment, agent or registered agent for service of process in Tennessee.

 Plaintiffs assert that jurisdiction is conferred upon this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 1332. Moreover, plaintiffs argue that personal jurisdiction over both Westran and Stacy is appropriate. Jurisdiction over Westran is proper because the company has systematic and continuous contact with Tennessee through its interstate trucking business and thus benefits from the use of the state's highways and the protections of its laws. As to Stacy, plaintiffs contend that Westran can dispatch Stacy to Tennessee without significant inconvenience and perhaps in the course of conducting business. Defendants submit that subject matter jurisdiction by virtue of diversity and amount in controversy may exist; however, they contend that this Court's exercise of personal jurisdiction would violate due process because they are both residents of Montana and sufficient minimum contacts with Tennessee are not present.

 II. DISCUSSION

 A. PERSONAL JURISDICTION OVER WESTRAN, INC.

 The Court concludes that it has personal jurisdiction over Westran. Tennessee's long-arm statute, Tennessee Code Annotated Section 20-2-214, *fn1" reaches as far as the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment permits. Masada Investment Corp. v. Allen, 697 S.W.2d 332, 334 (Tenn. 1985). The facts of the case at bar do not demonstrate that it would be inconsistent with due process for this Court to assert personal jurisdiction over Westran. Hence, with respect to Westran the motion to dismiss is denied.

 The present case is one of "general jurisdiction" where the defendant's systematic and continuous contact with the state justifies the exercise of personal jurisdiction over a cause of action which arose elsewhere. Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414 n. 9, 104 S. Ct. 1868, 1872 n. 9, 80 L. Ed. 2d 404 (1984). When the cause of action does not arise out of the defendant's activities in the forum state, personal jurisdiction is proper and does not violate due process when there are sufficient contacts between the state and the defendant. See Helicopteros, 466 U.S. at 413-14, 104 S. Ct. at 1872.

 The relevant inquiry for due process purposes is whether "the defendant's conduct and connection with the forum State are such that he should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there." Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 474, 105 S. Ct. 2174, 2183, 85 L. Ed. 2d 528 (1985) (quoting World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297, 100 S. Ct. 559, 567, 62 L. Ed. 2d 490 (1980)). If a defendant has purposefully availed itself of the benefits of conducting business in the forum state, the defendant should "reasonably anticipate" out-of-state litigation. Burger King, 471 U.S. at 474-75, 105 S. Ct. at 2183. And in such a circumstance, the assertion of jurisdiction is appropriate. The Court in Burger King concluded:

 
Where the defendant "deliberately" has engaged in significant activities within a State or has created "continuing obligations" between himself and residents of the forum, he manifestly has availed himself of the privilege of conducting business there, and because his activities are shielded by "the benefits and protections" of the forum's laws it is presumptively ...

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