United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Chattanooga
JONATHAN MANLOVE, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
VOLKSWAGEN AKTIENGESELLSCHAFT et al., Defendants.
Magistrate Judge Christopher H. Steger
R. MCDONOUGH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is a motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction and for insufficient service of process filed by
Defendant Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft (“VWAG”)
(Doc. 31). For the following reasons, VWAG's motion to
dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and insufficient
service of process will be DENIED.
German corporation with its principal place of business in
Wolfsburg, Germany, is an automobile manufacturer that
operates production plants throughout the world. (Doc. 12, at
6-7.) Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. (“Volkswagen
America”) is a New Jersey corporation with its
principal place of business in Virginia and a wholly-owned
subsidiary of VWAG. (Id. at 7.) Volkswagen America
is the “operational headquarters for [VWAG's]
presence in North America.” (Id.) Volkswagen
Group of America Chattanooga Operations, LLC
(“Volkswagen Chattanooga”) is a Tennessee limited
liability company with its principal place of business in
Virginia and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Volkswagen America.
(Id.) Volkswagen Chattanooga “operates the
Volkswagen Chattanooga Assembly Plant in Chattanooga,
Tennessee.” (Id.) Although Plaintiff Jonathan
Manlove is an employee of Volkswagen Chattanooga, he alleges
[VWAG] exerts control over the daily affairs of Volkswagen
Chattanooga, including the labor activities and personnel
decisions of its subsidiary employees, through: daily
production plans directing Chattanooga worker activities and
labor productivity set by and sent by German management;
requiring weekly reports sent from Chattanooga to Germany so
that [VWAG] employees can set worker activity and labor
production; regular meetings held by [VWAG] employees in
Chattanooga to set directly personnel work activities and
production; directing operating hours of the Chattanooga
facility, including plant shut-downs; maintaining a common
international standards organization implemented in
Chattanooga through regular audits conducted by [VWAG]
employees; directing the method of promotions for workers in
Chattanooga, including through the elimination of the
management assessment centers; and maintaining a common
internal employee platform through which open positions and
job transfers are conducted[.]
(Id. at 4-6.)
November 2016, VWAG announced its “Pact for the Future,
” a campaign Manlove alleges was designed to eliminate
older workers from VWAG's and its subsidiaries'
workforces. (Id. at 9-10.) Specifically, Manlove
alleges that the “Pact for the Future”
constitutes “a global policy of eliminating older
workers and replacing them with younger ones, ” in
part, by “purging older workers from its management
ranks.” (Id.) Consistent with VWAG's Pact
for the Future, Manlove, a fifty-three-year-old, alleges
that, in 2017, Volkswagen Chattanooga denied him a promotion
and later demoted him because of his age. (Id. at
13-16.) Manlove specifically alleges that his demotion was
the result of being “displaced by younger workers as
part of [VWAG's] Pact for the Future.”
(Id. at 15.)
initiated the present action on June 29, 2018 (Doc. 1), and
filed an amended complaint on September 18, 2018 (Doc. 12).
In his amended complaint, Manlove asserts class-and
collective-action claims against VWAG, Volkswagen
Chattanooga, and Volkswagen America for violations of the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29
U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq., and the Tennessee
Human Rights Act (“THRA”), Tenn. Code Ann.
§§ 4-21-101 et seq., and seeks injunctive
relief on behalf of himself and other “employees who
have been affected.” (See generally id.)
September 26, 2018, Manlove filed proof of service stating
that he effected service of process on VWAG through its
wholly-owned subsidiary, Volkswagen America, pursuant to
Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 4A(3). (Doc. 19.) On
October 31, 2018, VWAG, Volkswagen America, and Volkswagen
Chattanooga moved to dismiss Manlove's claims, arguing
that the parties' arbitration agreement required
arbitration of Manlove's claims. (Docs. 29, 31.) In
VWAG's motion to compel arbitration, it alternatively
argued that the Court should dismiss Manlove's claims
against it because the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over
it and because Manlove failed to properly effectuate service
of process. (See Doc. 31.) On January 11, 2019, the
Court entered an order finding that, under the terms of the
parties' arbitration agreement, an arbitrator had to
decide the threshold issue of arbitrability. (Doc. 57.) The
Court stayed this matter pending the arbitrator's
decision and declined to rule on VWAG's motion to dismiss
for lack of personal jurisdiction and for insufficient
service of process. (Id. at 7.) On February 25,
2019, the arbitrator entered an order finding that
Manlove's claims were not arbitrable. (Doc. 65.) Based on
the arbitrator's finding, VWAG's motion to dismiss
for lack of personal jurisdiction and for insufficient
service of process is now ripe for the Court's review.
context of a motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2), the plaintiff bears
the burden of establishing the existence of personal
jurisdiction. Air Prods. & Controls, Inc. v.
Safetech Int'l, Inc., 503 F.3d 544, 549 (6th Cir.
2007). In determining whether the plaintiff has met his
burden, the Court must construe the pleadings in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff. Carrier Corp. v.
Outokumpu Oyj, 673 F.3d 430, 449 (6th Cir. 2012). When
the district court resolves the motion without an evidentiary
hearing, the plaintiff's burden is “relatively
slight, ” and a prima facie showing of
jurisdiction will suffice. Id.
a federal court's subject-matter jurisdiction is based on
a federal question, the court's exercise of personal
jurisdiction must be both authorized by the forum State's
long-arm statute and in accordance with the Due Process
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” AlixPartners,
LLP v. Brewington, 836 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir. 2016).
Tennessee's long-arm statute, Tennessee Code Annotated
§ 20-2-214, expands the jurisdiction of Tennessee courts
to the full limit permitted by the Due Process Clause.
Gordon v. Greenview Hosp., Inc., 300 S.W.3d 635,
645-46 (Tenn. 2009); see also Bridgeport Music, Inc. v.
Still N The Water Pub., 327 F.3d 472, 477 (6th Cir.
2003). When a state's long-arm statute reaches as far as
the limits of the Due Process Clause, the two inquiries