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Agridyne, L.L.C. v. Boston

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

March 9, 2015

AGRIDYNE, L.L.C., an Illinois limited liability company, Plaintiff,
v.
LUCILLE BOSTON d/b/a SERVICES UNLIMITED, and/or SERVICES UNLIMITED, S.A. DE C. V. a Mexican corporation Defendant. SERVICES UNLIMITED, S.A. DE C. V. a Mexican corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
AGRIDYNE, L.L.C., an Illinois limited liability company, Defendant.

OPINION

RICHARD MILLS, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is the Motion of Lucille Boston to Dismiss Plaintiff Agridyne L.L.C.'s Second Amended Complaint for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction.

I. BACKGROUND

This case has a lengthy procedural history. The Court's subject matter jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship. The dispute between the parties concerns a Railcar Lease and Service Contract.

This action was initiated by Agridyne, as Lessee, against "Lucille Boston d/b/a Services Unlimited" ("Boston") as Lessor, by Complaint filed August 16, 2012. See Case No. 3:12-cv-3213-RM-JEH. On September 4, 2012, Boston filed a Complaint in the United States District Court for the Central District of California ("California case"), on behalf of a Mexican corporation, i.e., Services Unlimited, S.A. de C.V. (the "Mexican corporation"). On November 20, 2012, the Central District of California transferred the California case to this Court. See Case Number 3:12-cv-3314-RM-JEH, Doc. No. 28.

On December 12, 2012, in the first case, Agridyne filed its Second Amended Complaint adding the Mexican corporation as a party Defendant. Boston previously moved to dismiss the First Amended Complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Court did not rule on the merits of that motion because Agridyne was permitted to file a Second Amended Complaint and did so on October 15, 2013. See Doc. No. 34.

On February 3, 2014, the two cases were consolidated. See Doc. No. 45. Subsequently, Boston moved to dismiss this action for lack of personal jurisdiction.

II. DISCUSSION

In support of her Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction, Boston contends she has never had a "continuous and systematic presence" in Illinois. Relying on International Shoe v. State of Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945), Boston alleges that the exercise of jurisdiction in this case would be inconsistent with "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice" because she lacks sufficient contacts with this State. See id. 316-17. In fact, Boston states she has never had any presence in Illinois. Boston claims that Agridyne initiated and solicited the contract negotiations with Services Unlimited in this case. She has attached her Affidavit to the motion in support of these assertions. Consequently, Boston contends there is no personal jurisdiction.

A plaintiff has the burden of establishing personal jurisdiction when it is challenged by the defendant. See Northern Grain Marketing, LLC v. Greving, 743 F.3d 487, 491 (7th Cir. 2014). When a defendant's motion to dismiss is based on the submission of written materials and no hearing is held, the plaintiff "need only make out a prima case of personal jurisdiction" to meet its burden. See id. (citations omitted). In these circumstances, factual disputes are resolved in favor of the plaintiff. See id.

Agridyne notes that in transferring the California case, the Central District of California stated it was unclear whether Boston or the Mexican corporation was the true Lessor. That court observed:

Plaintiff [Services Unlimited, S.A., DE C.V., a Mexican corporation] argues that the parties are not substantially similar because Plaintiff, a Mexican corporation, is separate from Plaintiff's President and the Defendant in the Illinois action, Lucille Boston. The court disagrees. It remains unclear whether Boston, doing business as Services Unlimited, or Plaintiff, operating under the trade name Services Unlimited, was a party to the lease agreement with Agridyne. The lease itself makes no reference to the Mexican corporation, while Boston appears to have signed the majority of the riders individually, without reference to her position as a director of any corporation. Regardless whether Boston herself or the Mexican corporation is the relevant party, the two are sufficiently similar to warrant invocation of the first-to-file rule.

Case No. 12-cv-3314, Doc. No. 28, at 4. Following the Motion to Drop "Lucille Boston d/b/a Services Unlimited" as a party and Memorandum in Support thereof [Doc. Nos. 53 & 54], this Court, in a Text Order entered on April 21, 2014, found that based on the record at the time, it was "unable to conclude that Lucille Boston was joined improperly as an individual Defendant."

Upon reviewing the record, including Boston's Motion and Memorandum with Attachments and Agridyne's Response, the Court concludes it remains unclear today whether the Lessor was Boston or Services Unlimited. As Agridyne alleges, moreover, there ...


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