United States District Court, D. New Mexico
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART MOTION FOR
JURISDICTIONAL DISCOVERY, ESTABLISHING SCOPE OF DISCOVERY,
SETTING JURISDICTIONAL DISCOVERY DEADLINES, AND DENYING
PREVIOUS MOTION AS MOOT
R. SWEAZEA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Defendant Med Flight Air
Ambulance, Inc.'s ("Med Flight") motion for
limited discovery on the issue of personal jurisdiction.
[Doc. 24]. Med Flight asserts it needs additional information
to combat what it feels is a "one-sided" affidavit
Defendant MGM Resorts International ("MGM") offered
in moving to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(2) [Doc. 21].MGM has filed a response in opposition to
Med Flight's discovery request [Doc. 26], and Med Flight
submitted a reply. [Doc. 28]. The Court has considered the
parties' submissions and finds that limited discovery is
warranted under the circumstances.
Flight commenced this lawsuit on January 12, 2017 in New
Mexico's Second Judicial District Court, alleging MGM,
then Defendant Sierra Health Care Options
("Sierra"), and Defendant UMR, Inc.
("UMR") failed to pay it $189, 500.00 for medically
evacuating MGM employee Adrian Hernandez from El Paso, Texas
to Las Vegas, Nevada. [Doc. 1-1, Compl., ¶¶ 1-12].
As part of his treatment, Mr. Hernandez assigned Med Flight
his benefits under MGM's employee health plan. [Doc. 1-1,
¶9]. According to the complaint, Sierra is an
administrator and/or insurer under the plan and UMR another
administrator. [Doc. 1-1, ¶¶3-4]. Sierra removed
the matter to the United States District Court for the
District of New Mexico on February 17, 2017 asserting the
case was preempted in its entirety under the Supremacy Clause
of the United States Constitution and the Employee Retirement
Income Security Act of 1974, as amended ("ERISA").
Flight amended its complaint on March 10, 2017. [Doc. 14, Am.
Compl.]. Among other things, Med Flight dismissed Sierra and
narrowed its claims to allege causes of action arising solely
under ERISA. [See Doc. 14, ¶¶32-48
(averring that by not paying for the medivac, MGM and UMR
breached the benefits plan pursuant to 29 U.S.C. §
1132(a)(1)(B) (Count I); Med Flight had to engage lawyers in
this matter and is threfore entitled to attorneys under 29
U.S.C. § 1132(g)(1) (Count II); and MGM and UMR violated
29 U.S.C. §1132(c)(1) when they failed on three separate
occasions to provide plan documents (Count III))]. MGM moved
to dismiss the amended complaint for lack of jurisdiction on
March 24, 2017 [Doc. 21]. Med Flight filed the instant motion
on April 7, 2017 asking the Court to grant limited discovery
to demonstrate MGM may properly be hailed into court in the
District of New Mexico [Doc. 24].
a defendant moves to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, either
party should be allowed discovery on the factual issues
raised by that motion.” Budde v. Ling-Temco-Vought,
Inc., 511 F.2d 1033, 1035 (10th Cir. 1975). The decision
to grant jurisdictional discovery, however, is discretionary.
See Id. Although there is a dearth of reported
decisions in the Tenth Circuit on the exercise of that
discretion, some guidance exists. See Grynberg v. Ivanhoe
Energy, Inc., 490 Fed.Appx. 86, 103 (10th Cir. 2012).
First, denying jurisdictional discovery is only error
if “the denial results in prejudice to a
litigant.” Id. (citing Sizova v. Nat'l
Inst. of Standards & Tech., 282 F.3d 1320, 1326
(10th Cir. 2002)). In this circumstance, “[p]rejudice
is present where pertinent facts bearing on the question of
jurisdiction are controverted or where a more satisfactory
showing of the facts is necessary.” Id.
Second, the Court may properly deny discovery where there is
a “very low probability” that discovery will
affect the outcome of the issue. See Bell Helicopter
Textron, Inc. v. Heliqwest Int'l, Ltd., 385 F.3d
1291, 1299 (10th Cir. 2004). Finally, the party seeking
jurisdictional discovery bears the burden of proving legal
entitlement to it and demonstrating prejudice if not granted.
Grynberg, 490 Fed.Appx. at 103 (citing
Breakthrough Mgmt. Grp., Inc. v. Chukchansi Gold Casino
& Resort, 629 F.3d 1173, 1189 (10th Cir. 2010)).
Court recognizes that the guidance above sets a floor, not a
ceiling, on permitting discovery. Nonetheless to ensure it
acts within the appropriate limits on its discretion, the
Court will examine the factual issues raised in MGM's
motion to determine the extent to which discovery will assist
in resolving the issue of personal jurisdiction.
PERSONAL JURISDICTION UNDER ERISA
Court's evaluation necessarily turns on the substantive
elements of the personal jurisdiction analysis. When a
defendant moves to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, the
plaintiff must make a prima facie showing “by
demonstrating, via affidavit or other written materials,
facts that if true would support jurisdiction over the
defendant.” Melea, Ltd. v. Jawer SA, 511 F.3d
1060, 1065 (10th Cir. 2007) (citation and quotation marks
omitted). The Court must “accept as true any
allegations in the complaint not contradicted by the
defendant's affidavits, and resolve any factual disputes
in the plaintiff's favor.” Id.
cases employ a different jurisdictional inquiry than the
traditional long-arm statute analysis because ERISA expressly
authorizes nationwide service of process. See Peay v.
BellSouth Med. Assistance Plan, 205 F.3d 1206, 1210
(10th Cir. 2000) (“When a federal statute provides for
nationwide service of process, it becomes the statutory basis
for personal jurisdiction.”) (Citation omitted). The
initial question therefore is not whether the
defendant has satisfied the forum state's long-arm
statute or the constitutional minimum-contacts test, but
whether the defendant may be found and served in any
district of the United States. Compare Id. (citing
28 U.S.C. 29 U.S.C. § 1132(e)(2) with Wenz v. Memery
Crystal, 55 F.3d 1503, 1506-07 (10th Cir. 1995)
(describing a two-step process in which the Court
“initially determine[s] whether the exercise of
jurisdiction is sanctioned by the [State's] long-arm
statute” and then considers contacts)).
ERISA facially requires only some presence in the United
States, the Tenth Circuit has rejected a singular
“national contacts” approach as outside
due-process bounds. See Peay, 205 F.3d at 1211
(“[D]ue process requires something more” than the
‘national contacts' test, ” which allows
“a plaintiff [to] sue a defendant in any federal court
in the United States, regardless of the defendant's
contacts[.]”). In other words, to pass constitutional
muster, “the plaintiff's choice of forum [must] be
fair and reasonable to the defendant” and
“protect individual litigants against the burdens of
litigation in an unduly inconvenient forum.”
Id. at 1212 (citation omitted).
burden, however, is on the defendant “[t]o show that
the exercise of jurisdiction in the chosen forum will make
litigation so gravely difficult and inconvenient that [it]
unfairly is at a severe disadvantage in comparison to [its]
opponent.” Id. In assessing inconvenience, a
court should consider: (1) the extent of the defendant's
contacts with the [forum]”; (2) “the
inconvenience” of defending in a forum other than the
defendant's place of business or residence,
“including (a) the nature and extent and interstate
character of the defendant's business, (b) the
defendant's access to counsel, and (c) the distance from
the defendant to the place where the action was
brought”; (3) “judicial economy”; (4)
“whether discovery proceedings will take place
outside” the defendant's state(s); and (5)
“the nature of the regulated activity in question and
the extent of impact that the defendant's activities have
beyond the borders of his state of residence or
business.” Id. (citation omitted).
two categories of factual considerations will determine the
outcome of the issue and guide the prejudice analysis: (1)
facts demonstrating MGM resides or may be found within
any district of the United States; (2) facts ...