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Schmidt v. Navistar, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

March 4, 2019

D. MARIA SCHMIDT, as the Personal Representative of the Wrongful Death Estate of RUBEN GUERRA QUINONES, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
NAVISTAR, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Navistar, Inc.'s (Navistar) Amended Rule 12(b)(2) Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction, filed April 5, 2018. (Doc. 3). Plaintiff D. Maria Schmidt, as the Personal Representative of the Wrongful Death Estate of Ruben Guerra Quinones, Deceased (Schmidt), filed her Response on May 7, 2018, opposing the Motion, and, in the alternative, seeking limited jurisdictional discovery. (Doc. 17). Navistar filed its Reply on June 4, 2018. (Doc. 20). Schmidt subsequently filed two notices of supplemental authority, on August 7, 2018, and January 11, 2019, respectively. (Docs. 22, 23). Having considered the briefing, the record, and the applicable law, the Court denies Navistar's Amended Rule 12(b)(2) Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction (Doc. 3).

         I. Background and Procedural History

         This lawsuit arises from the March 25, 2015, single-vehicle rollover and subsequent death of Ruben Guerra Quinones (Guerra), who was driving a 2009 International 9200i, “designed, ” “manufactured, ” “assembled and tested” by Navistar. (Doc. 4) at ¶¶ 6-10. Guerra is survived by his adult daughter, Ylzay Guerra Caballero (Cabellero), and two other children. (Doc. 17) at 7.

         Navistar registered to do business in the State of New Mexico and received authority to do business in New Mexico on January 24, 1966. (Doc. 17-11) (Navistar corporate information from the New Mexico Secretary of State). Navistar appears to have had a manufacturing or assembly plant in New Mexico at some point but has not had such a plant in New Mexico since before 2005. (Doc. 3) at 27 (Affidavit of Roy Zeitlow at ¶ 10).

         Caballero filed a complaint against Navistar and Guerra's employer, Black River Trucking and Hotshop Services, LLC, on June 27, 2017, in the Fifth Judicial District Court for the State of New Mexico. (Doc. 3) at 29. Navistar filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, to which Caballero ultimately withdrew her objection. Id. at 41. The stipulated order dismissing the Caballero case, filed November 9, 2017, states that Navistar “shall be dismissed from this matter for lack of personal jurisdiction. This dismissal is without prejudice to [Caballero's] ability to refile claims against Navistar, Inc. in a forum outside of New Mexico that has personal jurisdiction over Navistar, Inc. and according to the rules and laws of that forum.” Id.

         Schmidt, who was appointed as the Personal Representative of Guerra's wrongful death estate on February 23, 2018, filed this lawsuit pursuant to the WDA on February 28, 2018, in the First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Id. Schmidt contends that Guerra suffered fatal injuries during the crash because the vehicle “violated several crashworthiness principles and . . . failed to protect him.” Id. at ¶ 12. She brings the following claims against Navistar: Count 1, Strict Products Liability; Count 3[1], Negligence, and Count 4, Breach of Implied Warranty of Merchantability. See Id. Schmidt styles her claims for wrongful death damages and punitive damages as separate “counts.” Id. Schmidt adequately served Navistar's registered agent in New Mexico. (Doc. 4) at 19-20 (return of service). Although there is substantial overlap between Schmidt's complaint and Caballero's complaint, including content and counsel, Caballero asserted in her lawsuit claims for her own pain and suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish, and loss of consortium. (Doc. 3) at 38. Caballero did not assert claims on behalf of Guerra or his estate, or on behalf of any other beneficiaries under the New Mexico Wrongful Death Act (WDA), NMSA 1978 § 41-2-1 et seq.

         Navistar removed the case to federal court on April 5, 2018, asserting diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Doc. 1). Schmidt resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Doc. 4) at ¶ 1. Navistar is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Illinois. (Doc. 1) at ¶ 3. Navistar appropriately asserts that the amount in controversy reasonably exceeds the jurisdictional threshold of $75, 000.00. Id. at 2.

         Navistar now moves to dismiss the case based on issue preclusion because Caballero stipulated that there is no personal jurisdiction over Navistar in New Mexico and, alternatively, on lack of personal jurisdiction. (Doc. 3).

         II. Discussion

         A. Issue Preclusion

         “The preclusive effect of a judgment is defined by claim preclusion and issue preclusion, which are collectively referred to as ‘res judicata.'” Taylor v. Sturgell, 553 U.S. 880, 892 (2008). Claim preclusion means that “a final judgment forecloses ‘successive litigation of the very same claim, whether or not the relitigation of the claim raises the same issues as the earlier suit.'” Id. (quoting New Hampshire v. Maine, 432 U.S. 742, 748 (2001)). Issue preclusion bars “‘successive litigation of an issue of fact or law actually litigated and resolved in a valid court determination essential to the prior judgment,' even if the issue recurs in the context of a different claim.” Id. (quoting New Hampshire, 432 U.S. at 748-49). By “preclud[ing] parties from contesting matters that they have had a full and fair opportunity to litigate, ” these preclusion doctrines protect against “the expense and vexation attending multiple lawsuits, conserv[e] judicial resources, and foste[r] reliance on judicial action by minimizing the possibility of inconsistent decisions.” Montana v. United States, 440 U.S. 147, 153-54 (1979).

         “In the case of a judgment entered by confession, consent, or default, none of the issues is actually litigated [and subject to preclusion]. Therefore, the rule of this Section [describing issue preclusion's domain] does not apply with respect to any issue in a subsequent action.” Arizona v. California, 530 U.S. 392, 414 (2000) (alterations in original) (quoting Restatement (Second) of Judgments § 27, comment e, at 257). Courts recognize that “[a] judgment entered with the consent of the parties may involve a determination of questions of fact and law by the court.” Id. at 415 (quoting United States v. International Building Co., 345 U.S. 502, 505-06 (1953)). “But unless a showing is made that that was the case, the judgment has no greater dignity, so far as [issue preclusion] is concerned, than any judgment entered only as a compromise of the parties.” Id. at 415-16 (quoting International Building Co., 345 U.S. at 505-06).

         “A person who was not a party to a suit generally has not had a ‘full and fair opportunity to litigate' the claims and issues settled in that suit.” Taylor, 553 U.S. at 892. The general rule that “one is not bound by a judgment in personam in a litigation in which he is not designated as a party or to which he has not been made a party by service of process, ” Hansberry v. Lee, 311 U.S. 32, 40 (1940), reflects the “deep-rooted historic tradition that everyone should have his own day in court, ” Richards v. Jefferson County, 517 U.S. 793, 798 (1996). Here, Schmidt was not a party to the Caballero lawsuit.

         Nevertheless, there are six exceptions to this general rule. Taylor, 553 U.S. at 893-95. Navistar contends that two exceptions apply to this case, specifically: 1) “a party bound by a judgment may not avoid its preclusive force by relitigating through a proxy”; and 2) “in certain limited circumstances, a nonparty may be bound by a judgment because she was adequately represented by someone with the same interests ...


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