United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
DECISION AND ORDER ON THE DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO
WILLIAM E. DUFFIN, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
single-engine aircraft crashed on September 18, 2016, in Door
County, Wisconsin. Killed in the crash were the pilot, Ralph
L. Keller, and a passenger, sixteen-year-old Olivia Dahl.
Olivia's estate and her parents, Collin and Jennifer
Dahl, initiated this lawsuit in Milwaukee County Circuit
Court. The defendants timely removed it to federal court. Two
of the defendants, Barbara J. Keller, who is the widow of the
pilot, and a trust she controls, The Barbara J. Keller Trust,
have moved to dismiss the plaintiffs' amended complaint.
Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(2)
argues that she lacks sufficient contacts with Wisconsin to
subject her to the state's personal jurisdiction. She
contends that, contrary to what is alleged in the complaint,
she is domiciled in Illinois, not Wisconsin-a fact about
which there is no dispute. The court addressed this fact
previously as part of its inquiry into whether complete
diversity of citizenship existed. (ECF No. 49.) If Barbara
were domiciled in Wisconsin, as the amended complaint
alleges, complete diversity of citizenship would not exist
and the court would lack subject matter jurisdiction.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). But while domicile
is determinative of citizenship for diversity purposes,
personal jurisdiction may be established through means other
courts ordinarily follow state law in determining the bounds
of their jurisdiction over persons.” Daimler AG v.
Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 125 (2014) (citing Fed. R. C i v .
P . 4(k)(1)(A)) . Thus, this court looks first to
Wisconsin's long-arm s tatute to determine whether it has
personal jurisdiction over a defendant. Felland v.
Clifton, 682 F.3d 665, 678 (7th Cir. 2012); see also
Steel Warehouse v. Leach, 154 F.3d 712, 714 (7th Cir.
1998) (“A federal district court exercising diversity
jurisdiction has personal jurisdiction over a nonresident
only if a court of the state in which it sits would have such
jurisdiction.”). Wisconsin courts employ a two-step
inquiry when determining whether personal jurisdiction may be
exercised over a nonresident defendant. The first step is to
determine whether the defendant meets the criteria for
personal jurisdiction under the Wisconsin long-arm statute.
Kopke v. A. Hartrodt S.R.L., 245 Wis.2d 396, 409,
629 N.W.2d 662 (2001). If the requirements of the long-arm
statute are satisfied, then the court must consider whether
the exercise of jurisdiction comports with due process
requirements. Id. Plaintiff bears the burden of
establishing personal jurisdiction. See Purdue Research
Found. v. Sanofi-Synthelabo, S.A., 338 F.3d 773, 782
(7th Cir. 2003).
person is subject to personal jurisdiction in Wisconsin if
she “[i]s engaged in substantial and not isolated
activities within this state ….” Wis.Stat.
§ 801.05(1)(d). Stated another way, a person is subject
to personal jurisdiction in Wisconsin if she “takes up
local presence or status within the state.”
Rasmussen v. GMC, 2011 WI 52, ¶18, 335 Wis.2d
1, 803 N.W.2d 623 (internal quotation marks omitted). Factors
courts consider are “the quantity of the contacts, the
nature and quality of those contacts, the source and
connection of the contacts to the claim made, the interest of
Wisconsin in the action and the convenience of the
parties.” Id. at ¶19. Although due
process may independently limit the reach of Wisconsin's
long-arm statute, the statutory and constitutional analyses
are intertwined in that Wisconsin's statute is intended
“to provide for the exercise of jurisdiction over
nonresident defendants to the full extent consistent with the
requisites of due process of law.” Id. at
¶20 (internal quotation marks omitted).
stated above, Barbara's sole argument in support of her
contention that she is not subject to personal jurisdiction
in Wisconsin is that she is not domiciled here. But, again,
simply because she is not domiciled in Wisconsin does not
mean she is not subject to personal jurisdiction in
plaintiffs argue that, because Barbara owns a vacation home
in Wisconsin, she is subject to Wisconsin's personal
jurisdiction. But that, by itself, does not establish that
the court has personal jurisdiction over Barbara or the
trust. Rush v. Savchuk, 444 U.S. 320, 328 (1980)
(“We held in Shaffer[ v. Heitner, 433
U.S. 186, 208-09 (1977), ] that the mere presence of property
in a State does not establish a sufficient relationship
between the owner of the property and the State to support
the exercise of jurisdiction over an unrelated cause of
action.”) “The ownership of property in the State
is a contact between the defendant and the forum, and it may
suggest the presence of other ties. Jurisdiction is lacking,
however, unless there are sufficient contacts to satisfy the
fairness standard of International Shoe.”
Rush, 444 U.S. at 328.
that the ownership of a home in Wisconsin may suggest
additional contacts, the plaintiffs ask to pursue discovery
regarding Barbara's contacts with Wisconsin in the event
the court finds mere property ownership insufficient. (ECF
No. 81 at 4.) Barbara does not address this issue in reply.
a defendant files a motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction, a plaintiff ‘is entitled to reasonable
discovery, lest the defendant defeat the jurisdiction of a
federal court by withholding information on its contacts with
the forum.'” Bancoult v. McNamara, 214
F.R.D. 5, 10 (D.D.C. 2003) (quoting El-Fadl v. Cent. Bank
of Jordan, 316 U.S.App.D.C. 86, 75 F.3d 668, 676 (D.C.
Cir. 1996)); see also Andersen v. Sportmart, Inc.,
179 F.R.D. 236, 241 (N.D. Ind. 1998). However, “[a]t a
minimum, the plaintiff must establish a colorable or prima
facie showing of personal jurisdiction before discovery
should be permitted.” Cent. States, Se. & Sw.
Areas Pension Fund v. Reimer Express World Corp., 230
F.3d 934, 946 (7th Cir. 2000); see also In re Honey
Transshipping Litig., 87 F.Supp.3d 855, 873 (N.D. Ill.
2015); Bancoult, 214 F.R.D. at 10.
Court noted in Rush, the ownership of property in a
state may suggest the existence of other contacts. Therefore,
under the facts presented, ordinarily it would be appropriate
to deny without prejudice the motion to dismiss and grant the
plaintiffs' request to pursue discovery limited to the
question of whether the court has personal jurisdiction over
Barbara and the trust she controls. However, discovery
related to Barbara's contacts with Wisconsin is necessary
only if the amended complaint alleges a plausible claim
against Barbara and her trust. Because Barbara and her trust
separately move to dismiss the amended complaint under Rule
12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, the court turns to the
question of whether the plaintiffs have adequately alleged a
cause of action against these defendants.
Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(6)
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) “a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face[.]'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim “has
facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A claim satisfies this
pleading standard when its factual allegations “raise a
right to relief above the speculative level.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56. The court ...