X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:After the SEATRANSPORT, a Liberian-flagged vessel, docked at Smith’s Bluff, Texas, on June 11, 2004, several crew members decided to travel into Port Arthur to purchase personal items and supplies for the vessel. Before going ashore, the crew members met Fredesvinda Seagler, who had boarded the vessel to sell phone cards. They hired Seagler to take them into town. After dropping them off in town at various locales, Seagler turned the job of shuttling the crew members over to Juan Esparza. Upon the return trip to the vessel, and when turning into a private driveway, the vehicle driven by Esparza was hit by another vehicle. Crew member Ravinderpal Farwah suffered fatal injuries from the collision. Farwah was the electrical technical officer of the SEATRANSPORT at the time of the accident. Farwah’s survivors sued several defendants, including Prosperous Maritime Corp., OCS Services Ltd., Valles Steamship Canada Ltd. and Prudential Shipmanagement Ltd. Each of these defendants was a nonresident and filed a separate special appearance. In particular, Prosperous, the Liberian owner of the SEATRANSPORT, was not a Texas corporation and did not maintain any offices within the state. Prudential, a Bermuda-based entity, managed the vessel, while Valles, a Canadian entity, assisted Prudential in managing the vessel’s operations. Finally, OCS, based in Mumbai, India, managed the crew of the vessel. The trial court held a hearing on Prosperous’ and OCS’ special appearances on July 20, 2005, and subsequently denied them on Sept. 8, 2005. Prosperous and OCS appealed. On March 30, 2006, the 9th Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order, because the special appearances were defective. Soon after, both Prosperous and OCS filed amended special appearances that cured the defects of their previous submissions. On April 21, 2006, the trial court conducted a hearing on the amended special appearances of Prosperous and OCS, and granted them on April 25, 2006. Several days later, Farwah’s survivors requested that the trial court consider additional evidence. On May 23, 2006, without making findings of fact or conclusions of law, the trial court denied the Farwahs’ motion to reconsider. On July 10, 2006, the trial court heard Valles’ and Prudential’s special appearances. On July 18, 2006, the trial court granted their special appearances by written order. The Farwahs appealed the trial court’s grant of all four special appearances. HOLDING:Affirmed. The court first examined the Farwah survivors’ pleadings, because the plaintiff “bears the initial burden of pleading sufficient allegations to bring a nonresident defendant within the provisions of the long-arm statute.” Personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendants, the court stated, is constitutional when two conditions are met: 1. the defendant has established minimum contacts with the forum state; and 2. the exercise of jurisdiction comports with traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. Because the Texas long-arm statute extends as far as federal due process permits, the statutory requirements are satisfied if the exercise of personal jurisdiction comports with federal due process limitations. In addition, general jurisdiction is established over a nonresident defendant when the nonresident’s contacts in a forum are sufficiently continuous and systematic such that the forum may exercise personal jurisdiction over the nonresident even when the cause of action does not arise from or relate to its activities within the forum. Generally, with respect to vessel owners and managers who do not direct the itinerary of the vessel, port calls are not construed as substantial contacts of a quality sufficient to establish a court’s general jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant. In this case, the court stated, the charter agreement between Prosperous and Standard Tankers provided that Standard Tankers, the charterer, directed the SEATRANSPORT’s ports of call. Then, the court examined whether the defendants’ challenging a Texas court’s personal jurisdiction negated all jurisdictional bases. To accomplish this, the court reviewed the evidence relied upon by the parties at their respective special appearance hearings. After doing so, the court found no evidence suggesting that the defendants had control over the port calls of the SEATRANSPORT or the SEABORNE, another vessel managed by the same parties. Thus, the court concluded that the SEATRANSPORT’s and the SEABORNE’s calls to Texas ports were insufficient to establish general jurisdiction over the dismissed defendants, because the dismissed defendants lacked control over the decisions that led to the vessels calling on Texas ports. The court then considered evidence of the defendants’ purchase of supplies and use of services in Texas. The court found such evidence properly admitted as to Valles’ and Prudential’s special appearances. The court found that Valles spent money in Texas only because Standard Tankers chose Texas ports of call, a finding that the court found diminished the quality of Valles’ Texas contacts and thus supported the trial court’s rulings that Valles’ contacts with Texas were insufficient to support its exercise of general jurisdiction. Next, the court examined Prudential’s contacts with Texas, evidence that consisted only of receipts to transactions to which Prudential was not a party. Thus, the court found that the trial court correctly concluded that it could not attribute Valles’ contacts to Prudential, and that Prudential’s contacts were not sufficient to conclude that it had purposefully availed itself of the protection of Texas law by doing business in Texas. Finally, after upholding the trial court’s rulings against general jurisdiction, the court upheld the trial court’s rulings against specific jurisdiction. While Valles may have availed itself of the protections of Texas law, the court stated, Farwah’s injuries did not occur as a result of any such availment. OPINION:Horton, J.; McKeithen, C.J., and Kreger and Horton, J.J.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 3 articles* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.