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Dairy Farmers of America, Inc. v. Bassett & Walker International

December 26, 2012

DAIRY FARMERS OF AMERICA, INC. PLAINTIFF - APPELLANT
v.
BASSETT & WALKER INTERNATIONAL, INC. DEFENDANT - APPELLEE



Appeal from United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri - St. Joseph

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Benton, Circuit Judge.

Submitted: September 20, 2012

Before MELLOY and BENTON, Circuit Judges, and BAKER, District Judge.*fn1

Dairy Farmers of America, Inc. sued Bassett & Walker International, Inc. for breach of contract. Bassett moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The district court*fn2 dismissed. DFA appeals. Having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, this court affirms.

I.

DFA, a Kansas cooperative, has its principal place of business in Kansas City, Missouri. Bassett, an international commodities broker and a Canadian corporation, has its principal place of business in Toronto, Ontario. Bassett is not qualified to do business in Missouri; has no agent for service of process, offices, property, bank accounts, telephone listings, or employees here; and does not advertise or promote its business here. According to the record, no Bassett employee has ever entered Missouri.*fn3

DFA and Bassett began their relationship in 2006. Between July 2009 and February 2011, Bassett purchased more than 3.5 million pounds of dairy products from DFA in about 80 transactions totaling $5 million. The parties did not have a long-term contract, agreeing to each transaction individually by phone. Alejandro Diaz represented Bassett from Toronto. George Butterfield represented DFA while traveling and from his home office in Michigan. He did receive approval for each transaction from DFA's Missouri headquarters. Butterfield spent three or four days each month in Missouri. Bassett communicated by phone and email with DFA's Missouri headquarters about delivery and billing.

Bassett received a $50,000 line of credit from DFA in 2009. Bassett twice sought increases in the line of credit: first to $250,000, and then to $400,000. Bassett sent these requests by email to a DFA employee who processed them in Missouri.

In March 2011, Bassett used the line of credit to buy 220,000 pounds of non-fat dry milk. Bassett sent email confirmation of the agreement to DFA headquarters in Missouri. The agreement called for shipment of the product from Colorado to Mexico; DFA manufactured no products in Missouri. The agreement also called for Bassett to remit payment to Illinois. DFA sued, claiming Bassett failed to pay. The district court dismissed the suit for lack of personal jurisdiction.

II.

This court reviews de novo the dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction. Viasystems, Inc. v. EBM-Pabst St. Georgen GmbH & Co., KG, 646 F.3d 589, 592 (8th Cir. 2011). "To allege personal jurisdiction, 'a plaintiff must state sufficient facts in the complaint to support a reasonable inference that the defendant[] can be subjected to jurisdiction within the state.'" Wells Dairy, Inc. v. Food Movers Int'l, Inc., 607 F.3d 515, 518 (8th Cir.) (quotingDever v. Hentzen Coatings, Inc., 380 F.3d 1070, 1072 (8th Cir. 2004)), cert. denied, 131 S. Ct. 472 (2010). "If the defendant controverts or denies jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving facts supporting personal jurisdiction." Id. Its "showing must be tested, not by the pleadings alone, but by the affidavits and exhibits presented with the motions and in opposition thereto." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

"Personal jurisdiction can be specific or general." Viasystems, 646 F.3d at 593. DFA agrees that Bassett is not subject to general jurisdiction in Missouri. "Specific jurisdiction refers to jurisdiction over causes of action arising from or related to a defendant's actions within the forum state . . . ." Miller v. Nippon Carbon Co., Ltd., 528 F.3d 1087, 1091 (8th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). "Specific personal jurisdiction can be exercised by a federal court in a diversity suit only if authorized by the forum state's long-arm statute and permitted by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Viasystems, 646 F.3d at 593.

A.

Missouri's long-arm statute authorizes jurisdiction over any person or firm as to any cause of action arising from, among other things, that person or firm's "transaction of any business within this state" or "making of any contract ...


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