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Mabey v. Crystalite Bohemia, S.R.O.

Superior Court of Delaware

February 6, 2018

WARREN K. MABEY, JR. and Krystal Mabey, husband and wife, Plaintiffs,
v.
CRYSTALITE BOHEMIA, S.R.O., CRYSTALITE BOHEMIA, INC. d/b/a CRYSTALITE BOHEMIA USA, a New York Corporation, HOMEGOODS, INC., a Delaware Corporation, THE TJX COMPANIES, INC., a Delaware Corporation, Defendants.

          Submitted: October 31, 2017

         Upon Defendant Crystalite Bohemia, S.R.O.'s Motion to Dismiss, Conditionally Granted Pending Jurisdictional Discovery

          ERIC M. DAVIS, JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Krystal Mabey purchased a set of Crystalite Bohemia "Barbara" style wine glasses (the "Glasses") at a HomeGoods store in Delaware. Ms. Mabey took the glasses home where one shattered while in the possession of Warren Mabey. As a result, Mr. Mabey suffered injuries requiring medical treatment.

         On December 1, 2016, Ms. Mabey and Mr. Mabey (collectively "The Mabeys") filed a complaint (the "Complaint") against Crystalite Bohemia, S.R.O. ("Bohemia SRO"); Crystalite Bohemia, Inc. d/b/a Crystalite Bohemia USA ("Bohemia USA"); HomeGoods, Inc., ("HomeGoods"); and The TJX Companies, Inc. ("TJX"). In the Complaint, the Mabeys allege that Bohemia SRO or Bohemia USA manufactured and distributed the Glasses.

         Bohemia SRO filed a Motion to Dismiss (the "Motion") for lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. Bohemia SRO is a foreign corporation based in the Czech Republic. Plaintiffs filed an Answering Brief in Partial Opposition to Defendant Crystalite Bohemia, S.R.O.'s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint Pursuant to Rules 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(6) (the "Opposition"). Plaintiffs oppose the Motion claiming Delaware has constitutional jurisdiction over Bohemia SRO. In the alternative, Plaintiffs request jurisdiction discovery (the "Request").

         For the following reasons, the Court will conditionally GRANT the Motion, pending limited jurisdictional discovery by the Mabeys of Bohemia SRO.

         II. RELEVANT FACTS

         Defendant Bohemia SRO "owns and operates glass factories in Czech Republic and designs, manufactures, sells, markets, ships, exports, and distributes" Crystalite Bohemia "Barbara" style wine glasses all over the world.[1] Bohemia Inc. d/b/a Bohemia USA operates the United States branch office of Bohemia SRO.[2] Bohemia SRO is the parent company of Bohemia Inc. and Bohemia USA.[3]

         In February 2012, Mrs. Mabey purchased the Glasses at a HomeGoods retail store located at the Midway Shopping Center, 4607 Kirkwood Highway, Wilmington, Delaware 19808 ("Midway HomeGoods").[4] TJX is the parent company of HomeGoods.[5] On December 2, 2014, one of the Glasses spontaneously shattered and injured Mr. Mabey while he used the glass as "intended and in a manner reasonably foreseeable by Defendants."[6] The broken glass cut Mr. Mabey's right wrist and forearm.[7] Mr. Mabey required "medical treatment, was caused pain and suffering, was prevented from pursuing usual activities, has incurred economic loss, and has permanent disabilities that will affect plaintiff"[8]

         In the Complaint, the Mabeys assert eleven counts: (i) Negligence against Bohemia SRO; (ii) Breach of Warranty against Bohemia SRO; (iii) Negligence against Bohemia Inc. d/b/a Bohemia USA; (iv) Breach of Warranty against Bohemia Inc. d/b/a Bohemia USA; (v) Negligence against Homegoods, Inc.; (vi) Breach of Warranty against Homegoods, Inc.; (vii) Negligence against TJX; (viii) Breach of Warranty against TJX; (ix) Vicarious Liability against Bohemia SRO; (x) Vicarious Liability against TJX; and, (xi) Loss of Consortium against Defendants.[9] The Mabeys seek general damages, special damages, punitive damages relating to any reckless conduct, pre-judgment interest, post-judgment interest, costs, and any other just and equitable relief.

         On July 26, 2017, Bohemia SRO filed the Motion. Lubor Cerva provided an affidavit (the "Affidavit") in support of the Motion.[10] On August 18, 2017, the Mabeys filed the Opposition. On October 23, 2017, the Court held a hearing on the Motion (the "Hearing"). At the Hearing, Bohemia SRO argued that: (1) Bohemia SRO is a foreign corporation; and (2) Bohemia SRO transferred the glasses in a foreign country without any intention to target Delaware. The Court ordered Bohemia SRO to file an additional affidavit to support the statements made by Bohemia SRO's counsel at the Hearing.

         On October 31, 2017, Bohemia SRO filed the Affidavit of Lubor Cerva ("Cerva Affidavit"). Mr. Cerva is the owner of Bohemia SRO. Mr. Cerva attests that only one factory in the Czech Republic produced the "Barbara" glasses. A HomeGoods agent contacted Mr. Cerva in the Czech Republic "to inquire whether it would be possible for HomeGoods to purchase Crystalite glassware, including the Barbara glasses."[11] HomeGoods purchased glasses from the factory in the Czech Republic, not FOB. Bohemia shipped the glasses to HomeGoods warehouse distribution centers. No designated distribution center is located in Delaware. Finally, Mr. Cerva states that Bohemia SRO "had no marketing plan or effort aimed at either Delaware specifically or the United States more generally."[12]

         III. PARTIES' CONTENTIONS

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         Bohemia SRO seeks to dismiss the entire action against Bohemia SRO based on lack of personal jurisdiction. Bohemia SRO argues that they do not fall within one of the categories of Delaware's long-arm statute, 10 Del. C. § 3104 ("Section 3104"). Bohemia SRO further states that Delaware's exercise of personal jurisdiction over Bohemia SRO would violate Due Process.

         If the Court does find that Delaware may exercise personal jurisdiction over Bohemia SRO then Bohemia SRO challenges the Mabeys' claims for negligence, breach of warranty, vicarious liability, and loss of consortium. Bohemia SRO argue that the Mabeys failed to plead a direct injury. Further, Bohemia SRO argue that the breach of warranty claim is time-barred and fails to state a claim. Next, Bohemia SRO argue that the Mabeys agreed to "discontinue with prejudice their claims against [Bohemia Inc.], any attempt to hold [Bohemia SRO] vicariously liable for the alleged conduct of [Bohemia Inc.] . . . must be dismissed as moot."[13] Finally, Bohemia SRO argues that the Mabeys were not married at the time of the injury; therefore, there is no cause of action for loss of consortium.

         In support of the Motion, Bohemia SRO attached the Affidavit.[14] In the Affidavit, Mr. Cerva states that Bohemia SRO is a foreign company, does not have contacts with Delaware, and that one of their two factories "never produce the 'Barbara' glasses."[15] After the Hearing, Bohemia SRO submitted the Cerva Affidavit. The Cerva Affidavit states that Bohemia SRO did not target Delaware and that title of the glasses passed in the Czech Republic.[16]

         B. Opposition

         The Mabeys argue that Delaware does have personal jurisdiction over Bohemia SRO under dual jurisdiction. The Mabeys concede that the Court does not have general or specific jurisdiction. In the alternative, the Mabeys ask the Court to grant jurisdictional discovery.

         The Mabeys concede that their breach of warranty and loss of consortium claims should be dismissed. However, the Mabeys argue that their negligence claim is well-pleaded. Next, the Mabeys argue that the parties agreed to not pursue vicarious liability unless discovery reveals a potential claim against Bohemia SRO.

         IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A. Rule 12(b)(2)-Lack of Personal Jurisdiction

         Upon a motion to dismiss under Superior Court Civil Rule 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff "bear[s] the burden to articulate a non-frivolous basis for this court's assertion of jurisdiction."[17] The plaintiff can satisfy this burden "by making a prima facie showing that jurisdiction is conferred by statute."[18] Although the factual record is read in the light most favorable to the plaintiff in ruling on the motion, "the plaintiff must plead specific facts and cannot rely on mere conclusory assertions."[19] Additionally, the Court must answer two legal questions. "First, it must determine whether jurisdiction is appropriate under Delaware's long arm statute. And, second, it must evaluate whether asserting such jurisdiction would offend the Due Process Clause of the Constitution."[20]

         B. 12(b)(6) Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted

         Upon a motion to dismiss, the Court (i) accepts all well-pleaded factual allegations as true, (ii) accepts even vague allegations as well-pleaded if they give the opposing party notice of the claim, (iii) draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party, and (iv) only dismisses a case where the plaintiff would not be entitled to recover under any reasonably conceivable set of circumstances.[21] However, the court must "ignore conclusory allegations that lack specific supporting factual allegations."[22]

         As set forth below, the Court finds that the Mabeys fail to allege facts that support the exercise of personal jurisdiction over Bohemia SRO. As such, the Court will not, at this time, address whether the Mabeys have failed to state claims for negligence, breach of warranty, vicarious liability, and loss of consortium. In the event the Mabeys develop facts during jurisdictional discovery that support personal jurisdiction, the Court will then address whether Bohemia SRO is entitled to relief under Civil Rule 12(b)(6).

         V. DISCUSSION

         To establish jurisdiction, the Court must first determine whether Bohemia SRO's actions fall within one of the categories in Section 3104.[23] Then, the Court must decide whether asserting personal jurisdiction over Bohemia SRO would offend Due Process.

         A. Sufficient Facts Exist to Suggest Dual Jurisdiction

         Delaware's long-arm statute, Section 3104, allows the Court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident when that person:

(1) Transacts any business or performs any character of work or service in the State; (2) Contracts to supply services or things in this State; (3) Causes tortious injury in the State by an act or omission in this State; (4) Causes tortious injury in the State or outside of the State by an act or omission outside the State if the person regularly does or solicits business, engages in any other persistent course of conduct in the ...

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