This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Sioux City Truck and Trailer, Inc.,
Filed December 28, 1999
Blue Earth County District Court
File No. C6981695
Kenneth R. White, Farrish, Johnson & Maschka, 201 North Broad Street, Suite 200, Post Office Box 550, Mankato, MN 56002-0550; and
Kevin O'C. Green, Green Law Office, 126 East Pleasant Street, Post Office Box 996, Mankato, MN 56002-0996 (for appellant)
Andrew A. Willaert, Jr., Christopher E. Sandquist, Gislason & Hunter, LLP, 424 North Riverfront Drive, Suite 250, Post Office Box 4157, Mankato, MN 56002-4157 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Davies, Judge, and Holtan, Judge.[*]
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant Loren Schwarz sued respondent Sioux City Truck and Trailer, Inc., alleging consumer fraud, misrepresentation, and breach of express and implied warranties. Sioux City Truck moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. The district court granted the motion to dismiss. We reverse.
Sioux City Truck is an Iowa corporation with its principal place of business located in Sioux City, Iowa. According to the testimony of general manager Kevin Christensen, Sioux City Truck is a nationwide truck seller, selling about 600 trucks a year, most of them to persons outside its local area. Much of Sioux City Truck's national sales are generated by advertising in a publication called The Truck Paper, which is distributed at truck stops throughout the nation. In addition, Sioux City Truck puts mud flaps with its name on every truck it sells. Sioux City Truck also sponsors race cars that display its name and logo. The cars compete in races around the country, including an annual race in Brainerd. Sioux City Truck also has a nationwide toll-free number for its customers to call.
Sioux City Truck's figures indicate that of 726 total sales it made in 1996, it sold 13 vehicles to Minnesota residents; 14 out of 628 in 1997; and 25 out of 512 in 1998. Christensen estimated that the average sale price of a new truck was $100,000, and the average sale price of a used truck $20,000 to $30,000. As a result, approximate sales to Minnesota residents in 1997 (the last full year before this case was filed in July 1998) could have ranged from $280,000 to $1,400,000. In addition, Sioux City Truck purchases parts from two Minnesota companies, though the record does not reflect the volume of that business.
Sioux City Truck does not own any property or have a place of business in Minnesota. It is not licensed to conduct business in Minnesota, nor does it pay any taxes or fees to the state. It employs no Minnesota residents. Until this lawsuit, it had never been involved in any Minnesota litigation.
Schwarz is a Minnesota resident and a truck driver. His trips often take him through Sioux City, where relatives of his live. In the period from 1988 to 1996, Schwarz purchased parts at Sioux City Truck approximately 10 to 12 times. In fall 1996, Schwarz began to consider purchasing a truck. As he was looking through The Truck Paper, a good-looking truck "caught [his] eye." As a result, in September 1996 he made a trip to Sioux City to visit his sister and look at trucks at Sioux City Truck and other locations.
In October 1996, Schwarz again visited Sioux City Truck and test-drove a truck he had seen during his September visit. During the October visit, a Sioux City Truck salesperson allegedly made certain representations about the history and quality of the truck, including telling Schwarz that it had never been in an accident. Schwarz eventually purchased the truck, and Sioux City Truck orally agreed to give Schwarz a 90-day warranty for parts and labor as part of the purchase.
Within a week of the purchase the truck began to have mechanical problems. Schwarz repeatedly took it back to Sioux City Truck for repairs during the 90-day warranty period. Eventually, Sioux City Truck refused to perform any more warranty repairs, and Schwarz sued.
D E C I S I O N
When reviewing a pretrial order dismissing for lack of personal jurisdiction, we take plaintiff’s allegations and evidence supporting jurisdiction as true. Hardrives, Inc. v. City of LaCrosse, 307 Minn. 290, 293, 240 N.W.2d 814, 816 (Minn. 1976). On these uncontested facts, the existence of jurisdiction is a question of law we review de novo. See Stanek v. A.P.I., Inc., 474 N.W.2d 829, 832 (Minn. App. 1991), review denied (Minn. Oct. 31, 1991), cert. denied, 503 U.S. 977, 112 S. Ct. 1603 (1992). When a defendant challenges personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff must present a prima facie case demonstrating sufficient minimum contacts. Does 1-22 v. Roman Catholic Bishop, 509 N.W.2d 598, 600 (Minn. App. 1993). In doubtful cases, we resolve the question in favor of retaining jurisdiction. Hardrives, Inc., 307 Minn. at 296, 240 N.W.2d at 818.
Minnesota courts assert personal jurisdiction to the full extent permitted by federal due process. Valspar Corp. v. Lukken Color Corp., 495 N.W.2d 408, 410-11 (Minn. 1992). Federal due process is satisfied if the defendant purposefully established minimum contacts with Minnesota of sufficient quality that asserting jurisdiction does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. Domtar, Inc. v. Niagara Fire Ins. Co., 533 N.W.2d 25, 29-30 (Minn. 1995). To determine whether the foreign defendant has established minimum contacts with Minnesota, we examine the following five factors:
(1) the quantity of the contacts with the forum state; (2) the nature and quality of the contacts; (3) the source and connection of the cause of action with the contacts; (4) the interest of the state in providing a forum; and (5) the convenience of the parties.
National City Bank v. Ceresota Mill Ltd. Partnership, 488 N.W.2d 248, 252-53 (Minn. 1992). "The first three factors are the most important." Id.
A defendant's minimum contacts may establish either "general" or "specific" personal jurisdiction:
In a general jurisdiction case, a defendant conducts so much business within a state that it becomes subject to the jurisdiction of that state's courts for any purpose. In a specific jurisdiction case, the defendant has few contacts with the forum state: in these cases involving truly minimal contact, the Due Process Clause requires that the case arise out of or be related to the contacts with the forum.
Valspar, 495 N.W.2d at 411. We first consider general jurisdiction.
The first factor asks about the quantity of contacts with Minnesota. This is not a case of isolated or fortuitous contacts. Every year Sioux City Truck sells Minnesota residents at least a quarter million dollars worth of goods, perhaps more than a million dollars worth each year, and purchases parts from Minnesota suppliers. See Bergherr v. Sommer, 523 N.W.2d 17, 19 (Minn. App. 1994) (personal jurisdiction proper over defendant that "received thousands of dollars every week from * * *Minnesota."). Each year Sioux City Truck advertises directly to Minnesota residents by sponsoring race cars at Brainerd, as well as by general advertising intended to draw Minnesota residents along with everyone else. See Rostad v. On-Deck, Inc., 372 N.W.2d 717, 722 (Minn. 1985) (personal jurisdiction proper over defendant that "thrust its corporate image into the jurisdiction * * * and profited by it."), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 1006, 106 S. Ct. 528 (1985). This factor weighs in favor of exercising jurisdiction over Sioux City Truck.
The second factor addresses the nature and quality of the defendant's contacts.
In evaluating the nature and quality of the contacts, we are to attempt to ascertain whether [the defendant] has purposefully availed itself of the benefits and protection of Minnesota law. The question is whether [the defendant] had "fair warning" of being sued in Minnesota. [The defendant] had "fair warning" if it "purposefully directed" its activities at residents of this state.
TRWL Fin. Establishment v. Select Int’l, Inc., 527 N.W.2d 573, 576-77 (Minn. App. 1995) (citations omitted).
Christensen testified that Sioux City Truck's advertising was purposefully directed at a nationwide market, including Minnesota residents:
Q: * * * it would be a true statement that you try to attract business from Minnesota along with all the rest of the states?
A: (Witness nodding head) Everywhere.
A: Wherever my 800 number goes.
Christensen's testimony is direct evidence that Sioux City Truck purposefully directed its activities at Minnesota residents and thus supports jurisdiction. Cf. Johnson Bros. v. Arrowhead Co., 459 N.W.2d 160, 164 (Minn. App. 1990) (no personal jurisdiction in part because there was "no evidence that [the defendant] sought to establish a national market by its advertising.").
The third factor concerns the source of the defendant's contacts and their connection with the cause of action. Schwarz testified that he would not have visited Sioux City Truck looking for a truck at that time if the advertisement in The Truck Paper had not caught his eye. Because we take Schwarz's allegations as true, Hardrives, Inc., 307 Minn. at 293, 240 N.W.2d at 816, we must assume that Schwarz's cause of action arose out of Sioux City Truck's contact with Minnesota. This factor also weighs in favor of jurisdiction over Sioux City Truck.
The fourth factor is the state's interest in providing a forum. Schwarz's complaint alleges he is the victim of consumer fraud. As this court observed in State v. Granite Gate Resorts, Inc., 568 N.W.2d 715, 721 (Minn. App. 1997), aff'd, 576 N.W.2d 747 (Minn. 1998), "the state's interest in providing a forum to enforce its consumer protection laws weighs in favor of exerting jurisdiction over [the defendant]."
The final factor is the convenience of the parties. The parties agree that because there will be witnesses in both Minnesota and Iowa, this factor is neutral.
Analysis of the five factors leads to the conclusion that Sioux City Truck has established sufficient minimum contacts with Minnesota to support the assertion of general personal jurisdiction over it. Furthermore, this is not the rare case where the assertion of personal jurisdiction would be unreasonable even though the minimum contacts test is satisfied. See Domtar, 533 N.W.2d at 30-31. Sioux City Truck purposefully sought a nationwide market; it should not be surprised to be sued in a foreign forum. Furthermore, the burden of distance on Sioux City Truck is slight: Sioux City is only about 200 miles away from the Blue Earth County District Court. As a result, Minnesota's assertion of jurisdiction over Sioux City Truck would not be unreasonable.
Having concluded that there is general personal jurisdiction over Sioux City Truck, we need not consider specific jurisdiction.
Reversed.[*] Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.