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Rolls-Royce, PLC v. Spirit Airlines, Inc.

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

February 28, 2018

ROLLS-ROYCE, PLC, a foreign profit corporation, Appellant,
v.
SPIRIT AIRLINES, INC., a Florida Corporation, ROLLS-ROYCE CORPORATION, a foreign corporation, ROLLS-ROYCE NORTH AMERICA, INC., a foreign profit corporation, IAE INTERNATIONAL AERO ENGINES AG, a foreign profit entity, PRATT & WHITNEY, a division of UNITED TECHNOLOGIES CORPORATION, a foreign profit corporation, Appellees.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

         Appeal of non-final order from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County; Michael L. Gates, Judge; L.T. Case No. CACE 16-012458.

          Stephanie G. Kolman, J. Thompson Thornton, and Clayton W. Thornton of Clyde & Co US, LLP, Miami, for appellant.

          Eric D. Griffin, Jr. and Juan R. Serrano of Griffin & Serrano, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, for appellee Spirit Airlines, Inc.

          ON MOTION FOR REHEARING, MOTION FOR REHEARING EN BANC AND REQUEST FOR WRITTEN OPINION

          Kuntz, J.

         Rolls-Royce, PLC moves for rehearing directed to our opinion affirming the circuit court's denial of its motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. We agree that the court erred by denying its motion without holding an evidentiary hearing to resolve disputed issues of fact. As a result, we grant the motion for rehearing in part, withdraw our prior opinion, and substitute this opinion in its place. In our holding, we reverse the court's order denying the motion to dismiss and remand for further proceedings.

          Background

         Around twenty minutes after Spirit Airlines Flight 165 departed Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of the Airbus A319's engines exploded. Using its other engine, the A319 safely returned to Dallas without injury to any passengers or crew.

         Spirit filed a lawsuit in the Broward County Circuit Court relating to the explosion, naming Rolls-Royce Corporation, Rolls-Royce North America, Rolls-Royce, PLC, [1] IAE International Aero Engines AG, and Pratt & Whitney, a division of United Technologies Corporation, as defendants. In its complaint, Spirit asserted claims of negligence and gross negligence against the three Rolls-Royce entities, gross negligence against IAE, and gross negligence against Pratt & Whitney.

         In 2012, Rolls-Royce performed major repairs and alterations on the engine at issue, including "removal, inspection and replacement of various components of the Engine's turbine as well as a restoration and refurbishment of the Engine's hot section." After the repairs, the engine was delivered to Spirit in Fort Lauderdale for "installation on the number one position-on the left side-of one of Spirit's Airbus A319, identified as Aircraft Registration No. N516NK."

         Spirit also alleged that Rolls-Royce "took a $200 million share of the Spirit Airlines order of the V2500-model engine, " stating that this shows Rolls-Royce "actually participated to the tune of $200 million dollars in the business component of Spirit's utilizing the V2500 model engine in its Florida operation."

         Rolls-Royce moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Attached to the motion to dismiss was an affidavit of Will Morris, the Chief Counsel, Civil Aerospace, for Rolls-Royce. Within the affidavit, Mr. Morris stated that Rolls-Royce is organized under the laws of the United Kingdom, has its principal place of business in the United Kingdom, and maintains all of its corporate records in the United Kingdom.

         Mr. Morris stated that Rolls-Royce did not design, manufacture, or sell the subject engine; Rolls-Royce is not a shareholder, member, or participant in IAE, nor a party to any contract between IAE and Spirit; and Rolls-Royce did no work on the subject engine or subject aircraft in Florida. Mr. Morris also stated that IAE and Rolls-Royce entered into an agreement, to which Spirit was not a party, under which Rolls-Royce would conduct V2500 engine repairs at Rolls-Royce's engine repair facility in East Kilbride, United Kingdom.

         Under Rolls-Royce's contract with IAE, IAE had Spirit deliver the subject engine to Rolls-Royce's "East Kilbride repair facility for a scheduled restoration shop visit." Mr. Morris stated that any funds Rolls-Royce received for work done on the subject engine were from IAE and not Spirit. As for Spirit's allegation that Rolls-Royce "took a $200 million share of Spirit Airlines order of the V2500-model engine, " Mr. Morris stated that the allegation is based on an ...


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