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Bryant v. Hasbro, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

January 15, 2020

ANNE BRYANT, Plaintiff,


          Charlene Edwards Honeywell United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court upon the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 45), and Plaintiff's response thereto (Doc. 47). In the motion, Defendant argues that the Second Amended Complaint should be dismissed for, among other reasons, lack of personal jurisdiction. Doc. 45. The Court, having considered the motion and being fully advised in the premises, will grant Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and dismiss this action with prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Anne Bryant, is a composer and songwriter who arranged, produced, and performed arrangements broadcast by Defendant Hasbro Inc.'s programs. Doc. 43 ¶ 2. Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Defendant alleging claims related to payments for her work and with respect to the funding of Plaintiff's pension. Doc. 1. Defendant moved to dismiss the original Complaint and, in response, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. Docs. 15-17. Defendant moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint for a number of reasons, including lack of personal jurisdiction, and Plaintiff responded in opposition to the motion. Docs. 22, 28. The Court granted the motion to dismiss, finding that Plaintiff did not allege facts in the Amended Complaint that were sufficient to establish a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction over Defendant. Doc. 40. Given Plaintiff's pro se status, the Court granted her a final opportunity to amend her complaint. Id.

         Plaintiff filed the instant Second Amended Complaint. Doc. 43. In it, Plaintiff alleges that this action is for the collection of “past due wages from domestic and foreign reuse, residuals and secondary market payments, and delinquent Pension contributions . . ., from the defendant . . ., pursuant to the terms provided in the Collective Bargaining Agreements (“CBAs”) . . . of the American Federation of Musicians (“AFM”) Basic Television Film Agreement of 2002 . . ., and the 2014 SAG-AFTRA Television Agreement.” Id. ¶ 3 (internal footnote omitted). Plaintiff alleges that the action is filed under sections 502(a)(3)3 and 510 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”). Id. ¶ 5. With respect to jurisdiction, Plaintiff states that specific jurisdiction exists in this Court and relies on the Florida Long Arm Statute, section 48.193(1)(a) of the Florida Statutes. Id. ¶ 12.

         Plaintiff alleges that she composed music that was used in various Hasbro programs sold in Florida, throughout the United States, and internationally. Id. ¶ 16. Plaintiff also alleges that she lives in Florida and receives pension benefits and income in Florida, and that her injury of nonpayments and loss of pension benefits is felt in Florida. Id. ¶ 17. Additionally, Defendant licenses Master Audio Recordings that are used in audio-visual products in Florida. Id. ¶ 24. Products that use the Master Audio Recordings can be purchased by Florida residents from online stores or viewed on television. Id. ¶ 25. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant licenses its properties in Florida, including Full Sail University's JEM Music Convention Events, and a theme park exhibition at Universal, Orlando. Id. ¶ 32.

         Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant is the parent company for Hasbro International Inc., which has various subsidiaries, including one based in Miami, Hasbro Latin American Inc. Id. ¶ 21. The various subsidiaries of Hasbro International Inc. employ approximately 300 employees in West Palm Beach, Jacksonville, and Miami. Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant is a foreign profit corporation entity registered in Florida, doing business under its own name and through affiliates and subsidiaries in Florida. Id. ¶ 30.

         Defendant filed the instant Motion to Dismiss raising various arguments, including that this Court lacks jurisdiction over the Defendant. Doc. 45. Because this issue is dispositive, the Court will constrain its analysis to the jurisdictional question.


         Motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). A court must dismiss an action against a defendant over which it lacks personal jurisdiction. Posner v. Essex Ins. Co., 178 F.3d 1209, 1214, n. 6 (11th Cir. 1999). To withstand a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead sufficient facts to establish a prima facie case of jurisdiction over the non-resident defendant. Id. at 1214. The district court must accept the facts alleged in the complaint as true, to the extent they are uncontroverted by the defendant's affidavits. Madara v. Hall, 916 F.2d 1510, 1514 (11th Cir. 1990). If the defendant is able to refute personal jurisdiction by sustaining its burden of challenging the plaintiff's allegations through affidavits or other competent evidence, the plaintiff must substantiate its jurisdictional allegations through affidavits, testimony, or other evidence of its own. Future Tech. Today, Inc. v. OSF Healthcare Sys., 218 F.3d 1247, 1249 (11th Cir. 2000). Where the plaintiff's complaint and the defendant's affidavits conflict, the district court must construe all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Madara, 916 F.2d at 1514.

         The question of whether personal jurisdiction exists over a non-resident defendant is answered through a two-step analysis. Internet Sol. Corp. v. Marshall, 557 F.3d 1293, 1295 (11th Cir. 2009). First, the court must determine whether the plaintiff has alleged sufficient facts to subject the defendant to the forum state's long-arm statute. Future Tech. Today, 218 F.3d at 1249. Second, if the court determines that the forum state's long-arm statute has been satisfied, the court must then decide whether the exercise of jurisdiction comports with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Id. The Due Process Clause is satisfied if the defendant has “minimum contacts” with the forum state and “the exercise of . . . jurisdiction over [the] defendant” does not “offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.' ” Id. (quoting Int'l Shoe v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)).


         Two types of personal jurisdiction exist: general and specific. Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011).

         “A court may assert general jurisdiction over foreign (sister-state or foreign-country) corporations to hear any and all claims against them when their affiliations with the State are so ‘continuous and systematic' as to render them essentially at home in the forum State.” Id. Thus, for corporations, general jurisdiction exists in the equivalent of that corporation's domicile-a place where the corporation is fairly regarded as at home. Brown, 564 U.S. at 924. “The ‘paradigm' forums in which a corporate defendant is ‘at home' . . . are the corporation's place of incorporation and its principal place of business.” BNSF Ry. Co. v. Tyrell, 137 S.Ct. 1549, 1558 (2017) (quoting Daimler A.G. v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 138 (2014)). Nonetheless, general jurisdiction is not limited to such forums and may ...

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