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Byrd v. Drive Electric, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia

May 16, 2017

RICHARD BYRD and AMANDA BYRD, Plaintiffs,
v.
DRIVE ELECTRIC, LLC; DRIVE ELECTRIC USA, LLC; ZONE ELECTRIC CAR USA, LLC; WESTERN GOLF CAR SALES CO., INC.; WESTERN GOLF CAR MANUFACTURING, INC.; LIDO MOTORS USA, INC.; and SUZHOU EAGLE ELECTRIC VEHICLE MANUFACTURING CO., LTD.; Defendants.

          ORDER

          LISA GODBEY WOOD, DISTRICT JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT

         Plaintiffs Richard and Amanda Byrd move for entry of default judgment against Defendants Drive Electric, LLC and Drive Electric USA, LLC (collectively, "Drive Electric"); Zone Electric Car USA, LLC ("Zone Electric"); and Western Golf Car Sales Co., Inc.; Western Golf Car Manufacturing, Inc.; and Lido Motors USA, Inc.[1] (collectively, "Western/Lido") (all together, "Defendants"). Dkt. No. 52. The Motion will be GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         The Court deems the Byrds' well-pled factual allegations admitted by Defendants' default. See United States v. Elliott, No. 1:15-CV-106, 2016 WL 4083738, at *1 (S.D. Ga. Aug. 1, 2016) . The Byrds are a married couple who lived in Savannah, Georgia. Dkt. No. 1 ¶ l.[2] Around December 22, 2009, they bought a Neighborhood Electrical Vehicle ("NEV") sold, designed, assembled, inspected, and manufactured by, and equipped with components from, Defendants. Id. ¶¶ 13-14. The NEV's electrical-power junction, through which energy passed to charge the NEV, was too small. Id. ¶¶ 15-16. This caused a May 9, 2011 electrical fire that destroyed the NEV and the Byrds' SUV, and spread into their home. Id. ¶ 17.

         The Byrds filed this lawsuit on May 6, 2015. See generally id. Service of process was perfected on November 4, 2015. Dkt. Nos. 14-16, 18-19, 38-39. Defendants did not answer, and the Clerk entered defaults on August 9 and October 11, 2016. Dkt. Nos. 44, 50. The Byrds moved for entry of default judgment on December 6, 2016. Dkt. No. 52. The Court heard oral argument on March 24, 2017; Defendants did not appear or respond. See Dkt. No. 68. The Byrds timely supplemented their briefing on April 7, 2017. Dkt. No. 70.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Given an adequate basis in the pleadings, the Court has discretion to enter default judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b); United States v. Elliott, No. 1:15-CV-106, 2016 WL 4083738, at *1 (S.D. Ga. Aug. 1, 2016); Am. Contractors Indemnity Co. v. Energy Smart Insulation Co., No. 6:15-CV-66, 2016 WL 3395546, at *1 (S.D. Ga. June 15, 2016) (citing Nishimatsu Constr. Co. v. Houston Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir. 1975)).

         DISCUSSION

         The Byrds are entitled to entry of default judgment because Defendants are in default, the Court has jurisdiction, there is an adequate basis for finding liability, and the Byrds adequately proved damages.

         I. DEFENDANTS ABE IN DEFAULT.

         Defendants are in default. Dkt. Nos. 44, 50. This is so even though the Byrds filed an amended complaint after entry of default, as they "did not assert any new claims." Saint-Gobain Autover USA, Inc. v. Fuyao Glass Indus. Grp. Co., No. 05-71079, 2005 WL 3454402, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Dec. 16, 2005) (finding no obligation to serve amended complaint on defaulting defendant); see also Varnes v. Loc. 91, Glass Bottle Blowers Ass'n of U.S. & Can., 674 F.2d 1365, 1369 (11th Cir. 1982).

         II. THE COURT HAS JURISDICTION.

         The Court has jurisdiction. It has diversity subject matter jurisdiction. The Byrds were Arkansas residents when they filed this lawsuit, Defendants were not, and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Dkt. No. 1 ¶¶ 1-8, 10.

         The Court also has personal jurisdiction over each Defendant compliant with Georgia's long-arm statute and federal constitutional due process. The plaintiff bears the burden of proving that both requirements are satisfied. See, e.g., RMS Titanic, Inc. v. Kingsmen Creatives, Ltd., 579 F.App'x 779, 783 (11th Cir. 2014) (per curiam). The Byrds have carried that burden here.

         A. Personal Jurisdiction Satisfies Georgia Law.

         Personal jurisdiction over Drive Electric, Zone Electric, and Western/Lido satisfies the Georgia long-arm statute.

         i. The Court has long-arm jurisdiction over Drive Electric.

         Georgia's long-arm statute gives the Court jurisdiction over Drive Electric. That law extends "personal jurisdiction over any nonresident who transacts any business in this State." Innovative Clinical & Consulting Serv., LLC v. First Nat'l Bank of Ames, 620 S.E.2d 352, 355 (Ga. 2005) (citing O..C.G.A. § 9-10-91(1)). The nonresident need not physically enter Georgia. Diamond Crystal Brands, Inc. v. Food Movers Int'l, Inc., 593 F.3d 1249, 1264 (11th Cir. 2010) (discussing "a nonresident's mail, telephone calls, and other “intangible' acts") . Drive Electric came within reach of the long-arm statute by selling the Byrds an NEV through its website and shipping it to them in Georgia. See Dkt. No. 4 9 at 1-2, 3 ¶ 1.

         ii. The Court has long-arm jurisdiction over Zone Electric.

         Zone Electric also comes within reach of Georgia's long-arm statute. The Byrds evidenced that Zone Electric made their NEV to order, and that Zone Electric transferred ownership of the as-yet-unmanufactured NEV to Drive Electric as soon as they placed their order. Dkt. Nos. 70-2, 70-3. This is enough to satisfy Georgia's long-arm statute, as is clear from two cases.[3] In Vibratech, Inc. v. Frost, 661 S.E.2d 185, 187 (Ga.Ct.App. 2008), the New York defendant manufactured an allegedly defective part of an airplane engine. The part was shipped to an Alabama company, which installed the part into the engine. Id. The plaintiffs bought the engine from a Texas company. Id. The Texas company had the Alabama company ship the part to the plaintiffs in Georgia. Id. The Georgia Court of Appeals found that the New York defendant had transacted business in Georgia, because the New York defendant and the Alabama company "had a longstanding business relationship" to make parts for use in engines across America. Id. at 190. Thus, "although [the New York defendant] did not conduct any sales activities in Georgia itself, its business ha[d] been directly affected by sales transactions occurring here, " and so Georgia courts had long-arm jurisdiction. Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Zone Electric is in a similar position. It has a longstanding business relationship with Drive Electric to manufacture products to be sold throughout America, and "its business has been directly affected by sales transactions" in Georgia. See Dkt. Nos. 70-16 (boasting of seven Drive Electric NEV sales in Georgia, beyond the one to the Byrds); 70-17 (describing Drive Electric as a Zone Electric authorized dealer).

         Also instructive is Showa Denko K.K. v. Pangle, 414 S.E.2d 658 (Ga.Ct.App. 1991). There, the Japanese defendant manufactured raw materials that non-Georgia entities used to make food supplements. Id. at 659. The defendant sold the materials to "twenty-three [manufacturers] in nine states." Id. at 660. Some of those ran nationwide retail chains. Id. "As a result, [materials] produced by [the defendant were] placed in the stream of commerce in virtually all 50 states." Id. The Georgia Court of Appeals held that the defendant's "sale of goods in another state, knowing that they [would] be resold" in Georgia, triggered long-arm jurisdiction. Id. Zone Electric even more neatly fits under this rule than did the Showa Denko K.K. defendant-it made NEVs to order, including for the Byrds in Georgia. See Dkt. Nos. 70-2, 70-3. Thus, Georgia's long-arm statute reaches it.

         iii. The Court has long-arm jurisdiction over Western/Lido.

         Long-arm jurisdiction over Western/Lido exists for the same reasons. Western/Lido supposedly assemble and inspect the NEVs that Drive Electric sells. Dkt. No. 70 at 16-17. This means that they, too, have a longstanding business relationship with Drive Electric to put NEVs onto streets nationwide, knowingly send NEVs into the nationwide stream of commerce, ...


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