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Resolute Forest Products, Inc. v. Greenpeace International

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division

May 16, 2017




         Plaintiffs began this litigation in May 2016 when they filed their 124-page, 318-paragraph complaint, alleging that Defendants illegally criticized Plaintiffs' forestry practices. Since then, the parties have filed over 300 pages of argument, raising various issues. After a thorough review of the record, the Court GRANTS Defendants' request to transfer this case to the Northern District of California.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs are in the forest-products industry. (Compl. ¶ 24.) They plant and harvest trees and make, among other things, different types of paper. (Id.) Plaintiffs have locations in several cities, including Augusta, Georgia. (Id.) Defendants Greenpeace International, Greenpeace, Inc., Greenpeace Fund, Inc., and ForestEthics are all nonprofit or charitable organizations. (Id. ¶¶ 31-34.) Defendant Todd Paglia is an employee of ForestEthics, Defendants Daniel Brindis, Amy Moas, and Rolf Skar are employees of Greenpeace, Inc., and Defendant Matthew Daggett is an employee of Greenpeace International. (Id. ¶¶ 35-39.) Defendants are environmental activists. And as such, they often publicly assail companies that they think are environmentally irresponsible.

         In 2013, Defendants began the "Resolute: Forest Destroyer7' campaign against Plaintiffs. (Id. ¶ 79.) As part of this campaign, Plaintiffs contend, Defendants falsely accused Plaintiffs of harming the Boreal Forest in Canada. (See id. ¶¶ 81-87.) These attacks, according to Plaintiffs, caused Plaintiffs to lose customers and millions of dollars in revenue. (Id. ¶ 17.)

         In response to the Resolute: Forest Destroyer campaign, Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit, alleging, among other things, federal and state Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO") claims. Plaintiffs contend that Defendants have set out to illegally destroy Plaintiffs' business. Defendants now move to transfer this case to the Northern District of California.[1] (Docs. 57, 62.)

         II. Discussion

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2), venue is proper in "a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred . . . ." Thus, "[o]nly the events that directly give rise to a claim are relevant[, ] [a]nd of the places where the events have taken place, only those locations hosting a 'substantial part' of the events are to be considered." Jenkins Brick Co. v. Bremer, 321 F.3d 1366, 1371 (11th Cir. 2003). The venue analysis therefore demands stronger connections than the minimum-contacts test used for evaluating personal jurisdiction. See id. at 1372 (disagreeing with another court's application of § 1391(b)(2) "because its flavor was that of a 'minimum contacts' personal jurisdiction analysis rather than a proper venue analysis"); Bell v. Rosen, CV 214-127, 2015 WL 5595806, at *4 (S.D. Ga. Sept. 22, 2015) ("[T]he venue analysis under Section 1391(b)(2) generally requires a greater level of relevant activities by the defendants than the 'minimum contacts' analysis for personal jurisdiction.").

         A. Venue is Improper in the Southern District of Georgia

         Defendants argue that venue is improper in this district because no events giving rise to Plaintiffs' claims occurred here. Plaintiffs contend that venue is proper here because (1) the Resolute: Forest Destroyer campaign caused Plaintiffs to lose a number of Georgia-affiliated customers and (2) Defendants traveled to Augusta to spread false information about Plaintiffs.

         1. Plaintiffs' Alleged Loss of Customers in Georgia

         Plaintiffs allege that Defendants and other Greenpeace associates "made false and misleading statements" about Plaintiffs to five Georgia-affiliated companies, causing some of the companies to cut ties with Plaintiffs. (Compl. ¶¶ 198-207.) They allege, for example, that Richard Brooks, a nonparty Greenpeace employee, held a conference call with YP, a customer of Plaintiffs, during which Brooks "made false and misleading statements about Resolute's operations in the Boreal Forest." (Id. ¶ 200.) As another example, Plaintiffs allege that Brooks threatened The Home Depot, another customer, "with market campaigns and in-store demonstrations if The Home Depot continued to buy from Resolute." (Id. ¶ 201.) They also claim that Defendants targeted Kimberly-Clark and P&G, other customers, with false information about Plaintiffs. (Id. ¶¶ 202-206.) And, Plaintiffs allege, Defendants "prevented Resolute from securing a large contract with one of the world's leading manufacturers of tissue paper, Georgia Pacific . . . ." (Id. ¶ 207.)

         Plaintiffs argue that these contacts are connected to Georgia because (1) YP participated in the conference call from its headquarters in Tucker, Georgia, (2) The Home Depot is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, (3) Defendants communicated with Kimberly-Clark executives working from the company's offices in Roswell, Georgia, (4) Plaintiffs supplied paper to P&G's plant in Albany, Georgia, and (5) Georgia Pacific is based in Atlanta, Georgia. But Plaintiffs do not allege any connection to this district: Tucker, Roswell, and Atlanta are located in the Northern District of Georgia, and Albany is located in the Middle District of Georgia. Thus, even if Defendants' communications with these customers are actionable, Plaintiffs have failed to establish that a substantial part of the events giving rise to the claims occurred in this district.

         2. Defendants' ...

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